Last year I wrote about Natural England asking you for your money, through crowdfunding, to carry out a mixture of tasks which ranged from the daft to what seemed to me to be Natural England’s statutory duties (and therefore what I was paying for through my taxes). Tony Juniper responded to the ENDS report with a thoroughly unconvincing reply.
I am interested in this subject for two reasons – one of principle and the other because of one of the projects.
First the principle. Natural England is a statutory agency, it’s a public body, my taxes and your taxes pay for it. If it doesn’t have enough money to carry out its statutory duties then we ought to fix that with government. Natural England would be better placed slipping me, an NGO or a journalist some papers showing that they can’t do their job properly because of government cuts than crowdfunding. And if the projects being crowdfunded aren’t essential, then don’t do them!
But it doesn’t really matter because Natural England is pathetically inept at raising money anyway.
In response to an FOI request I received this, today:
Remember these crowdfunders have been running for over a year. These are pitiful amounts which most unpaid teenage interns at an NGO would be able to better in a few months.
There are three main reasons why crowdfunders fail:
- poor marketing (not putting the proposition to the right people in the right way)
- an unpopular proposition (I don’t want to pay for that!)
- an unpopular proposer (I don’t want to pay them!)
Natural England suffers from all three at once but the greatest of these, I’d guess is the top one. However, the other two cannot be dismissed too lightly.
So let us turn to the most abject failure of the lot – the southern reintroduction of Hen Harriers into England. Some proper conservationists are mildly in favour of this scheme but not many it seems to me. And the RSPB, most raptor workers as far as I can make out and Ruth Tingay, Chris Packham and I are against it (for what that’s worth). Read this recent blog from Raptor Persecution UK for an insight into things and which revealed that Natural England have been funding Hen Harrier satellite tagging in Spain – that £50 won’t have funded much of it though!). And read this blog about the media reporting of RSPB’s position, and look at the comments on the blog for a good flavour of views pro and anti).
The southern reintroduction of Hen Harriers will cost £0.55m. That person’s £50 has got them one ten-thousandth of the way there already! And given the slow progress, I bet the overall costs have risen.
Given how badly the project is going – a struggle to find a site willing to take the birds, and a struggle to find a country willing to donate birds – one has to wonder why Natural England is ploughing on with it.
Time for Tony Juniper to pick up the ‘phone to George Eustice and say;
Secretary of State, it wasn’t your £50 was it? But come on, it’s time for us to climb down on this one; it’s a waste of time, a waste of money, it further eats away at NE’s reputation and it probably won’t work anyway. It’s a waste of your money, a waste of NE money and a waste of the taxpayers’ money. It’s time to drop it. I’ll ask Mark Avery and Ruth Tingay to go gentle with us but you can see that what with Badger culling, gamebird releases, general licences and failure on Hen Harriers they might not be wholly sympathetic. But it’s time to bite the bullet (and that reminds me, when are you going to do something about lead ammunition?).