NATIONAL PARK bosses are expected to press ahead with setting up an independent charitable trust to help shield the park from the prospect of more austerity cuts that have seen services shrink and significant job losses over the last five years.
A proposed North York Moors National Park Trust would open up fresh streams of funding that would go some way towards safeguarding, and even building upon, the work carried out in the national park to preserve its special landscapes and heritage.
Since government austerity cuts first saw grant funding given to the North York Moors National Park Authority tumble in 2010, the Authority’s budget has been stripped by 24 per cent to £4.1m - or 40 per cent in “real terms” with inflation and access to external funding taken into account.
The equivalent of 11.5 full-time staff were made redundant in the last 12 months, as Authority chiefs reluctantly accepted they had no other option given the scale of government cuts.
Now, members of the Authority are being recommended to approve of the process of setting up a trust at their annual general meeting in Helmsley next week in a move that should have financial benefits for the park in the future.
The process of appointing the first trustees, who will come from within the Authority, have already been sanctioned and when those roles are filled, applications will be submitted to register the trust as both a company and a charity.
The ‘Authority Trustees’ will comprise of chief executive Andy Wilson, plus three other Authority members. Nominations to fill those three roles opened at the end of May and once complete a process will begin to appoint trustees from outside the Authority, so that their number exceeds the number of trustees appointed from within the Authority.
The trustees will have powers to run the trust, make day-to-day decisions as directors and vote on major decisions as members.
The involvement of Authority members will “maximise the likelihood that the National Park Authority and the independent trust will remain mutually supportive in the long term for the benefit of the area”, the report going before Authority members on Monday states.
Michael Graham, the Authority’s assistant director of park services, told The Yorkshire Post: “It will open up funding opportunities through allowing Gift Aid and will lend impetus to applying for a variety of funding streams that the Authority can’t currently use. In the short-term it might involve a net cost because we will have to supply some staffing resource to get it set up, but in five to ten years we hope it will make a substantial contribution to work in the park that the trust decides to do.”
He said he believed that the trust was the first proposed directly by a national park authority for the benefit of a wide geographical area.
National parks are braced for what funding decisions might come next, as it remains to be seen just how deep any new round of government grant funding cuts will hit national parks. That picture might become clearer after the Chancellor, George Osborne, announces his “stability” budget on July 8.
Mr Graham said: “It will depend on how much Defra’s funding is cut and how Defra intends to pass that on.
“We are hoping to have some detail by the autumn but we are in the lap of the government department and government ministers.
“What’s helpful to us is some stability and so we hope we will be given a three-year settlement.”