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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

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)

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