14 June 2012
National Park Authority delivering well, but feels the impact of cutbacks
Northumberland National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson with a visitor
At yesterday’s annual meeting of Northumberland National Park Authority, the Chief Executive, Tony Gates, reported that good performance within the Authority outweighed poor performance by four to one.
It was also reported, however, that last year was the first year in which over 15% of planned work programmes were not achieved, with a further 20% only partially achieved. This reflects the loss of 25% of staff, during a year in which the Authority moved decisively to adjust to a 33% cut in its budget for the four years to March 2015.
Highlights for the year included:
- Fewer ancient monuments in the Park are now at-risk due to an innovative approach of training local volunteers to monitor the conditions of important historic sites;
- Levering-in over £3½m to farm environment schemes to better look after important habitats such as hay meadows and important species, such as Ring Ouzel, is helping improve the natural environment;
- Gaining £300,000 from the Heritage Lottery to develop a funding package and designs for a potential new £10m national park landscape centre in the Hadrian’s Wall area; and
- Nearly 70% of tourists had an 'exceptional' experience visiting the National Park.
Areas of concern were:
- 26% fall in the number of visitors to national park centres;
- 12% less passengers on the Hadrian’s Wall Bus;
- Suffering a decline in income from visitor spend.
These later trends threaten the Authority’s ability to raise finances from other sources as the Authority seeks to expand its income base, following cuts in government funding.
Tony Gates, Chief Executive informed the board that: "One in four staff left last year resulting in a significant loss of capacity and knowledge. Now we have to work in different ways and perform new and wider roles. The Authority continues to deliver at a high level and offers exceptional value for public investment. Clearly we can no longer do everything we would like to do but in my opinion the way in which the Authority’s staff have coped with these unprecedented changes has been both humbling and a significant credit to the organisation."
Northumberland National Park Authority believes it has come through the worst and the difficult changes have laid solid foundations to enable a more focussed set of high priority programmes to be successfully completed in the next year.
The Authority has sets its work programme for the year ahead which includes:
- Creating ten work placements for young people to help them gain a path to a career or further education;
- Support with advice and grant aid 45 local businesses to better conserve the National Park or enhance the tourist experience;
- Protect the pristine rivers and burns– the best in England;
- Train volunteers and improve the surveying of important species such as curlews and waxcaps and vital habitats such as native woodland; and
- Further development of proposals for 'The Sill' Landscape Centre.
Full details of the Authority’s work programme for the year ahead are available in our Corporate Plan 2012/13.
For further information, please contact:
Tony Gates, Chief Executive/Stuart Evans, Head of Corporate Services
Northumberland National Park Authority
Tel direct: 01434 611516/611527 Tel main: 01434 605555