21 December 2010
Defra has now confirmed Natural England's grant-in-aid settlement for 2011-14. The settlement represents a good outcome for Natural England in the context of the current spending climate and is in line with the planning assumptions which have underpinned our efficiency programme and the development of our new business model.
In broad terms, the settlement involves a £44.2m reduction in Natural England's grant-in-aid over the next four years. This represents a 21.5% cut in Natural England's overall budget and a 30% cut in the portion of the budget which the organisation directly manages (the other portion of our budget relates to recharges for services provided centrally by Defra such as Shared Services, IT and Estates).
The settlement is accompanied by the very welcome news that Defra will fund a substantial portion of the redundancy costs associated with the introduction of Natural England's new business model.
Helen Phillips, Natural England's Chief Executive, said: "At a time of very significant constraints on public spending, this settlement reflects the importance that Defra attaches to the work Natural England does for the natural environment and to the confidence that Defra has in Natural England's new business model and our capacity to deliver against it.
"We can now continue the job of prioritising programme spend for 2011-12, and identify how we can achieve savings that will minimise the impact on our core programme work."
Dr Phillips said Natural England will, for example, be:
Making savings in back office processes, establishing casework hubs for land management planning, process re-engineering of wildlife licensing, and centralised grants management activities.
Developing a refreshed biodiversity conservation programme with partners, which maintains Natural England's core delivery responsibilities, and maximises the contribution from agri-environment schemes and other external funding sources. Natural England will also deliver further efficiencies by combining Countdown 2010 and Wetland Vision to create a new biodiversity grant scheme.
Working more closely with Defra and other bodies in the Defra network on evidence and monitoring.
In addition to these efficiencies, Natural England will work with partners to transfer to civil society areas of work (such as National Nature Reserves and Walking for Health) which meets Government priorities and where partners are better placed to lead.
Natural England will identify the detailed impact of the cuts as this becomes clearer during the refresh of our Strategic Direction and the development of our new Corporate Plan over the next few months.