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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Somerset County Council - The Wildlife Trust report.

News  County Council approves budget

County Council approves budget 22nd Feb 2013
On Wednesday 20, Somerset’s County Councillors approved a budget for the next three financial years, which, thanks to the dedicated lobbying undertaken by our membership, has seen a stay of execution for some nature conservation jobs.
When the County Council originally released their Mid Term Financial Plan in January, the Trust was horrified to see proposals which amounted to the near annihilation of countryside and ecology services, and the axing of nearly all officers who work proactively for nature in the County Council. Since then Somerset Wildlife Trust has been working with the RSPB, our members and supporters, to call for a reconsideration of the plan.
Key posts retained
Following a meeting with the Leader of Somerset County Council, a commitment was obtained that SCC would work with the Trust and its partners in the Somerset Local Nature Partnership to develop a vision and strategy for the natural environment, around which could be built new projects and partnerships to deliver new opportunities for nature. Changes were also made to the budget which saw several key posts - ­ including both ecologists - ­ retained, although still amounted to an overall reduction in service provision.
With the budget approved by a 32 to 21 majority of County Councillors, Somerset Wildlife Trust will now be holding the Leader to his word, and working to help the Council produce a clear plan for delivering work to enhance Somerset’s natural environment.
Thank you for standing up for nature with us
A big thank you goes to all of you who took time to write to, call, or email your Councillor and raise awareness of the cuts amongst your friends and neighbours. It made all the difference in changing the outcome and we’re grateful to you for standing up for nature.

- See more at:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Somerset County Council and Natural Environment Services

The Council apparently had its Budget meeting and passed buget with its significant cuts and no reaction from the Somerset Wildlife Trust. An interesting account of the situation can be found in the article in a local news paper by an Independant Councillor Mike Rigby which you can read at the link shown below.


Here is a bit of it!


Environmental services inc countryside management & flooding received the fourth highest number of votes in the Council's poll for additional investment.
Environmental services inc countryside management & flooding received the fourth highest number of votes in the Council’s poll for additional investment.
Before the proposed changes, Somerset County Council’s Countryside Team comprised the following posts: -
• Team Manager
• Arboriculturalist
• Biodiversity Officer
• Project Officer
• Ecologist
• Part-time project officer
• Works team comprising 3 staff
In January, the Team Manager, Biodiversity Officer, Project Officer, Ecologist and the Works Team were all told that they were being made redundant on varying timescales. In the last week, the Biodiversity Officer and Project Officer have been told that their redundancy notices had been a ‘mistake’. This would be hilarious if it were not for the sad fact that the Project Officer had decided to take a job elsewhere having been told that she was being made redundant. The Ecologist has now been told that he is also to stay because a belated attempt has been made to charge his fees to the District Councils – and while some of them have agreed, there is no guarantee that this arrangement will endure for longer than a year. So, some partial success in retaining parts of the Countryside Team, which had been scheduled for complete abolition. But what a way to treat people. I have never in 20 years of business and local authority experience heard of staff being ‘accidentally’ notified of redundancy. 

More on the link given.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Somerset County Council and Natural Environment Services

A follow up on my post on 8th Feb.

Simon Nash was  talking to BBC Somerset on Thursday 7.2.13 about a meeting he had had with the Leader of the County Council on the issue of proposed cuts to essential environmental services.

It seems pretty obvious that the Council were considering the redundancy of Ecologist working for the Council where their job is to advise the Council on development projects and similar situations. If the Council doesn't employ specialists then it will be unable to fully understand what  the environmental consequences will be of any of its decisions which affect the whole County of Somerset!

You can listen to his interview with Matt Faulkner on BBC Iplayer for three more days. BBC Somerset are very helpful in tracking down when these items come on air. Here is the reply I got to my enquiry with a link to the programme. Go to 2hr and 2min into the programme and it starts with an interview with  John Osman Leader of the County Council followed by Simon Nash:


The interview with Simon took place at 8.30am on the morning of Thursday, 7th Feb. You can listen back to it via the iPlayer – Just search back for Thursday’s Breakfast with Matt Faulkner, the interview will be around two hours in.

Kind regards,

Rachel Andrews

Broadcast Journalist and Producer
BBC Somerset 01823 323956

From: David German []
Sent: 08 February 2013 12:06
Subject: Re SCC cuts and Simon Nash, Wildlife Trust CEO

Please let me know the programme and time that this news item was on the air?
David German

Wildlife Blog:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Global Warming and David Attenborough africa series

You may have seen comments about this weeks TV programme presented by David Attenborough on the Wildlife of Africa. In it he said that in parts of Africa temperatures had risen by as much as 3.5 degrees C.  His comments were criticised in the press for being not entirely substantiated.
I have used the Guardian climate change feature to find more evidence on the subject.

Here is a link to the web page I found which gives a broader and more balanced analysis of Global Warming;

Woods and Trees in England

Here are some quotes from the Woodland Trust views on their web site about the report on Woodlands.

"A strong future for England's woods and trees..?

It's critical that the aspirations in the Forests Report can be turned into reality.

It's been almost exactly two years since the Government launched a consultation around plans to sell the public forest estate in England en masse.
What the Government says - and does - about the Independent Panel on Forestry's final report to Government (the 'Forests Report') and the 32 recommendations it makes is a big deal for England's forests, woods and trees."

Visit the Woodland Trust site to see what they think about the report.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Somerset County Council

News from Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Stay of execution for County Council natural environment services

                                                                               Photo: Wild daffodil © Bob Hastie

 7th Feb 2013
wild daffodil by Bob HastieThe axe that was due to fall on Somerset County Council’s ecology, nature conservation and countryside staff has been temporarily stopped mid-swing.
Following the release of Somerset County Council’s Mid Term Financial Plan (MTFP) which proposed swinging cuts which would have had serious implications for our natural environment, The Somerset Local Nature Partnership has been calling for a reconsideration of the plan.
The Somerset Local Nature Partnership (SLNP),  represents a wide range of organisations and individuals, including Somerset Wildlife Trust and RSPB. Thanks to the efforts of our members and the public in writing to their County Councillors and emailing our office in their droves, a series of amendments were made to the MTFP which significantly reduce the scale of environmental cuts. These changes were tabled by the Council and endorsed by the Cabinet members during their meeting on Wednesday 6th February. Furthermore in a statement to the public and Councillors at the meeting, Councillor David Hall who has political responsibility for the environment services, made a commitment to work with Somerset Wildlife Trust and other organisations to develop and deliver a vision and strategy for our county’s natural environment.

Key nature conservation staff retained

The amendments to the MTFP will see key nature conservation staff retained, which will enable Somerset County Council to deliver its statutory services and continue to work with partner organisations on the development of new initiatives for nature. Somerset Wildlife Trust will now work with the Council during 2013 to create a clear plan for the Council to continue delivering natural environment services.
This positive outcome has been the result of strong, sustained public support for our work from our members and Somerset’s residents. The number of letters, calls, emails and tweets we and Somerset’s elected members have received asking the Council to reconsider their proposals attests to the strength of feeling Somerset citizens have for their natural world. It was thanks to the efforts of everyone who wrote, called and emailed their Councillors, chatted about the cuts with friends and neighbours, or spread the news via social media, that Somerset County Council were willing discuss and consider a better way forward.

Next steps

Whilst we are pleased with this initial outcome, there is still work to do. We need to address the key issue underlying the original proposals: the lack of understanding and appreciation for nature’s role in keeping Somerset a healthy, vibrant, successful and special place to live, work and play. Somerset’s natural environment benefits society, and supports and generates economic activity in this rural part of England. It is critical that we don’t take this for granted and abandon nature now. For this reason we will work with Council leaders to plan better action for nature. We will also maintain our campaigning efforts and ensure that nature is embedded at the heart of planning and decision making in the County for the benefit of our economy, our health, and our environment.    

Write to your Councillor before Feb 20

All of Somerset’s County Councillors will meet on 20th February to ratify the MTFP, and therefore there is still an opportunity to influence what happens for nature from here on in. We are asking our members and the public to write to their County Councillor a second time, asking them to think about what the natural environment means for our county and communities, and to pledge their support for nature at the Council meeting on the 20th. With the backing of all our County Councillors we can really start to get nature where it belongs ­ at the heart of thinking about Somerset.
Thank you for standing up for nature with us ­-  your voice has made a difference.
You can read more about our campaign on the news pages.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Letter to my local County Counciillor.

Letter to my local County Councillor. Sent by email  6th Feb 2013

Dear Councillor Yeomans,

I am writing to ask you to vote against the proposed cuts in the County’s Medium Term Financial Plan for its Countryside, Ecology and Environment services.
Stephanie Hilborne OBE Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts with the support of Somerset Wildlife Trust is speaking today at the National Ecological Network Conference in Edinburgh. By coincidence today our County Council may well be turning its back on our natural environment.
It is clear to me that the environment in Somerset underpins our local economy, our communities, and our way of life. It marks the County out as somewhere special. We can gain much value from the opportunities we have in our special environmental assets. In our economy and our communities, cuts will squander this extraordinary natural capital advantage, and risk sacrificing a healthy natural environment which should be a vibrant part of a successful Somerset.
Nature benefits society, it supports and generates economic activity. There is ample evidence available from our own County to show how important,investment in ecological infrastructure, is to small businesses and to the rural economy. From clean water and air, to fertile soils and food, Somerset’s natural environment offers us a wealth of free services and goods.. The cuts will compromise Somerset’s environmental assets, and will prove a costly mistake.
Our environment is not a luxury for better times; it’s a key asset for now, not a hindrance or extra. This is reflected in the national and international regulatory frameworks laid out to protect it. The Council has a number of statutory responsibilities towards nature, and without sufficient skilled and experienced staff it is difficult to see how the authority will discharge these requirements. A failure to protect and enhance the county’s environment will be to the detriment of us all including our children in the future and especially in facing up to climate change.
The County Council has responsibility to safe guard the county’s economic, environmental and social interests and act in accordance with the wishes of the local population. I strongly urge you to argue against the proposed cuts in the Countryside,Ecology and Environment services until an assessment of the socio-economic and environmental impacts of the proposed service reductions has been undertaken and until you have consulted with key stakeholders including the Somerset Local Nature Partnership.
Yours sincerely,
David German
Sent by email.
Copies to local wildlife and environmental groups and web sites.

Somerset County Council’s ecology, countryside and nature conservation services

I received this email from the Somerset Wildlife Trust  on the 4th Feb. I have written to my own local County Councillor and I'll post that next.

Dear Somerset Biodiversity Forum

I am writing to you on behalf of Somerset Wildlife Trust, and as a local resident – you get two for the price of one with me – and I hope I can appeal to you all similarly, both as professionals and also as people living in and loving Somerset’s environment.

At the SBP meeting on Wednesday 30th January there was much discussion about the proposed cuts to Somerset County Council’s ecology, countryside and nature conservation services. The cuts, whose scale is unclear from proposals submitted to County Councillors, appear to indicate an almost complete severance of staff working in this area, and presumably a loss of the project budgets they held. More detailed information from senior managers and Cabinet members about the true depth of these cuts has not been forthcoming, and therefore Somerset Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and the Somerset Local Nature Partnership (SLNP) have been requesting urgent meetings with the County to discover precisely what is proposed. I have attached a briefing I produced for SWT staff last week for your information, and give you the same health warning I gave them – this is based on the information I have managed to extract. It’s sketchy because the information available is sketchy. Which, you know, really helps with the democratic process.

Simon Nash, interim Chair of the SLNP, is meeting John Osman (Leader of SCC) today along with James Diamond of NE to ask for the proposed cuts to be stalled until such a time as a complete service review, in consultation with partners and stakeholders, has been undertaken and reported on. This, I think, is crucial: until the full scale of impacts presented by varying options for cuts is known, no decision should be made. This isn’t about stopping cuts or preventing restructuring, it’s about being absolutely clear on what our natural environment does for our economy and society, and understanding what cuts will mean for this…and whether a short term financial relief will actually be economically sound in the mid to long term.

The attached letter has been prepared by the Somerset Local Nature Partnership, and was sent to John Osman and the members of Cabinet last week. If perhaps there are sentiments within that letter that your organisation, or you as an individual, support and might like to reiterate to your Cabinet members and County Councillors, your support would be greatly welcomed and might just make a difference. I think all of us who work, live and play in Somerset and rely on it’s natural environment are going to struggle without Somerset County Council’s commitment to protecting, enhancing and working in partnership to secure a healthier natural world.  

If you can take any action on this it would be great to have your voice. The Cabinet meets this Wednesday (6th February) and a final decision will be taken by the full Council on 20th February. If you can write to, email, or go see your County Councillor on this issue it needs to happen in advance of the 20th. I’d be very interested to know how you get on, as I’ve received some truly cracking responses from some of the County Councillors.

Good luck, thanks for your time, and have a lovely week.

Best wishes


Michelle Osbourn
Policy and Advocacy Manager

Somerset Wildlife Trust
Tonedale Mill
TA21 0AW

01823 652437 (direct dial)
01823 652400 (switchboard)

Friday, February 01, 2013

Somerset County Council Cuts , more info

News from the Somerset Wildlife Trust web site:   

Somerset County Council to axe conservation and natural environment services?

28th Jan 2013

Somerset Wildlife Trust was disturbed to learn this week of proposals by Somerset County Council which appear to indicate services for conserving our wildlife and improving the natural environment will effectively be axed.

In its Mid Term Financial Plan (MTFP) Somerset County Council lays out plans to make the majority of its staff who work on wildlife and countryside issues redundant. The posts affected include the two ecologists who are responsible for assessing impacts to wildlife habitats and species from possible new developments and major infrastructure projects.
All local authorities have legal responsibilities to conserve and protect important species, habitats and sites. Without the right expertise and skills in-house it will be very difficult for the County Council to meet these obligations to wildlife, and the alternative option of paying consultants to provide advice on ecology matters is likely to be more expensive.

Somerset Wildlife Trust is concerned about these proposals because we know our natural environment is important to people. It underpins our rural economy and well-being, providing us with special places to work, live and play, and gives us a range of services and goods, like clean water, crop pollination, fuel and much more. Our natural world is not a luxury, but a necessity without it, we couldn’t survive, and therefore Somerset Wildlife Trust is calling upon the County Council to play its part in looking after our environment.

The plan detailing the cuts will be debated by a group of County Councillors in the Scrutiny Committee meeting on Tuesday 29th January, and they will then make recommendations to the Cabinet who meet to make a final decision on Wednesday 6th February.

 You can take a look at the proposals for cuts to the environment by following this link to the Somerset County Council’s website

What can I do?
Write to the Leader of the Council, Cllr John Osman and tell him why you want to see your County Council protecting our natural environment. Your letter or email needs to reach him before the 6th February. A list of all County Councillors and their contact details can be found on the Somerset County Council website 

Not only but also on the Langport Transition Web site  they said:

Dear Transitioners,

Sorry to be the bearer of some very distressing news but we must work together quickly to save our environment and our wonderful countryside from the barbarians that are destroying our county..........I saw the beginnings of this happening over two years ago when the first of the environmental division at SCC was axed - now it looks like they are sabotaging the whole lot! Please stand up for our countryside, our wildlife, farming and what makes Somerset the beautiful county that it is - all down to years and years and years of caring for the countryside without which we wouldn't be here....

Best eco wishes,

Disturbing and shocking news from the County Council - it is axing its Countryside, ecology and environment services. Despite the results of the survey conducted recently by SCC own free newspaper to householders, Your Somerset, which showed that people wanted MORE investment in environment, flooding and planning (which was actually portrayed as a wish for more cuts for environment! - see attached)

Somerset will be the ONLY rural county with NO countryside service. The current leaders at SCC are without doubt anti-environment, despite it being one of the county's major assets and attractions....

For further info see:

The final decision will be taking at the (Tory) Cabinet meeting on 6 Feb. Environmental NGO's are asking people to lobby their Councillors about this. 


And more on the RSPB web site . Link here

Somerset County Council cuts.

On the news page of the Somerset wildlife Trust web site is this statement.

"Somerset Local Nature Partnership (SLNP), which represents a wide range of organisations and individuals, including RSPB and Somerset Wildlife Trust has today sent a strongly worded letter to council leader John Osman asking him to urgently suspend implementing the cuts outlined in the County’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) for its Countryside, ecology and environment services. These were considered by the County’s scrutiny committee yesterday and will go to full cabinet on 6 February."

This political development is one of the most worrying so far . The flow of bad news for the natural beauty and health of the natural environment in our lovely Somerset has been gathering pace for several years now and this latest  is unacceptable.

The Wildlife Trust together with the RSPB are making strong representation to the Leader of the Council and I expect we will hear a lot more about this from now on.