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Key services protected in tough budget for National Park

This is an archived press release

Tuesday 17 January 2006

17 January 2006

Key services protected in tough budget for National Park

Key services will be protected by the Peak District National Park Authority despite the toughest Government funding settlement in recent years.

The Government’s freeze on all national parks’ funding at last year’s level has meant some very difficult decisions for the Authority, which has had to find ways to save £323,000 to achieve a balanced budget.

Nevertheless, at its provisional budget meeting on Friday (Jan 13), the Authority managed to target extra investment for improvements in key areas, including planning and minerals, while scaling back some non-core services.

Authority chief executive Jim Dixon said: “Thanks to very careful financial management we are able to propose a balanced budget that maintains our key services and ensures we can continue to fulfil our statutory duties.

“However, this has been the toughest Government settlement for national parks for years, and regretfully one result is that we are not able to carry out as much conservation and enhancement in the National Park as we would like.”

The budget proposals include:

  • Injecting extra funding into planning and minerals (which face increasing challenges).
  • Investing in IT improvements for staff in outlying areas, and continuing to help fund the Moors for the Future project.
  • A freeze on recruitment of paid part-time patrol rangers – though volunteer rangers will continue to be recruited and trained.
  • A gradual transfer of suitable farms from National Park conservation grant-schemes to national (Defra) environmental stewardship schemes.

In addition, some job-vacancies will not be filled, some staff re-deployed, and efficiency-savings found wherever possible. A re-vamp of the Authority’s HQ in Bakewell will be paid for by saving £60,000 a year in the costs of occupying overspill offices, and the Authority is aiming to increase its income – for instance, from Losehill Hall, its centre for environmental learning.

The budget will be finalised at the Authority’s next meeting on February 10.

The Authority has expressed serious concern about national parks’ funding to rural affairs minister Jim Knight, arguing that they should be treated the same as other local authorities, which will receive a 4.5% increase in 2006-7 and 5% in 2007-8.

Britain’s national parks are funded directly by Government grant from Defra, and receive no funding via the council tax or other local taxes.

This is an archived press release

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