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Ongoing Funding Cuts Force Redundancies Of Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Countryside Rangers

Published on: 15 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 16 Jan, 2017

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s 13 rangers, who look after large swathes of the county’s countryside, are facing an uncertain future over their jobs.

Whitmoor Common, Worplesdon, is one of the open spaces managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust on behalf of Surrey County Council.

The trust has announced that due to ongoing cuts in funding by Surrey County Council (that aims to make its countryside sites self-funding by 2021), it has no choice but to restructure its land management team.

Fears are already being expressed that the service the rangers currently provide, working both with nature and the public, will be much reduced with fewer of them in place.

A statement from Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) notes the restructuring has been driven by Surrey County Council’s (SCC) need for its countryside estate to be self-funding in order to survive into the future.

SWT’s statement reads: “In response to the reduction in SCC’s funding, Surrey Wildlife Trust has been asked to find significant cost savings. The savings required can only be achieved through restructuring the countryside management team.

“The proposal under consultation is to have six fewer roles. The final number of redundancies will depend on how many of the team want to apply for and are appointed to the new, different roles as well as other opportunities available within the Trust.”

In a circular letter from SWT’s chief executive officer Nigel Davenport to its volunteer helpers, he noted: “In response to the ongoing reduction in Surrey County Council’s funding, SWT has been asked to find significant cost savings. In addition, government spending cuts and austerity combined with the uncertainty of Brexit continue to exert significant pressure on the Trust’s funding.”

He added that the new structure will have a single manager and different specialist roles with themes of conservation, community and public liaison and volunteer management, with the aim to have the new structure in place by May 1.

He wrote: “During February the new roles will be advertised with interviews taking place in early March and appointments made later in the month. All employees affected by the changes will be able to apply for any of the new roles.

“Those directly affected by these changes will be spoken to individually. There are unavoidably a number of jobs at risk of redundancy from the date of this announcement. All those affected will be aware of the consultation process and opportunities for redeployment within the new structure.

An example of recent work done around a pond at Chitty’s Common by the SWT ranger with help from nine local volunteers. Cllr Pauline Searle said: “It is so important that Surrey Wildlife Trust continues this work. Small commons on the edge of urban areas are as important as the bigger commons and give as much pleasure and health benefits to residents because they are on their doorsteps.

Pauline Searle is the Liberal Democrat Surrey County Councillor for the Guildford North area that includes Stoughton, Stoke and also Rydes Hill. She has fears over the restructuring and what the impact will be on the countryside SWT looks after. She said: “How will Surrey Wildlife Trust manage the sites when there are only managers left and no one on the ground?

“I work very closely with our ranger who is excellent. For the past year we have been planning the future for Chitty’s Common [at Rydes Hill]  which is right opposite where I live.

“We have got volunteers involved, we have monthly work parties, guided walks, bat and bird counts and tree work.

Surrey County Cllr Pauline Searle.

“Together we have pulled up the old unsafe boardwalk on the common and plan to replace it with new locally sourced wood.

“We have all worked together and we have received funding from Tesco and the allocation for funding I have as a county councillor.

“Chitty’s is a small well-used common that has had no work done on it for years. It has all been turned round by a ranger with passion and commitment.

“The rangers perform vital work across the whole of Surrey, protecting the countryside and helping to preserve our wonderful wildlife and heritage. This plan is short sighted by both Surrey Wildlife Trust and Surrey County Council and in the long run will cost them dear. Fly tipping will increase for sure.”

The cost-savings SWT is planning to make with the restructuring of its country management scheme is in the wake of the Newlands Corner car parking charges plan unveiled last year. On SWT’s website it currently gives details of the plans and notes the parking charges were to come into effect by the late 2016.

It is understood that further discussions over the proposed changes at Newlands Corner are to take place soon.

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Responses to Ongoing Funding Cuts Force Redundancies Of Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Countryside Rangers

  1. Dave Middleton Reply

    January 15, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    I for one, would like to see a detailed and honest breakdown of the employee structure of the SWT and see how many managerial and administrative staff it employs, together with any consultancy costs.

    Why is it always the troops on the ground, who do the actual work, that suffer the cuts and not the management and office staff?

    I see Mr Davenport has also jumped on the “Blame Brexit Bandwagon” too.

  2. Nigel Watson Reply

    January 15, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I agree entirely with Dave Middleton’s comments and also those (in the article) by Pauline Searle.

    SWT has had some wonderful rangers who have been a pleasure and an inspiration to work with (I have for many years done voluntary conservation work for SWT on various reserves in Surrey).

    Now all this is at risk – six posts will go and the new structure means much expertise and knowledge about the detailed needs of particular sites will be lost. And any experienced staff who apply for and get one of the few remaining posts will face a pay cut.

    Yes, there needs to be a detailed review of SWT’s upper management structure. We need to know why senior management posts have not been cut and why some of these managers have been given above-inflation pay rises.

    Questions also need to be asked about SWT’s newish commercial development team, in which posts have been created in recent years.

    The idea here is that people are being employed to help the Trust raise money from its sites. But have the monies raised even paid for the salaries of the new staff? And if not, how much longer is it supposed to be before this break-even point is reached?

    I fear these changes will demoralise volunteers and SWT members, reduce their numbers, and give rise to an even greater contraction in the Trust’s capabilities and income.

  3. Clive Inwood Reply

    January 16, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    I fully agree with the comments,

    I am one of the many who do voluntary work for the trust and you can be assured we are all up in arms about this.

    The rangers involved are dedicated and talented people who make the volunteer work parties a pleasure to be part of, as well as helping the countryside and wildlife.

    This will not be the case in the future and unfortunately under this proposal the care of the sites in Surrey will be in a state of decline.

    Many volunteers have written to Surrey Wildlife Trust’s chief executive with their concerns, and have asked why the people who actually look after the countryside have been targeted for these cuts.

    Another knock-on impact is that if these cuts go ahead there will be a lot fewer volunteers.

  4. Mike Gibson Reply

    January 16, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    As both a member of and a regular volunteer for the Surrey Wildlife Trust, I can only see a reduction in the number of rangers resulting in a failure to meet the Trust’s primary object of protecting and enhancing the habitats of Surrey and the wildlife they support.

    The rangers have a long-standing commitment to and knowledge of the sites that they manage – they have a love of the places that they look after.

    To lose or dilute their expertise is foolish.

    Moreover, the rangers have engendered a strong, co-operative and productive team spirit among the volunteers whose continuing goodwill and contribution is threatened by these changes.

    SWT’s trustees and management should be putting forward a strong case to Surrey County Council for maintaining the status quo, rather than going along and ahead with changes that are to the detriment of Surrey’s wildlife and landscapes and the local community’s free enjoyment of these.

  5. Wayne Smith Reply

    January 16, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Three cheers for Cllr. Pauline Searle for standing up and speaking out. This smacks of a spiteful reaction to the public protest against Surrey County Council’s plans for Newlands Corner.

    On the one hand we have Surrey County Council telling us that they can’t afford to keep the street lights on at night nor employ a few SWT rangers and on the other hand we have Guildford Borough Council spending money like it grows on trees.

    Surrey Wildlife Trust must be doing a good job. The pop-up village, at whatever significant cost it was, has, so far, proved a dismal failure and let’s not forget the £3.6 million that was spent refurbishing GBC’s Millmead council chamber, something that Alderman Bernard Parke questioned the need for back in April 2016.

    So much for austerity.

  6. Mary Bedforth Reply

    January 17, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Remind me. How many £billions did we fork out for the bankers’ bail out? Hence the ‘cutz’ in every aspect of our lives.

  7. Martina Watson Reply

    January 17, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    I’m very glad Pauline Searle is speaking up for the rangers.

    They are hard-working, dedicated and know their patch of woodland like no-one else.

    I am a volunteer and can attest to that.

    It is a bit worrying to me that it’s the managers who seem to make the vital decisions here as they mostly don’t have a proper understanding of individual woodland areas and their care and requirements. And they don’t consult the rangers, the actual people on the ground who know their woodland inside out, enough.

    Perhaps it’s the managers who need to be thinned out a bit and a closer look at their pay structure would certainly help.

  8. Mike Murphy Reply

    January 17, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Mr Davenport has made the wrong decision.

    He gave 4% plus rises to his admin people, then gets rid of the people who do all the work.

  9. M Rochefort Reply

    January 18, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    They are making cuts here but how much did G Live cost? We already had a hall that just needed new windows.

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