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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)