National Parks

Who funds our National Parks? Two Versions of the Future

Scene 1: The Department for Environmental, Cultural, Business and Regional Administrative Affairs Ministerial Conference Room, 5 weeks after the election and 1 week after the Chancellor’s Emergency Budget.  Present are the Secretary of State, Junior Ministers, Special Advisers and the Departmental Management Board led by the Permanent Secretary, Sir Edward Villiers. (NB, all characters are fictional)

Secretary of State: I’d just like to start this workshop by setting out, as you have all asked me to do, my priorities for the Department.  Before I do, I want to make it quite clear that I do so in full support of the Chancellor’s Economic Strategy (the room looks crestfallen).  I am absolutely behind our Strategy for Growth. 

My first priority is that we should have a ‘Sustainable, Competitive, Consumer-friendly, Regionally-appropriate and Efficient Food, Farming, Fisheries, Forestry, Furniture, Fabrics and Fine Arts Industries that supports Viable Rural Communities, Liveable and Devolved Cities, Successful Market Towns…. The Secretary of State continues for 10 minutes in this vein… and, of course, the Environment and Countryside will be at the heart of all that we do …a Special Adviser interrupts the Secretary of State, … Erm, as agreed with the Green Consortium, the Environment and Countryside will be Central to all that we do. 

There then follows contributions from the Junior Ministers in which 27 additional industries, community sectors and government programmes are added to the Secretary of State’s First Priority. Sir Edward Villiers then encourages the meeting to address spending priorities, especially in the light of the Chancellor’s decision not to protect the Department in her Economic Strategy. He introduces Anthony Brown, the Departmental Finance Director.

Anthony Brown: Secretary of State, Ministers, Colleagues, I’ll start describing our DEL appropriations and then move on to explaining the new Treasury arrangements for AME, well that’s what it was called, but it’s now got a different name BAME reflecting the EU financial accounting Directive 2015/43 which, as you will remember in subclause 4 of paragraph 8 of Section 92…. Anthony Brown drones on for 15 minutes, stumbling over a left-ball question about maggot farms from a Junior Minister and having got his powerpoint slides in the wrong order.

Calling the meeting to order – several conversations about the Secretary of State’s impending Badger Statement have started in corners of the room – Sir Edward Villiers asks for some focus on spending priorities.  After 20 minutes of Junior Ministers listing their main priorities for spending and arguing the case that their programmes should not be cut, Sir Edward asks Tom Taylor, Departmental Head of Strategy to sum up before the close of the workshop.

Tom Taylor: Secretary of State, Ministers, colleagues.  There isn’t enough money available to the Department to do everything we want to do.  You have three choices.  1, you can go back to the Chancellor and re-negotiate ….The Secretary of State shakes her head vigorously, muttering audibly, No, No, No… Your second option is to cut all your programmes equally … each of the Junior Ministers stand up shaking their papers exclaiming in horror that their cases for spending should not be ignored…  Or, Secretary of State, you have to choose which of the spending areas you cut a little and those that you cut a lot.

The Secretary of State closes the meeting, simultaneously checking their iphone, taking instructions from (left shoulder) a Special Adviser and (right shoulder) their Private Secretary.  The Secretary of State delivers their last words whilst waking down the side of the conference room, at the door and in the corridor waiting for the Minister’s lift doors to open.

Secretary of State: You have my First Priority and I expect the spending plans to reflect that as an uppermost priority.  At all costs, we must support the Chancellor’s Economic Strategy.  I want Sir Edward Villiers to draw up a plan which respects the Chancellor’s plans and the very good points made by my excellent Ministers. 

Just as the lift door is about to open, a Special Adviser hands the Secretary of State a letter.  The Secretary of State nods and turns to address the workshop.

Secretary of State: I want you to pay special attention to National Parks.  I simply love Helvellyn and the National Trust do such a great job for our countryside.  This very powerful letter makes some good points, although spending money is only one thing Government can do.  Sir Edward, pay attention to National Parks in your plan.

The meeting breaks up with lots of shaking of heads.


Scene 2: The 11th Floor of Prospect House in Brighton, HQ of the National Parks Britain Fund.  Dame Felicity Rogers, former Chair of Culture and Nature England and Master of All Souls College, Oxford is in the Chair in of the Boardroom and is about to open the quarterly Board Meeting.  The 9 Trustees, Chief Executive, Ronald Stem, and senior staff are in attendance.  The backdrop to the meeting is a full picture window looking north to the South Downs and a wall hung with photos by renowned landscape photographer Charlie Waite featuring each of the UK’s National Parks.

Dame Felicity Rogers:  I’d like to open today’s Board meeting by thanking everyone involved in last week’s Fund visit to Yorkshire.  It was great to see the fantastic projects the Fund was paying for – the Moorlands are Forever project in the North York Moors was as inspiring as the new Integrated Transport Plan for the Yorkshire Dales.  It’s amazing how much you can get done with £10M.

Dame Felicity handed over to Roger Stem, for the Chief Executive’s report.

Roger Stem: Chair, can I first apologise that I’ll have to leave the meeting early as I’m addressing the Society of Voluntary Organisations Annual Conference this afternoon. Ever since we won the Guardian ‘Charity of the Year’ I’ve had lots of similar requests to speak.  I’m delighted to tell you all that we’ve successfully recruited our new Head of Corporate Relationships, building on the good work already done.  Our new Head studied at Cass Business School, joined Ernst and Young (…appreciative nods from Trustee Nigel Potter, who himself is a partner at EY…) and has been MD of a well-known retail chain.  Took a whopper of a pay cut to work with us.  I’m also pleased that this month we’ll be announcing the Tom Stephenson bursary of £25 000 for access work, the Wilson Award of £25 000 for conservation work and the big event in Harrogate will, of course, be the Dower award which is now £1.25M for the winning national park.  I am also pleased to let you know that Lady Patel has recently announced she is stepping down from the Board of British Airways and has agreed to take over Chairing our International Advisory Panel.  BA will be supporting the International Protected Areas Fund seminar at Davos this year again.

Following appreciative murmurings and a few probing questions from the Trustees, Dame Felicity moves the agenda on to the Marketing Director’s report

Ellen Clark: Chair, thank you.  We’ve had another good start to the year with income nudging just over £30M for the first quarter.  This was mainly due to the major appeal, one large personal donation and the high profile our joint ‘Springwatch at the Sill’ programme generated.  For each of the major marketing campaigns –Trustees will recall we run 4 per year – we have developed close partnerships with a business or other charity – in this case the Royal Horticultural Society in contrast to last time’s ‘Supermarket Sweep’.  The next appeal will be the first we’ve ever done with a major Tech company based outside the UK, so that will be interesting.  Membership is fast approaching 1 million and our ‘million hearts for national parks’ campaign is going well.  We expect to hit the million mark at the start of National Parks Week with the ‘hearts and hands around the national parks’ involving at least 20 000 of our supporters ‘walking for the million hearts’.  It’s been good having the British Heart Foundation on side for this.  Our Membershp magazine goes from strength to strength and we will be entering for Magazine of the Year this year, so fingers crossed.  We’ve also seen strong growth in the digital platforms too which means revenues are up year on year for our digital sales by 5%. The large membership base and digital platforms make winning good corporate support much easier.  I will finish by thanking our local groups and the national parks for the support they give to our marketing activities.

Dame Felicity thanked Ellen Clark, prompted a discussion on ‘future marketing priorities’ to which the Trustees vigorously and enthusiastically contributed, and then closed the meeting. 


Posted on: March 15th, 2015