By CHRIS HILL, Rural affairs correspondent
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
One of Norfolk’s key conservation charities has been forced to cut back its campaigning work because of a 75pc fall in grants and donations.
The difficult economic climate has taken its toll on the Norfolk branch of the CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England), which has down-sized its Norwich office and reduced staffing levels in response to its dwindling budgets.
The countryside group has a bedrock of 1,700 members and supporters, providing an income through subscriptions and donations. But grants and other donations have become increasingly hard to secure while companies, funding bodies and individuals tighten their belts.
And while it has willing army of volunteers, the group says there will inevitably be a reduction in activity after losing some of the paid administration officers needed to co-ordinate them.
From the New Year, three existing posts will be made redundant and a new part-time post of branch manager will be created instead to co-ordinate activities.
James Parry, chairman of CPRE Norfolk, said: “Times are tough and we have to had cut our staff levels to match our current income, but we will continue with as much business as usual as we can with these reduced resources.
“Inevitably there will some activities we can’t carry on in future unless more people come forward as volunteers to help run such projects, and unless we attract more revenue, whether from our members and supporters or from sponsors, which we are actively seeking to secure.
“All charities are going to have to rely on volunteers more and more heavily to get stuff done in future. In our case, its our core activity and we wouldn’t be able to do 80-90pc of what we do without volunteers.
“I have been very heartened by the calibre of people stepping forward, willing to give their time and energy for nothing – and they are going to be crucial in taking us forward in the next few years.
“This is something that all charities are finding. From last summer, it became very hard to get any money in, and we have lost two posts and cut our ‘people hours’ in half.”
One of the posts to be lost is that of planning and campaigns manager Caroline Davison, who instigated the group’s ongoing Protect Our Paths campaign in response to changes in Norfolk County Council’s footpath maintenance regime.
“Footpaths is one area where we are pretty hopeful we can keep it going without Caroline in post,” said Mr Parry. “During her time her she has set up the whole campaign and we have growing network of footpath wardens across the county. It will now be the branch manager’s job working with volunteers to keep it ticking over.”
CPRE Norfolk is due to celebrate its 80th anniversary next year and will be launching a special appeal to help raise funds and highlight its achievements during the past eight decades, as well as the challenges that lie ahead.