Queen’s speech response: proper funding must back up environment rhetoric

14 Oct 2019

The government today announced a new environmental bill, but if warm words are to be converted into positive action then sentiment needs to be matched by funding.

Defra and its agencies responsible for delivering environmental oversight have been hit hard by cuts since 2010. For example:

  • Prospect analysis shows that, when you strip out the Brexit allocation, the overall budget for Defra and associated agencies is 35-40% lower in real terms than it was in 2010.
  • the environmental protection work of the Environment Agency has seen a 57% cut in funding since 2010.
  • Natural England, which protects our wildlife, nature reserves, areas of outstanding natural beauty, and sites of specific scientific Interest, has seen its funding cut but by 61% since 2010, with a 22% drop in workforce.
  • other agencies such as the Rural Payments Agency, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, and the Forestry Commission have also seen cuts in funding and/or workforce.

Mike Clancy, Prospect general secretary, said:

“The government’s commitment to the environment is welcome but rhetoric must be backed up by properly funding the agencies which protect it.

“After a decade of cuts, Defra and the agencies on which we rely to protect our natural world are struggling to meet their existing commitments, let alone take on new duties.

“We are facing a climate emergency and need an environmental response that will deliver on the resources the UK needs to live up to its ambitions to be a world-leader on these issues.

“It is very hard to believe that the government is serious when its plans for exiting the EU include a stated wish to diverge from EU environmental standards.”