Still on the Brink

The news that the National Lottery is helping to fund the conservation of threatened species of animal and plant in England is very welcome – I almost wish I’d ever bought a lottery ticket.

There’s a little bit of confusion about which species are in and out as there are 20 main species (and the Guardian lists 19) but the Lottery website chooses three mammals out of the five it mentions which are drawn from the other 200 species which are going to benefit.

The money amounts to £4.6m which is a fair amount of money spread across 20 species over 3 years £80k/species/year) but looks less impressive if spread over ten times as many species.  If you can get Hedgehog numbers back up in three years with £8k/yr then you deserve a large cash bonus yourself, I think.

But the consortium of organisations is very interesting: Amphibian and Reptile Trust, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and RSPB. As always it’s just as interesting who isn’t included as who is.

I’m very pleased to see that we might see Chequered Skipper flying around east Northants again soon – that would be great.

Natural England’s chairman, Andrew Sells, said the Back from the Brink programme being supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund represented a ‘groundbreaking approach’ to nature conservation and that ‘Bringing these species back from the brink cannot be achieved by one group alone.  But by pooling resources and developing new ideas, this project will add vital momentum to all our efforts.’.  None of that seems likely to be true to me but this whole announcement was surrounded by hyerbole and overclaiming.

In 2009/10 NE spent £244m, in 2015 it spent £194m.

Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

Get email notifications of new blog posts

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

6 Replies to “Still on the Brink”

  1. This is one of the most positive stories I have seen recently in what has been a dark few months for nature conservation. While you say you are pleased it does not seem that completely you share my enthusiasm, Mark? Saying that £4.6 million will make a difference and that it is vital to pool our resources etc... seems pretty bang on the mark to me. Not sure what is not true?

    As you should know, though £4.6 million can only do so much, this is still a considerable amount of money in the current climate. Crucially I imagine that it will also help to pull in plenty of other 'match' funding to increase this amount significantly. Perhaps this will be at least doubled in real terms. I think that HLF normally ask for a 30% contribution to start with?

    I think the project is great. We cannot kid ourselves that we are now going to save every hedgehog and willow tit, but plenty of invertebrates (typically ignored by the fur and feathers brigade) will get very welcome resource. To see fabulous charities such as Buglife and Butterfly Conservation (are you a member of both Mark? I very much hope so) fully involved amongst the heavyweights is great. We need more of these ambitious joint programmes. I cannot wait to see what this achieves and what it leads to.

  2. What is perhaps more worrying to my mind, certainly in my area is the amount of Heritage Lottery Funding which is going to 'statutory' agencies and authorities including Natural England.

    The Lottery was always promoted as being for charitable causes, big society kind of initiatives, stepping up to the mark when statute failed etc.?

    NE and Local Authorities have statutory duties so why are they able to receive funds? Increasingly it seems that their staff then proceed to be shuffled side-wards into running these 'projects'? Saves redundancy payments? Allows them to be seen to engage with the community, handing out peanuts by way of incentive crumbs to stave off any potential criticism?

    The HLF needs to look very carefully at the proportion of its charitable budget (c.28% income) being given to the state? Likewise how it accepts and validates the use of match funding?

  3. I wonder who is leading on the mammals? Not an obvious lead amongst those partnership organisations...

  4. I feel as need to defend HLF from NIMBY. :-). HLF is very clear that they will not fund statutory duties; they will, however, fund added value. To give a simple illustrative example, they won't fund Public Right of Way footpath maintenance, but they will fund the extra work and promotion needed to bring a path up to a badged Promoted Route standard. I agree that sometimes there's a bit of a grey area, but from what I can see there's no actual statutory obligation on NE to, for example, proactively save a theatened species, only just to take steps where it can through SSSI regulations, planning objections, etc, prevent others from actively damaging it.

    HLF also have rather strict rules about what staff they'll fund irrespective of the applicant; they won't fund existing staff (you can second an existing staff member if they're the best person for the job but then they only pay for the backfilling of their original role) .

    All the guidance is on the HLF website - I would guess that this was a Heritage Grant (detailed rules vary a bit between grant schemes). Have a look, its all public.

    My guess is that the partnership with a wide range of NGOs was a key selling point - I can't see NE alone getting a grant anything like this big for this work. In fact it's not clear to me that NE itself is actually getting any net income at all as a result of this; they could be a partner making a net contribution to make the whole grant package work.

    My experience of HLF is that they're independently minded, that their grant decision making is pretty robust, and that they're very mindful of the need to bring benefits to lottery players most of whom are not white middle class people like Mark and myself. People like us often enjoy lottery funded projects but usually don't buy tickets. That's why HLF grants require applicants to demonstrate community benefits, not just "heritage" benefits.

    You may, of course, think that as a matter of principle no public bodies should be able to apply for lottery funds. Twas the then Govt who opened the lottery up to such applications, some time ago now - possibly not such a good thing but often its only the public sector that has the financial muscle to cashflow and underwrite these larger projects, so be careful what you wish for.

    If I had a criticism of lottery funding, it would be that in value for money terms elite arts and elite sports really don't look that good alongside nature conservation generally. We bring more benefits to more people per £ spent than almost anything else - we're excellent value. I'd like to see a greater proportion of lottery money spent on wildlife-y things, and getting people out enjoying nature. £4.6 million might just be one picture for a London gallery otherwise.

  5. I completely agree with Jbc. HLF is pretty much the only game in town now for serious funding for nature conservation, and it is also forces projects to really think about the people engagement and other heritage aspects. Their rules are also very strict. It must be by far the biggest funder outside of EU generated funds.

    By the way Mark, you did not answer my question. Are you a member of Buglife and Butterfly Conservation? In my opinion currently our two most progressive nature conservation charities. I am sure anyone who is Standing Up for Nature would be?

  6. It is good news - apart from anything else, this money will be directed and monitored and won't drift away or strangely disappear . Added to that, whilst we all peddle gloom enthusiastically and with good reason, the story of targeted conservation programmes is one of remarkable success. Subjected to the close focus that has worked well for a range of conservation NGOs the prospects for the target species has to be good - a marker for others, including recent debate around the National Trust, perhaps.

    The figures for NE cuts, however, need treating with caution - on the surface it doesn't sound that much, does it ? £50m is 20%, a lot, but probably not as much as you'd expect. The trouble with these figures is that there is almost invariably a big chunk of non-negotiable commitment - contracts for land management, for example. The proportionate cuts to the areas where there is discretion - staffing in particular may in reality be massively bigger, and any discretionary spend - exactly the sort of forward-looking projects the HLF are funding will have gone in the very first slash of the knife.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.