Investigative Journalists, Where are You?

BY BERT BURNETT

Dear Editor,

We have a growing number of people having to choose between heat or food, relying more and more on food banks. Mental health issues are on the up alongside homelessness and child poverty, all apparently created in great part because there is not enough funding to cover the issues.

By contrast over the last couple of decades we have seen billions dished out to conservation quangos and charities. Billions given to achieve specific goals, like improving habitats and increasing bird populations. However some of these billions have never been used by those who received them and, like some LINK-Cairngorm connect partners calling for more handouts, they have between them over half a billion stashed away in their respective bank accounts, achieving nothing for which the money was intended.

What has the giving of these billions achieved, in conservation terms, when it comes to increased biodiversity and reversing the downward trend of certain birds?

Remember the recipients of all this cash have spent it mostly on their own reserves creating “perfect” habitats, mainly run by a volunteer workforce, so it’s not all going on wages or job creation.

Let’s take a couple of examples of how failure has occurred and how those responsible are still expecting to be rewarded for that failure:

RSPB Lake Vyrnwy, managed to RSPB’s own specifications by RSPB for 40 years. When they took it on it was brimming with wildlife and why wouldn’t it be? It was after all previously managed as a grouse moor. 40 years later and several millions of public money being spent ‘managing’ it, RSPB are now calling for several more million to be given to them to restore what they have already destroyed – blackgame, curlew and other species are all on the verge of local extinction or in some cases already gone.

Stating themselves that if the money is not forthcoming even the remaining harriers and merlins are in danger of becoming locally extinct. Quite an admission of failure!

What better use could all these millions have gone towards in the social environment instead of being used to REDUCE bird populations? What do they plan to change in their management options using this new cash that would justify them getting all this extra public cash?

Worcestershire Wetland Trust, again publicly funded, by their own admission only produced one lapwing chick to fledgling stage in over 5 years … hardly value for public money. But it gets worse, they applied for and I believe got over £500,000 from the lottery fund to buy more land. They failed the wildlife populations on the land they already have and have now been rewarded by getting more land on which they can carry out their failing techniques. How could that money have been put to better use in society?

The list of failures goes on and on with the management failures being rewarded time and time again by the giving of more public money to these conservation quangos. Why when the country is obviously struggling to look after its citizens through reduced capital are these charity conservation quangos being rewarded for failure to the tune of millions if not billions year on year? Why when their bank balances are full of cash from past handouts are they simply given more monies rather than being requested to spend what they have stashed away first?

The country as a whole is suffering increases in costs to social services, to food, transport and energy use and we are having to tighten our belts. In the meantime Conservation charity-run quangos, having wasted billions over the last few decades are being rewarded for all the failures and vanity projects they are involved in. And there are so many, whilst our wildlife on their reserves plummet.

Something is not right but it seems no-one is prepared to investigate what it is and make sure the public money spent is being put to its best use. It’s like accountability is a dirty word. If I couldn’t afford to heat my home I’d be wondering why an organisation purporting to save birds is being rewarded to the tune of millions when the birds on their reserves are failing to breed or have simply disappeared. Are there no journalists out there worth their salt wondering the same?

Bert Burnett