Yesterday morning I was up early and doing my first Breeding Bird Survey visit of the year. I started at 6am and it was all a bit dull weather-wise, but by 730am the sun was out although the easterly wind was quite strong.
I’ve written before about how this volunteer/NGO/government agency/government partnership is a good example of Big Society in action. People like me are saving the nation millions of pounds by volunteering to do this work – using my considerable expertise – there aren’t many people plucked off Rushden High Street who would have recognised that lesser whitethroat singing.
But the protection that that lesser whitethroat gets, and the regulation and funding that determine that the fields I walked around are full of winter wheat and oil seed rape, are not mine to influence very easily. That is where government currently does intervene, and since it does, I’d like it to do it well and effectively and efficiently.
And that’s why I am so concerned about the Red Tape Challenge. Although the Cabinet Office and Defra seem to be having second thoughts on tearing up wildlife protection – or at least encouraging the general population to suggest that they tear it up – the (here and here) statements don’t look that reassuring to me. If government realises that it has made a big mistake then it should say so clearly – hinting unclearly doesn’t really count.
My guess is that in an ill-considered flurry of enthusiasm for Small Government the Cabinet Office stuck up this Red Tape Challenge without consulting other government departments too much. Or maybe they did consult but everyone is afraid of Francis Maude? Either way, it isn’t the job of we the people to trust Government when it looks like it wants to do something wrong, says it quite fancies doing something wrong and then doesn’t correct this impression clearly.
Please remember those who are trying to do something about this:
The RSPB are still campaigning on it (hooray!).
Jonathon Porritt is on the right side (although he still hasn’t posted my comment on his blog – he’s probably on holiday (or maybe he just doesn’t care?)).
38 Degrees have now got to nearly 43,000 on their petition.
Butterfly Conservation now have something on their home page – well done! to them.
And, by the way, the collared dove I saw this morning, not the most exciting bird you might say, was the first I’ve seen on my BBS square. Such are the pleasures of Big Society.