Bob (a red squirrel with political ambitions) is personifying "the voice of nature" and campaigning as if he was a political candidate. The idea is to A: to increase public awareness of their power to demand wildlife friendly policies from government and B:to make a statement to the political parties about the importance of wildlife conservation to the electorate, and hopefully encourage some more pro-wildlife policies as part of the scramble for votes that will intensify as we draw closer to the next election.
For more information please follow the link to the Vote for Bob website: Vote for Bob! - Welcome
Local authority parks managers desperately balancing options for making cuts as budget talks loom over coming weeks.
Parks departments are bracing themselves for budget talks in the coming weeks, with many expecting another bruising round of savings.
Local authority parks managers are desperately balancing options for making cuts without compromising grounds care. While formal proposals have yet to be drawn up, some are looking at asset transfers, while others are rumoured to be lining up redundancies. One council parks head fears it may lose its budget altogether.
Islington Council was forced on the defensive after news of a 150-page strategic document called Future Shape to 2018 was reported to include possible cuts to park staff, meaning the borough's green spaces would be left open 24 hours a day.
Other threats included the closure of an ecology centre in Gillespie Park and the disbanding of the borough's nature-conservation teams. The park's friends group insisted it would fight the threats, which could include charging locals to pay for green-waste collection, "tooth and nail".
But a council spokesman said: "No decisions have been made about anything in the budget for next year. The idea that the ecology centre has been axed is not right. There is a long list of possible options for discussion."
Newcastle City Council, which had a 60 per cent cut imposed on parks two years ago, is facing more anguish, said principal manager for parks and countryside and community sport and leisure services Su Cumming.
Cumming, who fears the budget could go completely in the next two years, said: "Cuts could mean minimum grass cutting and probably the removal of bedding. Asset transfer is an option. Reducing money spent on park buildings would free up funds for the parks."
Bury Council parks and countryside manager Mike Bent said the authority has to save £16m this year and £16m next year, and parks are likely to take a hit because they are a non-statutory service. At best, the team is "hoping for nothing" in terms of budget cuts.
"We are looking at self management and asset transfer of bowling greens, allotments and football pitches but not parks - that's a little too much but the idea has been mentioned by the community," he said. "We will look at all options. Community group Incredible Edible might take on a few sites."
Monmouthshire County Council operations manager Nigel Leaworthy said: "The council will engage with the public in early October but we expect ongoing pressures on maintenance of fine-turf areas and will continue to look at managing open spaces sustainably.
"This could include using a pollinator policy to support the Welsh Government's plan to halt the decline in pollinator species. This enables us to allow some verges to remain uncut for longer and to save money by reducing watering and fertiliser use."
But Woodburn Nursery manager Mark Riddle, whose Darlington operation supplies 1.2 million bedding plants a year to 27 councils, said orders are holding up. A few are £200 or £300 less, but not the £5,000 or £6,000 in past years, he added.
"Councils seem to be holding their own on bedding budgets. Reductions are usually seen in the variety of plants chosen, reflecting the price difference between say pansies and wall flowers. But other than a few hundred pounds here and there, there are no massive savings."
Parks consultant Sid Sullivan said: "Budgets will continue to come under stress. I do not see an easing of budgetary restraint per se. However, focusing on health, obesity and other local health agendas could make budgetary issues more arguable.
He continued: "For those that use this approach and get involved in bidding for Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), the same applies. The Government recently confirmed to The Parks Alliance that the CIL is available for both revenue and capital spending projects."
Case study - No further scope for savings
The parks team at Hyndburn Borough Council in Lancashire has an annual budget of around £1m for parks and £1m for cemeteries. The team consists of 14 horticultural staff and seven office workers, with 10 staff tackling cemeteries.
Parks and open spaces manager Craig Haraben said: "We've been told to aim for savings of about 10 per cent, similar to previous years. But we have nothing left to save so will almost definitely lose staff. Last year we offered to get rid of hanging baskets and flower towers but councillors rejected this, so we had to make other efficiency savings such as asking suppliers to hold prices."
He added: "We got rid of old machinery such as a flail mower and our second stand-by tractor. But there are no more efficiency savings we can make. We will have to stop certain services or lose staff."
Nature reserves and national parks are not enough to prevent a catastrophic decline in nature, David Attenborough has told politicians, business leaders and conservationists, saying that every space in Britain from suburban gardens to road verges must be used to help wildlife.
Britain’s leading commentator on wildlife called for a radical new approach to conservation which did not bemoan the past but embraced the changes brought by climate change and a rapidly growing human population.
“Where in 1945 it was thought that the way to solve the problem was to create wildlife parks and nature reserves, that is no longer an option. They are not enough now. The whole countryside should be available for wildlife. The suburban garden, roadside verges ... all must be used”.
Attenborough, speaking at the RSPB’s Conference for Nature in London, said it was now understood that British wildlife was in grave peril of disappearing. “50% of the hedgehog population has gone in 25 years, 90% of the wildlife meadows have disappeared in 100 years; 60% of all wildlife is diminishing and in danger, with 10% doomed to disappear in the next decades. Nowhere in Britain is unsullied, is unaffected by human action. We now have a huge population living cheek by jowl with nature”.
But rather than lament the changes, he urged everyone to act. “We know climate change is happening. It is regretted by some but it is also to be embraced. It is causing great changes in the distribution of animnals and birds in the countryside. We must take advantage of that. It is very important that we accept there are things coming in ... We must recognise that new animals and plants are coming in. Others are moving north. We ought to be giving thought to wildlife corridors ... and not think that every new arrival is to be repelled.
“Because of the complex relationship society has with nature, it is obvious that our response to saving it must extend from every possible quarter too. With an increasing global footprint, mankind is intensifying the crisis for wildlife, but as individuals we can all be part of the solution for saving it too.’’
The International Ranger Federation is pleased to announce that the 2014 Awards program has just been launched.
The program adds two new awards to the regular Young Conservationist Award, these being the Dr Jane Goodall Hope and Inspiration Ranger Award, and the IRF Lifetime Achievement Award. In combination the awards recognise the young, the inspirational, and the enduring Ranger spirit, and provide us all with the opportunity to highlight our profession and the amazing work that so many people around the world are doing.
Applications close on 25th August 2014, and Award recipients will be presented at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, November 2014.
More information - http://internationalrangers.org/awards/
Please help spread the word and encourage applications for a strong list of candidates.
International Ranger Federation
EUROPARC Federation together with the Krknose National Park, is organising the 2014 International Junior Ranger Camp: 12-19 July. This year, Junior Rangers will have the opportunity to discover how Protected Areas, across national boundaries, work together, all that to preserve wilderness and the most valuable habitats and endangered species in Europe. All this will be investigated in the fantastic scenario of the Krknose National Park in the Czech Republic and their neighbour park, the Karkonosze National Park, in Poland. These two parks are certified together as EUROPARC Transboundary Parks for their successful joint cooperation. Register here for the camp!
More information on the camp is available here.