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£500k extra for Dartmoor National Park Authority

Sunday, 7 April 2024 09:50

By Alison Stephenson, local democracy reporter

Dartmoor National Park (image courtesy: Guy Henderson)

Half can be spent on staffing and services

Dartmoor National Park Authority says the government has listened to its financial woes and agreed that extra money coming to protected landscapes this year can be used on staffing.

Defra announced an extra £10 million on top of the core funding it gives to national parks and national landscapes (formerly areas of outstanding natural beauty) for 2024/25 but with an initial provison that it is spent on new projects.

With the biggest drain on finances being its workforce, Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) made a case to use the money on revenue costs which includes staff and services.

The authority is facing a half a million deficit next year and “reaching a critical point.”

It says it is struggling to fulfil its fundamental tasks because the core contribution from Defra had not increased since 2019.

The £3.8 million grant makes up 60 per cent of DNPA’s income but should be nearer £7 million if inflation is into account, it said.

Chief executive of Dartmoor National Park Dr Kevin Bishop told DNPA members this week that Defra had now agreed that half of the extra £500,000 coming to Dartmoor could be used on everyday spending.

He said the three Conservative MPs who cover parts of Dartmoor – Mel Stride, Gary Streeter and Sir Geoffrey Cox had supported the case. Together with chair of DNPA Pamela Woods, he had attended an online meeting which has been set up by Mel Stride with secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs Steve Barclay.

He said the outcome had been positive and a further grant of £75,000 was being given to the park for its  ‘Access for  All’ programme.

He thanked members of the park authority for “pushing forward this agenda”.

DNPA member Peter Smerdon said Dr Bishop and Pamela Woods had been the main drivers and protected landscapes up and down the country had them to thank.

“If it wasn’t for the pressure put on by yourselves, this would not have happened,” he said. “The two of you did all the heavy lifting and lobbying.”

Park authority member Philip Sanders said he was delighted by the news but the authority was still in a “very difficult financial position” because of the “flat rate” cash it had had for a number of years.

He said it was “absurd” that the national park authority had only received notification of how much its core grant would be on the last day of March, the day before the new financial year began.

“How can we plan and set a budget on this basis, it needs to be much earlier, like the beginning of November which is what it used to be.”

Like other authorities DNPA is pushing for a three year financial settlement from the government instead of the current one so it can plan ahead.

 

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