Tony Juniper has been at the helm of Natural England for nearly nine months and in July Natural England will report on their progress during his first year.
Hopes were high that we would all see a positive change with a change of both Chief Exec and Chair but probably the best that can be said so far is that things haven’t got worse. Yes, of course Tony is a nature conservationist and sounds like one, and staff morale has almost certainly improved considerably because of that, but is Natural England fit for purpose and doing its job well? Not yet.
It’s easy to bleat about the lack of resources but if Natural England doesn’t look as though it is using its existing resources well then there isn’t much point in them having any more.
I was thinking a few days ago that it would be good if Natural England produced an annual report that we could all read and nod sagely about – I’d forgotten that they do, and here is last year’s.
I enjoyed this mention – I doubt that any external observer would have made this sound so dull;
Who knows, there may be more to come…
I’ve re-learned that Natural England had 14kpis in this period and they think they scored Green on half of them. These 14 kpis are a funny bunch – they certainly aren’t focussed enough on nature conservation.
But here are some areas where Natural England thought it was doing really, really well:
Apparently having far less than half of SSSIs in favourable condition is good enough – it’s a shambles and everybody knows it. Maybe Tony could say so… I’d score this aspect of the performance of the statutory nature conservation body RED myself.
The emphasis here is on providing something on time to enable concrete-pouring to happen. Any informed analysis of Natural England’s response to planning applications would flag up the poor standard of those responses and the lack of ambition for the natural environment demonstrated by our statutory nature conservation body for England. Maybe Tony could say so… I’d score this aspect of the performance of the statutory nature conservation body RED myself. I’m waiting for a response from Natural England to an information request on one aspect of this subject.
Since Natural England is showing no independence of view or thought from government I can’t see any reason why anyone else should pay for them – it’s just a shame that my taxes are getting so littl return on investment! Despite this Natural England is pursuing dodgy fund-raising initiatives – see here and here. The funding ask for the Hen Harrier reintroduction project seems particularly unsuccessful – see here.
You have got to be kidding… Tony is kidding on this one – see here. I’d score this aspect of the performance of the statutory nature conservation body RED myself.
I can promise that I will look with a great deal more interest at the report that will emerge this year. But there isn’t much time for Natural England to find some good news to write about in the next review…
What Natural England is getting completely wrong is its failure to demonstrate that its lack of resources is harming nature conservation. It has signed up for terrible kpis and is very keen to make out that it is meeting them! That’s hardly likely to shake more resources out of central government or win friends with civil society is it? If the NHS were killing lots of people but keeping to budget, increasing staff morale and providing great information for the death certificates then that wouldn’t be seen as success.
Come on Natural England – you need to do much better and you need to fight far harder and more cleverly. It’s almost like a campaign (hint!).