Somerset County Council announce plans to cut 89% of their funding contribution.
A message from the Quantock Hills Joint Advisory Committee Chairman:
Somerset County Council have announced plans to cut 89% of their contribution to the 4 Somerset Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) including the Quantock Hills for the year 2015/16. This will mean that the annual grant to the Quantock Hills AONB Partnership is reduced from £21,500 to under £2000.
If agreed these cuts will have serious implications for the future management of the Quantock Hills AONB. Funding to conserve and enhance the Quantock Hills is based upon a partnership agreement between Somerset County Council, Taunton Deane Borough Council, Sedgemoor District Council, West Somerset Council and Defra. Should this cut be agreed it is likely to put pressure on the District Councils to also reduce their grants; cuts by any of the local funding partners will affect the AONB's Partnerships ability to draw down the Defra grant which pays 75% of funding, and is dependant on this partnership agreement.
In real terms it would mean:
• Reduction in work carried out to protect the heathland and ancient oak woodlands and associated biodiversity/wildlife
• Reduction in the staff resource at the AONB Service
• Reduction in partnership working with farmers and other interested bodies and organisations
• Loss of Quantock Hills access to regional and national funding, usually for socio-economic projects e.g. Stepping up to the Market.
• Reduction in volunteer opportunities
• Loss of management associated with access and recreation on the hills.
• Reduction in sensitive promotion of the area as a tourism destination
• Loss of opportunities to develop the health & wellbeing benefits of the Quantock Hills for physical and mental health.
• Loss of direct delivery of targeted projects through external funding such as landscape scale biodiversity enhancement funded by compensation funding associated with infrastructure development.
• Loss of protection for local heritage assets
• Loss of reactive and safety work in times of severe weather
The proposed saving by Somerset County Council represents less than 0.002% of the council's budget, which equates to less than 10p per head per annum for Somerset's taxpayers. For every £1 SCC give to the AONB Service, a further £15 is generated in additional funding.
Since 2010 the Quantock Hills AONB Partnership has already managed 50% funding cuts from it's local authority partners. This has led to a reduction in staffing, reduction in project funding, reduction in educational and outreach work undertaken and a reduction in the community based SDF fund.
Confirmation of the proposal will be made at Somerset County Council's Full Council meeting on 19th February; if the proposal is not withdrawn a decision will be made by the County Council in February 2015 and the funds withdrawn from 1st of April that year.
All work carried out by the Quantock Hills AONB Service is on behalf of the Quantock Hills Joint Advisory Committee: http://www.quantockhills.com/about-quantock .
Cllr Anthony Trollope-Bellew
Chairman Joint Advisory Committee, Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Photo: Lorraine Carpenter, winner of 2013 Quantock Photographic Competition
Georgie Grant - February 2014-->