Volunteers 'must do more' as jobs cut

VOLUNTEERS have been warned they will have to take on more work to help to preserve the Yorkshire Dales National Park to counter the Government's funding cuts.

A volunteering strategy was adopted a decade ago and has proved to be one of the major successes in recent years for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

The strategy is undergoing a major overhaul, however, and will now be adapted to take into account the cutbacks in funding.

A draft of the new strategy has stated that the current situation will require "everyone to think more innovatively", leading to a greater use of skills and experience of the 240-strong volunteer workforce.

The authority's head of park management, Kathryn Beardmore, admitted that staffing levels would have to be reduced to cope with the Government's cuts of more than a quarter over the next four years.

Job losses have yet to be confirmed, although the authority's current annual grant of 5.4m will be reduced to 4.2m by 2014/15.

Ms Beardmore added: "The key issue is that volunteers are already involved across an extremely wide range of the authority's work, and some programmes are already heavily dependent on volunteers for their delivery."

Volunteers gave more than 6,000 days of their time last year to deliver a vast range of projects, including footpath repairs, education programmes and helping to run the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.

The park authority's chairman, Carl Lis, was adamant any staff made redundant would not be replaced by volunteers.

He added: "It is proposed that a principle will be adopted that involvement of volunteers should complement and supplement the work of paid staff, and should not be used to displace paid staff or undercut their pay and conditions of service."

The new volunteering strategy is due to be approved at a meeting on Tuesday next week.