Dales park bosses give go-ahead to slashing services

THE scale of the financial crisis at one of England's most popular national parks was laid bare yesterday as savage cuts were approved to slash its services and workforce.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) is having to embark on an unprecedented package of cost-cutting measures as it battles a massive shortfall in funding from Westminster.

A total of 32 posts are being shed from the 140-strong workforce as the current annual government grant of 5.4m will be reduced to 4.2m by 2014/15. Every one of its 36 programmes is affected, with a dozen abandoned.

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Chief executive David Butterworth warned: "We have got to make the tough decisions now, but this is certainly not the end of it. There will be more cuts next year and the year after that, and the year after that. I really do not think that the public are aware exactly what impact this will have in the Yorkshire Dales."

One of the most controversial cuts is the end to the countryside skills and training programme, which will be abandoned in 2013 to save just 15,000. A 255,000 annual budget for footpath maintenance will reduce to 172,000 in the next financial year, before falling to just 137,000 in 2014/15.

Major cuts are also being enforced in a climate change strategy, which has led to hydro-electric projects. Visitor services in Reeth are also ending, while an education service, a public transport scheme and an events programme are being abandoned.

The cuts came as a national campaign group warned many parts of the country would be left without public transport as councils reduce funding for bus services in response to government spending cuts. The Campaign for Better Transport, which has launched a Save our Buses campaign, said rural areas would be worst hit.

A draft budget for YDNPA was approved yesterday and will go out for consultation before a final decision on March 29.