Big Society and Small Government

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.

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5 Replies to “Big Society and Small Government”

  1. Hi Mark,


    to be fair, I wrote a blog post on the de-regulation issue on the 14th April - over a week before you or that Porritt bloke.... ok no-one reads it but it was there.


  2. I just love the title Mark and of course would be most interested on the follow-up to this, being isolated in the deepest wastes of Andalucia!
    Excellent blog and only wish I had made the time for visit much earlier. I will be sure to keep an eye to your blog in future.

  3. It seems nothing is sacred with this Government and diluting hard fought for environmental laws and regulations are an entirely bad thing. It smacks of short termism and the danger is of course that to get back to where we were could take a very long time - and at what cost?

  4. Miles - welcome! What you need is a copy of my book Blogging for Nature to give you some tips! Had I mentioned that, at all?

    Peter - welcome! Good to hear from you. The swifts have just arrived here - when did they get to you?

    Gert - I am prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt for a while longer - but only that they have set up the Red Tape Challenge and included so much environmental legislation as an act of foolishness rather than one of wickedness. But I might be wrong - we'll see. But in the meantime this needs to be challenged whatever its motive.

  5. Hi Mark, Swifts have been present for a few weeks now, but had my 1st really large movement last week, with a maximum on 28th of over 20,000+ (Fuente de Piedra). They continue to pass in large numbers, tending to follow river systems and feeding over open land areas (cereals) and surface water. Other late migrants for the UK are here such as Whinchat and saw my 1st Spotted Flycatcher last week. Peter


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