The state of Natural England 2018-19 - A view from Prospect trade union
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• The state of Natural England 2018-19 A view from Prospect trade union prospect.org.uk email@example.com Latest revision of this document: https://library.prospect.org.uk/id/2019/00125 This revision: https://library.prospect.org.uk/id/2019/00125/2019-01-28
2 • The state of Natural England 2018-19 Stand up Summary for your environment, stand up In 2018, Natural England, the public in enabling government to achieve its organisation for safeguarding England’s 25-year environment plan. But they can for Natural natural environment, is in crisis. Its staff only go on so long. They, and Natural are in the eighth year of a 1% pay cap. England’s work, have been undervalued The organisation itself is in its fourth and underfunded by government for too England year of successive budget cuts with no sign of let-up for the years ahead. long. This report is in response to our The organisation’s diminishing ability members’ experiences, concerns and to fulfil its public service remit because of uncertainty over their livelihoods and the cuts was laid bare earlier this year by a what this could mean for the environment. House of Lords Select Committee1. It shines a light on Natural England’s Prospect trade union is the major crucial work for the natural environment union representing staff in Natural and the impact of cuts on this work. England. Its recent surveys of members Prospect is a politically independent revealed just how damaging the impacts union but felt compelled to highlight the of the pay cap have been, personally and plight of Natural England and its people. to the organisation. We also describe the impact of the Yet in spite of the cuts, the pay cap and long-standing suppression of pay and the recent exodus of many NE staff to the squeeze on resources on the staff and Department for Environment, Food and their well-being. Rural Affairs on EU exit secondments, the And we explain why we so desperately staff still strive to protect and conserve need a turnaround to revive the once our fragile natural environment for flourishing Natural England for the good present and future generations. of the natural environment and the public They are high-calibre professionals – of England. experts in their field – and will be pivotal 1 House of Lords Select Committee on the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 Report of Session 2017–19 (March 2018) The countryside at a crossroads: Is the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 still fit for purpose? https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/nerc- act-committee/news-parliament-2017/nerc-act-report-published/ Contents What is Natural England and why does it matter? 3 Natural England’s funding 6 2018-19 budget cut and urgent fiscal shortfall 7 Impacts of the budget cuts on Natural England’s performance 8 Natural England’s independence and ability to fulfil its purpose 11 The consequences of austerity and the pay cap 12 © Getty Images/Jrleyland Staff well-being and discrimination issues 14 The future 15
The state of Natural England 2018-19 • 3 What is Natural England and why does it matter? Natural England is a non-departmental public body in England sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It was established on 1 October 2006 through the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act. This amalgamated the Countryside Agency, English Nature and the Rural Development Service – themselves long- standing bodies with some being able to trace their heritage back to 1949 with the then Nature Conservancy. © Getty Images/Langton-Davies Photography Natural England is responsible for protecting and improving England’s natural environment, including its landscape, flora and fauna, freshwater and marine environments, geology and soils. And for people’s enjoyment of it all. To achieve this, Natural England has a myriad of statutory duties and other essential work including partnership- based projects. It: • advises government on environmental delivered by Natural England’s staff is not legislation and policy well understood or appreciated, yet it has • is a statutory consultee on a real and lasting influence on the ground. Natural A few examples are outlined below. environmental matters for planning, development and marine licensing • Protected sites – designation of our England is a • helps farmers and landowners best ecological and geological sites, both terrestrial and marine (Sites of repository of enhance the natural environment on their land Special Scientific Interest and National skills, expertise, Nature Reserves – the crème de la • issues and enforces wildlife licenses for protected species crème of the best natural features in enthusiasm and England); European sites and Marine • designates our most precious Conservation Zones. European sites commitment environmental sites • commissions and undertakes form a network of the best sites across Europe and in England they always to the natural environmental scientific research, evidence gathering and drives local overlap SSSIs. Natural England advises on the management of SSSIs, assesses world partnership projects their condition, consents activities and Source: Prospect membership survey, May 2018 undertakes enforcement. • has a responsibility to help people enjoy, understand and access the There are 4,127 SSSIs in England, natural environment. covering more than one million hectares of special habitat, wildlife But there is so much more to Natural and geology (approximately 8% of England than what gets recognised. England’s total land area). It is a repository of skills, expertise, enthusiasm and commitment to the One of Natural England’s most recent natural world. These are the sorts of time- designations is Langdon Ridge SSSI tested qualities that used to be valued in near Basildon, Essex, now protected the civil and public service that need to be for its important meadows and maintained and cherished. extensive woodland, invertebrates and The sheer scope and scale of the work the beautiful, but nationally scarce,
4 • The state of Natural England 2018-19 Deptford pink. The site also acts as an North Kent Marshes and the Humber incredibly important landscape-scale Estuary. For the latter, Natural area of connection between other England has been the key driving force priority areas for conservation. in bringing about the South Humber • Countryside stewardship – helping Gateway initiative which is creating 275 farmers and landowners design plans hectares of new wet grassland habitat. to enhance biodiversity on their land • Protected landscape – designates and secure funding for this from the Areas of Outstanding Natural European Union. This helps to achieve Beauty and National Parks; provides a balanced agricultural economy expert advice on landscape impacts which is sustainable and benefits from development when consulted. wildlife. Most SSSIs are managed • Marine environment – designation of through stewardship. Many of marine protected areas, setting their England’s well known and much loved conservation objectives and providing estates are in stewardship, such as conservation advice. Statutory Chatsworth House and most estates consultee on licensing and consent for of the National Trust and Crown marine activities, including fisheries. Estate. Approximately 23% of English Provides advice to government on land is currently under stewardship marine policy with a recent focus on (three million hectares). exiting the EU. Natural England also uses • Catchment sensitive farming – stewardship to target specific working jointly with the Environment conservation efforts such as saving Agency and Defra to reduce diffuse the turtle dove, a charming bird water pollution from agriculture, by which used to be a familiar sight in the giving free training and advice on English countryside but is now close cleaner water and healthier soils to to extinction – one of the causes of its farmers in England. decline being lack of seed and grain as • Wildlife licensing and enforcement food during the breeding season. – assesses and issues licences for Natural England is working with activities which may disturb or landowners in the ‘turtle dove friendly kill European protected species zone’ near Maldon in Essex to raise including bats, great crested newt, awareness and encourage specific dormice, smooth snake, sand lizard habitat management for this species. and Natterjack toad; and national protected species including common • Planning development and policy reptiles, badgers, water vole and – statutory consultee on impacts of Schedule 1 birds such as the barn owl. development and planning policy on Enforces licence breaches. protected sites and landscapes. A significant part of Natural England’s • England Coast Path – establishing work in this area is promoting and designating a new National Trail integration of green infrastructure along the entire length of England’s and biodiversity net gain as part coast, due to be completed in 2020. of development schemes. It is also This includes detailed assessment pioneering landscape-scale solutions of possible impacts on residents and across local authority boundaries to protected environmental sites and address the impacts of development incorporating avoidance measures. A recently opened length of the path © Getty Images/ Hillview1 and population growth on vulnerable internationally important sites. These in the North East provides 44 miles include: the Dorset Heathlands, of accessible coastline for walkers Thames Basin Heaths and coastal between South Bents and Amble. sites such as the Solent, Exe Estuary, • Advice to government and
The state of Natural England 2018-19 • 5 © Tim Page, Natural England scientific research – specialist While Natural England is often seen advice to government, stakeholders as just doing business with Defra, it is Natural England and the public on environmental a non-departmental public body. Its evidence and policy. Natural England engages across furthers scientific research by remit, and the customers and partners with which it works, are wide-ranging government commissioning and undertaking studies on wide-ranging aspects and cross-cutting at many levels. Natural England engages across departments of the natural environment and conservation2. Natural England government departments and agencies, industry sectors and the voluntary and agencies, was also heavily involved in the sector. It encompasses all types of our design of the government’s 25-year environment – from urban to peri-urban industry environment plan. and open countryside through to the • Collaborations in conservation – coast and sea. sectors and key driver of numerous partnerships This is the beauty of Natural England the voluntary and project work, for instance Back from the Brink 3 in cooperation with the – it provides overarching custodianship, expertise and forethought for all aspects sector RSPB and other partners to save 20 species from extinction. This included of the natural environment and provides the links and authority to make a the reintroduction of the Chequered difference in the real world. Skipper and securing the future for This forms the crux of Natural England’s over 200 more through various sub- Conservation 21 strategy, its place in projects such as Shifting Sands in the delivering the 25- year environment plan Brecks. and is the reason why Natural England is more than the sum of its parts. 2 https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/natural-englands-publications-maps-and-data 3 https://naturebftb.co.uk/
6 • The state of Natural England 2018-19 Natural England’s funding Natural England receives its core funding, Similarly, staffing has also dramatically known as Grant in Aid (GiA), from Defra. declined since Natural England came Although recent initiatives to introduce into being. In particular, the organisation charging for services NE offers have suffered a significant hit in 2018 when enabled external funding to be brought in, approximately 460 permanent staff this is small compared to its core GiA. working on securing stewardship Grant in aid has fallen by schemes (approximately a quarter of the approximately 50% since 2007, with workforce) were transferred to Natural further cuts projected for 2019-20. England’s sister organisation the Rural © Getty Images Negotiations on funding for the next five Payments Agency, which administers the years will begin in 2019, but there is no agri-environment stewardship funds from indication the trend will be reversed. the European Commission. This has fundamentally transformed the way Natural England delivers stewardship, losing overall ownership Defra core grant-in-aid to Natural England in signing off agreements, losing the 240 power to authorise payments, make new 220 agreements or make changes to existing 200 ones. 180 Natural England will however continue 160 to provide ecological advice to farmers 140 when working up agreements and make £ (millions) 120 recommendations to the RPA. 100 Severe cuts in core funding have also 80 resulted in many remaining staff being 60 redirected into work which is externally 40 funded ie the small proportion of work 20 that does not rely on GiA. This includes 0 ringfenced and time-limited projects such 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 as the England coastal path, catchment FINANCIAL YEAR END sensitive farming and designation of Marine Conservation Zones; or roles that depend on commercial income such as through pre-application planning advice. Natural England numbers of staff Temporary contract This means changes in organisational Permanent contract priorities and difficult decisions about 2,500 what core work should be stopped, such as condition assessments on protected 2,000 sites, are driven by funding. Ultimately, the impacts of the cuts are causing a drift towards significantly 1,500 STAFF altering Natural England’s original remit and purpose. 1,000 Previous voluntary redundancy schemes since 2010 have also removed 500 long-standing expertise at many levels. Those who remain are operating under 0 intense strain as workloads have not 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 meaningfully diminished. FINANCIAL YEAR END Source: Figure for 2019 not publicly available but calculated by Prospect based on the number of staff who transferred to the RPA in October 2018. Natural England annual reports 2006-7 to 2017-18 – www.gov.uk/government/collections/ natural-england-annual-reports-and-accounts
The state of Natural England 2018-19 • 7 2018-19 budget cut and urgent fiscal shortfall The 2018-19 budget cut was worse than also find its secondees a job on their planned and came well into the start of return. the new financial year. This meant Natural Individuals, including specialists with There has been England had more staff than it could many years’ experience in their field of afford, particularly in core work areas like expertise, have been forced to move to a deafening farmland conservation and protected sites – perhaps what Natural England is completely different jobs with no say in the matter and with no alternatives. silence from best known for. The senior leadership has scrambled to Well-being and equality checks have been far from the centre of the process. the leadership move staff from core work to externally- The senior leadership has struggled to on challenging funded roles, including those which maintain a sense of control over the fiscal receive commercial income. The reaction shortfall and lost the hearts and minds of Defra on has been panicked and fraught, with the staff. workforce decisions rushed through Throughout the fallout of this the cuts without the normal checks and controls. most recent cut, there has been a To give itself breathing space for two deafening silence from the leadership years, Natural England has also sought on challenging Defra on the cuts. It widespread secondment of staff to EU appears to appease the department as exit roles in Defra. However, it had to far as possible, referring to the need to block many willing applicants for fear reduce ‘overspend’ rather than outwardly of a further detrimental impact on the acknowledge the cuts for what they are. business. Natural England must of course © Getty Images/Daniel J Rao
8 • The state of Natural England 2018-19 Impacts of the budget cuts on Natural England’s performance The impacts of cuts to Natural England’s colleagues and specialist skills for the various types of habitat management funding are manifesting themselves are spread thinly. across its business. They are ultimately affecting, or will affect, the environment. There is continual tension between the Some of these are set out below. need to fulfil the core statutory duty of • Protected sites – one of Natural maintaining these special sites at high England’s statutory duties is to deal quality, or to mothball them as the staff with SSSIs that have been neglected. simply cannot cope, as in the East of However, officers responsible for SSSIs England. are being told this year that this work Another consequence is the volunteer is not a priority and they have been base, an essential resource in reassigned to other roles which do not achieving habitat management on rely on core funding. the ground. Many NNR staff are now cautious about appointing new This has affected SSSI condition volunteers because the resources to assessments, a key part of SSSI work. manage them are so stretched and it is These surveys should be undertaken becoming increasingly difficult to fund every six years but staff have been volunteer training, Personal Protective told they cannot do these visits unless Equipment (PPE) and travel expenses. they are linked to routine stewardship Some NNRs are having to refuse all but aftercare visits. the most local volunteers because NE Overall this has meant less monitoring cannot afford to cover their travel. is taking place, affecting the quality NNRs are at risk of, or currently of information available to advise suffering from deteriorating condition, landowners and public authorities on and for some sites even vandalism. impacts of development on sites. NNRs are the natural living equivalent According to a senior manager’s post of the heritage and special artefacts (our emphasis added): we have in our museums. “This [protected sites work] is what If our heritage was being vandalised or many of us joined the organisation not cared for in the British Museum, to work on and, as for me, it has been this would be a national scandal. Yet the central focus of much of our the same is happening to the best conservation work for years. There are examples of our natural heritage currently no government targets for today. It is time our NNRs received this work. I repeat that, government the special care and attention they doesn’t have extant targets for this deserve so that they can be preserved work in the current parliament period... for future generations. Our budget is set by Defra and comes • Planning and marine advice – since largely in ring-fenced packets, tied to the budget cuts started, there has other targets – like the England Coast been a gradual loss of core skills and Path or marine designations. As such a reduction in staff numbers due to cuts this year have fallen on work that non-backfilled secondments and is not protected, the largest area being staff departures. Remaining staff are SSSI work. That’s the stark reality.” struggling to provide statutory advice © Getty Images/Dmitry Naumov • National Nature Reserves (NNRs) – on casework, with those on more NNRs are also under intense strain as a senior and junior grades having to result of budget cuts and ever reducing fill the gap. This has also meant that dedicated staff. The existing workers staff have been blocked from applying on NNRs are struggling to cover for outward secondments as they for sickness or annual leave of their are deemed too critical for Natural
The state of Natural England 2018-19 • 9 Natural England’s timeliness on responses to planning consultations 500 Failure to meet 21 day or otherwise agreed timescale 400 because of “agency resourcing (eg: workload issues, England’s business. This has had an staff absences, impact on morale and individuals’ 300 availability of specialist expertise)” career aspirations. Failure to meet 21 As a consequence, Natural England 200 day or otherwise agreed timescale has struggled to respond on time to because of other planning consultations. In 2017, four 100 reasons (further information needed; out of five of its late responses were complex proposal; due to workload issues, staff absences internal process 0 error) or availability of specialist expertise. 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 This is set to get worse. Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/natural-englands-response-times-to-planning-consultations-in-england Relationships with key partners such as local authorities, the Marine Management Organisation and be secured in time for an internal Inshore Fisheries and Conservation deadline of 31 August at which point Authorities are also becoming all agreements must be passed to stretched with the tighter resourcing. the Rural Payments Agency for There is also a significant shift to a processing. This is driven by the dependence on income generated single nominal start date for all new from pre-application advice from agreements on 1 January each year developers to make up the fall in core (set by the European Commission). funding. This means staff struggle to get all The House of Lords report said: applications ready with a peak in work “[Natural England’s] focus must over summer, rather than staggered continue to be on improving the as in previous schemes. If the start process rather than generating revenue date is missed, the farmer may not as a first priority.” receive payment for that year. This puts • Wildlife licensing – Natural England intense pressure on staff, who are often is struggling to deal with substantial emotionally invested in each of their outstanding and incoming license agreements and with a relationship applications on protected species with each customer. They habitually within the 30-day timeframe. work over their contracted hours, late Decisions are having to be made to nights and weekends. Individuals often prioritise work on European protected have excessive targets because of species (such as great crested newt, fewer staff because of the funding cuts. bats, dormice). This is effectively The increase in time taken for an exposing nationally protected species agreement to be worked up, and (including common reptiles, water vole, badgers) to the risk of people the sheer volume of information Cuts this year and evidence required, has led undertaking activities which may many farmers to decide not to go have fallen on disturb or kill protected species into the scheme. This may well without the necessary legal checks have consequences for protected work that is not and mitigation in place. • Countryside stewardship – for staff sites if they are managed through stewardship. Schemes are ‘scored’ protected, the providing ecological advice to farmers on stewardship agreements, there for eligibility for the Higher Tier of agreement. Small SSSIs can fail to hit largest area is the annually recurring problem of the target because they are ‘out- being SSSI an intense peak in workload during competed’ by larger applications the summer. This is because Natural with, for example, lots of historic work. That’s the England’s target for new stewardship environment features which score agreements, agreed with Defra, must highly. stark reality.
10 • The state of Natural England 2018-19 Decline in enforcement casework undertaken by Natural England 146 Warning letter Caution 140 Civil sanction (inc. EU) 120 Prosecution 113 102 100 93 92 93 92 79 80 72 60 45 40 20 15 8 8 10 7 3 4 1 2 2 1 3 1 1 3 0 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 Source: Official NE data available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/enforcement- laws-advice-on-protecting-the-natural-environment-in-england The volume of work also has other declined to two, full-time dedicated lead knock-on effects. Other important advisors and only some of the time of work areas such as enforcement four of the former leads. get delayed or dropped. Aftercare There are no longer any dedicated or condition assessments, which senior enforcement advisors with an would otherwise be best done during overview of the high-risk casework, summer, have been virtually dropped this role having been amalgamated from the workload. as part of a general role. There are But importantly, this may mean substantial gaps nationally without that potential breaches of existing experienced and trained enforcement agreements go undetected, exposing and regulation lead advisors. Natural England to the risk of severe It has not been possible to report in financial penalties by the European the same way for wildlife licensing Commission. enforcement as no effective case Natural England staff also have the tracking mechanism has been in place inherent pressure of being ‘in the since 2015-16. This points to the de- middle’ between the farmer and the prioritisation of this work by senior RPA, the agency which delivers the managers. There is uncertainty around money and carries out inspections. the number of technical and minor If Natural England provides wrong offences Natural England becomes advice in setting up an agreement, due aware of – and how or whether these to lack of experience of a very complex offences are dealt with. system, this may leave the agreement Species enforcement leads are holder open to the risk of financial reporting a lack of time and impetus penalties. This is a cause for concern to investigate and take action on as staff are put under increasing breaches of species licences. The lack pressure to finalise agreements to hit of action on breaches of licences has an inflexible deadline. led to significant delays in renewing • SSSI enforcement activity – the licences, which then affects Natural graph above shows the decline in England’s customer service standards. enforcement casework – especially As for SSSI enforcement, resource since 2015-16. This is due to a reduction in staff working on enforcement. for wildlife licensing enforcement In 2015-16, Natural England had has reduced over the past few years, © Getty Images/Ben Schonewille an enforcement team of 14 senior including no backfill for a dedicated casework managers and specialists and national senior specialist. 11 experienced and trained regulation Without effective resourcing, and enforcement lead advisors who protected species and SSSI shared the casework with colleagues enforcement work will continue to across the country. That team has decline in frequency and value.
The state of Natural England 2018-19 • 11 Natural England’s independence and ability to fulfil its purpose Ever reducing funding, and the knock- on effect on the work Natural England can actually undertake, culminated in the House of Lords Select Committee calling the organisation’s autonomy and efficiency into question in 2018. In the summary of its report, The countryside at a crossroads: Is the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 still fit for purpose?, the Committee described the damning effects of austerity and budget cuts on the organisation’s ability to carry out its public service: “ Since 2006 many of [the NERC Act’s] © Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages provisions have been hollowed out. Natural England has been subjected to severe budget cuts, leading to concerns regarding its ongoing ability to perform core regulatory functions. “ The Commission for Rural Communities has been abolished, and was replaced by a unit within Defra – the Rural Communities Policy Unit – which has of its full range of statutory duties and itself subsequently been abolished. responsibilities. It’s difficult “ Rural society, the rural economy and our We share the concerns of witnesses natural environment have not been well served by these changes. who have told us that Natural England no longer has a distinctive voice, and to see how “ The Act gave Natural England a broad urge the Government to take action in recognition of these concerns. Natural remit, including the promotion of nature England will conservation, protection of biodiversity, conservation of the landscape and “ We also make specific recommen- dations that seek to improve Natural promotion of public access to the England’s performance of its planning be able to fulfil countryside. obligations, particularly with regard to conserving the landscape.” its important “ To deliver against this remit requires adequate resources and – within the This report was debated in July 2018. public service recognised procedures applied to non-departmental public bodies – a The government’s response4 failed to acknowledge the problems created by the remit if its good degree of independence from Government. Natural England currently severe cuts in core funding. It did however reinforce the value and influence of NE’s core funding enjoys neither of these essential prerequisites. work in many areas, supported with many continues to examples. diminish “ The Government must address this situation urgently. We recommend that It is difficult to see how Natural England will be able to fulfil its important public Natural England should be funded to a service remit if its core funding continues level commensurate with the delivery to diminish. 4 https://www.parliament.uk/nerc-act-committee
12 • The state of Natural England 2018-19 The consequences of austerity and the pay cap As well as budget cuts, Natural England’s Some members report that either they or pay system has suffered years of neglect their partner have had to take on a second because of the government’s public job to support their families. Things are sector pay policy which limited paybill now becoming so severe that leaving growth to 1% and removed progression seems the only option for some. through the pay scales. “I feel I am insufficiently compensated The cap has been in place in Natural for the technical, highly-skilled and level England for eight years. Prospect was of work I do. I do not feel technical skills so concerned about the effects of the are reflected in the pay structure which pay cap that it conducted a detailed is balanced to managers. I am actively survey of its membership to investigate seeking work elsewhere.” the human impact and the impact on the The graph below shows how the NE organisation. pay scale minima and maxima compare to The effects have manifested in a number of harmful ways, including: • financial hardship • significant loss of take-home pay and Around 44% pension accrual in real terms are actively • loss of skilled staff • exacerbating the gender pay gap looking for new • recruitment and retention difficulties jobs outside of • increased workloads and grade creep Natural England © Getty Images/Tero Vesalainen • low morale and well-being • stalled pay progression Source: Prospect membership survey, May 2018 • disparity between NE pay grades and the rest of the Defra group the wider Defra family. Natural England • lagging behind the private sector. minima lag at the bottom for each grade – from support advisors through to specialists to managers. Approximately 90% of Natural Comparative pay bands: NE versus England’s workforce occupy the lower other Defra bodies and core Defra grades from Support Advisor (AA) to Senior (SEO). People at the top of their £70,000 BODY pay scales have had their pay eroded by NE inflation and their pensions damaged. £60,000 Core People lower down the pay scales have JNCC little hope of ever getting to the fair rate for £50,000 CEFAS MMO the job, let alone the maximum. This has an EA impact on Natural England’s business. PAY £40,000 “ Kew I don’t have as much loyalty to the job £30,000 anymore and am stricter on doing my prescribed hours…morale is at an all- £20,000 time low.” The pay cap is causing real hardship. Over £10,000 two thirds of respondents replied to the AA AO EO HEO SEO UG7 UG6 question on how much disposable income PAY BAND GRADES there was in their families. Legend: JNCC: Joint Nature Conservation Committee; CEFAS: Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science; MMO: Marine Management Organisation; EA: Environment Agency. “ The pay freeze/austerity has come at the same time as our children have Data based on 2017 Defra pay awards become teenagers. The combined
The state of Natural England 2018-19 • 13 © Tim Page, Natural England effect has been to significantly reduce that feels unparalleled within at least the our disposable income with the result past 25 years. 69% of that we have been spending most our savings, and are often overdrawn at the “ We had six to seven managers doing what two managers are now currently respondents end of the month.” covering. I suffered from work-related “ I live in constant dread of paying the stress last year due to this and had to take five weeks off under doctor’s reported bills.” lowered morale, “ advice. I can now feel pressure building I can’t afford luxuries such as eating out again due to workload.” and with the increase in fuel, living costs demotivation and food costs I have to buy very basic food items and make them stretch. I “ There were once five staff covering my area and now there are two and a half.” and a feeling can’t afford to do basic things like go to the cinema, join a gym or buy new “ We had two posts vacant last year which took four rounds of recruitment of being clothes and shoes.” and a year to fill.” significantly “ With pay not keeping up with the cost of living I have eaten considerably into my “ When I was promoted I shared various work areas with another colleague. He under-valued savings which I intended to use in my left and was not replaced. His workload retirement meaning I will be required to was added to mine, which (combined Source: Prospect membership survey, May 2018 look at claiming income support after with other factors) led to months of sick retiring, not what I expected having leave due to a stress-related illness.” been faithful to the organisation for 36 years.” Natural England provides a crucial public “ Yes, our standard of living is basic. We service and relies on highly-skilled staff. buy clothes from charity shops and Yet its people have lost out on thousands jumble sales. We do not take holidays to tens of thousands of pounds over the abroad and this year will probably past eight years, with many incurring not take a holiday at all. We shop at financial hardship as a result. discount stores for food and are careful It has also seriously hindered Natural with every penny.” England’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality, skilled staff, with knock-on The staff reductions, undiminished effects on the incumbent workforce. workloads, erosion of the skills base, This suppression of pay and ever difficulties in recruitment and depressed reducing organisational budget, have to morale are all gaining traction to an extent end.
14 • The state of Natural England 2018-19 Staff well-being and discrimination issues The pay survey built on an earlier As a result of the well-being survey, survey of Natural England’s staff carried and building on the experience of union out by Prospect and PCS unions in reps who help members through personal 2017. That survey focused cases (many of which involve hidden on discrimination and disabilities), Prospect is working jointly members’ well-being. It with PCS union and Natural England confirmed that members management to improve awareness of were experiencing high levels hidden disabilities. of stress, mainly because of high This has been successful and led to the workloads. launch of a ‘workplace passport’, devised It also revealed high levels of by the trade unions and supported by HR hidden disability, such as mental and senior management, to help all staff health conditions, which are under- receive the support they need at work. reported in Natural England and are This is a significant positive step. having a serious effect on well-being However, more action is needed to and morale. tackle the persistence of discrimination – Some respondents from across grades particularly involving hidden disabilities. gave detailed accounts of poor behaviour Progress is under threat because and a strong feeling of being unsupported management is distracted by trying to or not appreciated when it came to raising tackle the shortfall in money and keeping bullying as an issue in some parts of the the business running. business. The unions fear more cases of “ senior managers do not seem to care, or do not consider, or are indifferent to discrimination and bullying as a result of continual cuts. Staff and managers the needs of staff” are bearing the brunt of the pressure “ and disabled colleagues are the most feeling lonely and isolated with lack of vulnerable. face to face support” There is no sign that the intense “ a bullying culture and inappropriate behaviour that remains unchallenged”. workload pressure on the wider workforce will diminish. The survey also suggested that Natural 83% of England’s disability declaration rate is low at 6%, something which Natural England respondents acknowledges. A large number of staff 42% of are stressed with hidden disabilities have probably not declared and are therefore not receiving respondents due to high the adjustments they need to work to the best of their abilities. have workloads They may also be more prone to bullying behaviour from colleagues, as impairments Source: NE trade union side has been revealed in several personal membership survey, April 2017 cases that the unions have handled. or long- Twenty-five per cent of all absence days taken in Natural England are due term health to mental and behavioural disorders and stress, according to Natural England’s conditions; own absence data. 91% of these are hidden © Getty Images/curioso.pl disabilities Source: NE trade union side membership survey, April 2017
The state of Natural England 2018-19 • 15 The future The environment still matters to people. • to achieve pay parity with the rest Five million belong to the National Trust, of Defra, particularly for pay scale one million to the Royal Society for the minima and maxima Natural Protection of Birds; 800,000 to the Wildlife Trusts. Natural England engages • to no longer be covered by the civil service pay guidance and be subject to England is with all of these organisations. Despite pouring rain, 10,000 people an independent pay review body. needed more This is the only way to: marched through central London in September 2018 on the ‘People’s Walk for • restore and enhance the wider than ever. Wildlife’. And in 2017, 14.1 million people countryside and the marine environment More than watched Blue Planet II and pushed the plastics debate to the fore. • help species to recover ever, it needs Natural England is needed more than ever. More than ever, it needs to be strong. • achieve favourable condition of protected sites to be strong We need: • meaningfully fulfil Natural England’s • Natural England’s wide and important remit remit for people and nature to be • ensure that the government’s 25-year properly recognised and funded environment plan has a chance of • its autonomy as a non-departmental success public body to be meaningfully • improve access to, and enjoyment of, restored our wonderful natural environment. • the damage caused by the pay cap to be reversed and pay progression, based on skills and competency, to be restored If you care for your environment, stand up for Natural England… © Getty Images/Matthew Dixon
The state of Natural England 2018-19 New Prospect House, 8 Leake Street, London SE1 7NN t 0300 600 1878 e firstname.lastname@example.org © Prospect, 2019 PRO-18-0040/FEB19-2-265 Printed by www.fivecastles.co.uk A view from Prospect trade union prospect.org.uk email@example.com
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