'Wildlife is at risk from council budget cuts'

The Bolton News: Lancashire Wildlife Trust chief executive volunteers in Little Lever Lancashire Wildlife Trust chief executive volunteers in Little Lever

COUNCIL budget cuts could have a major impact on wildlife, according to the Lancashire Wildlife Trust.

Bolton Council is aiming to slash its budget by £21.7 million in the next financial year, with £3.4 million being axed from environmental services.

However, the trust, which has a resource centre in Bury Road, Breightmet, has warned that such cuts would mean an increased burden placed on volunteers to maintain areas for plants and wildlife.

This comes at time when the trust, which co-ordinates many of the projects, is struggling to secure grant money to train volunteers.

With other councils in Lancashire and Greater Manchester and organisations such as Natural England and the Environment Agency also cutting jobs and budgets the trust said it was being called upon to do more.

Town hall bosses agree more was being expected of the voluntary sector, but the budget cuts had been caused by central government.

Anne Selby, trust chief executive, said: “We understand these local authorities and government organisations have no choice but to make reductions. The fear is that the environment will take the brunt.”

More people are volunteering as a way of getting back to work and learning new skills, including people with health issues who need more supervision and help from trained workers.

But with its five-year funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its volunteering project coming to an end, the organisation said it needed to find new sources of cash if it was to continue its work in Bolton at the same level.

The trust manages several projects in the borough including The Hive at Moss Bank Park, Red Moss and nature reserves at Doffcocker and Eatock Lodges, Seven Acres, Hall Lee Bank Park and Cunningham Clough.

It also works with schools, groups and individuals on green-space improvements, food growing, conserving habitat and educational schemes.

Nick Peel, Bolton Council executive member for environmental services, said: “We have a good working relationship with the trust and some other voluntary organisations to help maintain our countryside and provide activities for people.

“Obviously, the budget cuts from central government, as we’ve repeatedly warned people, will affect all areas of council services — there is no one area of the council that has not been affected.

“One of the ways of tackling these massive cuts is different ways of working and providing a different way of working, which is what David Cameron’s Big Society is about.

“But what the government does not realise when it talks about volunteering is that they need a big support around them “It’s ridiculous to suggest things can be completely provided by volunteering — but the situation is so bad that it is increasingly coming on to the agenda.”

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