The body responsible for conserving a national park and helping people to enjoy it is on course to self-generate sufficient funding to extend its work, despite rising staff costs and declining Government grants.
A meeting of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s finance committee will tomorrow (Tuesday, February 12) hear draft budget proposals to support ambitions ranging from improving footpaths to a more proactive approach to enforcing building development rules.
The park authority’s treasurer, Richard Burnett said due to a series of successful bids for external funding the body would be undertaking “substantially more work than we were five years ago”.
Ahead of austerity the park authority had received about 80 per cent of its funding from Government grants, he said, but that had now fallen to about 60 per cent of the authority’s income.
Treasurer Richard Burnett said: “It looks like we will be achieving a lot of new projects, but we are becoming increasingly reliant on finding one-off grants. It is riskier, but the risks are worthwhile taking.”
He added rising staff costs were among the greatest pressures the park authority was facing, due to needing an increased workforce to take on new projects and salaries rising with the introduction of the Living Wage.
Mr Burnett said while staff salaries were set to rise from 53 per cent of the authority’s income this year to 63 per cent in four years’ time, it was hoped further success in obtaining grants from external sources would overcome potential issues.
Members will hear the authority’s medium term financial strategy shows the body was on course to fund planned expenditure of up to £8.2m annually.
Key objectives being supported by the budget for the coming year include developing new, externally-funded, approaches to supporting high-nature value farming, including projects to support natural flood management, ‘payment by results’, and new woodlands.
Other leading features of the budget include a drive for a more proactive monitoring and enforcement of building developments and a focus to improve the condition of footpaths in the new area of the park.
An authority spokesman said another key objective of the budget would be a range of measures to promote understanding of the national park, especially from under-represented groups and to develop opportunities to help people access and enjoy what it has to offer.
The initiative will see work to improve the physical access, such as cycle
routes, learning and engagement activities, and work to secure Dark Skies reserve status for the national park.