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Budget threatens to tear heart out of Environment

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Children learning about the environment

The 2015–16 Budget threatens to tear the heart out of the Northern Ireland Environment.

The Northern Ireland Executive has now agreed a budget for 2015-16, after much argument and controversy. The final detailed budgets for many government department are still pending, but the draft budget for the Department of the Environment (DoE) shows a scale of cuts which are disproportionate to other departments. Many of the organisations that look after Northern Ireland's environment, including TCV, are part-funded by DoE and at risk of a 100% cut in DoE funding.

The impact of the cuts outlined in the draft DOE budget, if implemented, will be far reaching:

  • The loss of one third of DOE staff.
  • The termination of a wide range of grant and other support programmes including Natural Heritage Grants and Listed Buildings Grants.
  • This will lead to the reduction and closure of many smaller NGOs that look after our environment.
  • Key environmental and educational programmes will be lost.

The environment underpins our society, our economy, tourism, health, food and water, which are all dependent upon a healthy environment.

The Department of the Environment  budget is unviable for the delivery of its responsibilities and priorities and the scale of cuts equates to a cull of the heritage and environmental NGOs in Northern Ireland – organisations which are relied upon to deliver functions that are provided by statutory agencies in other jurisdictions. If funding reductions are inevitable they must be managed so that the NGO sector can retain its capacity to deliver these essential functions.

The key strength of the NGO sector is its ability to deliver outcomes more efficiently than the public sector and the ability to leverage in significant additional finance, and also through the use of a major volunteer workforce. Failing to fund the protection of our internationally important environmental assets puts Northern Ireland at risk of EU infraction and fines.

The following video clip, prepared by Northern Ireland Environment Link, summarises the benefits of the environment to Northern Ireland and how the environment supports many aspects of our society.