A BODY responsible for a national park has revealed proposals to cut funding for many grant-funded initiatives, ranging from those working to improve wildlife habitats to others boosting tourism.

A North York Moors National Park Authority meeting heard much of the public sector was experiencing a challenging time financially, but as the authority’s money-making ventures, volunteer recruitment and grant applications had been successful, and had secured large contributions from developers, it was continuing to deliver “a lot of activity”.

However, the meeting was told while its grant from Government was likely to remain below inflation, so financial pressures would continue. The authority’s core services, members heard, were likely to decline to support discretionary grant-funded project and programme work.

Exacerbating this, the pandemic has resulted in a “significant impact” on the park authority’s income streams, and with a potential for further lockdowns being introduced at very short notice, the authority was planning for at least a real terms reduction in funding.

The authority’s members were told that pressures on its budget last year, such as the Government grant being frozen and an above inflation pay award for public sector workers, were covered from its reserves, but a longer term. solution was needed with a projected deficit of between £104,000 and £580,000 next year.

Chief financial officer Peter Williams said immediate efficiency savings may be challenging to achieve, although there was considerable potential for new technology combined with changes in working practices to generate savings and productivity gains.

He said if the deficit was restricted to £362,000, proposed cutbacks included £75,000 less for a scheme to protect, enhance and connect wildlife sites to other sites by creating corridors or ‘stepping stones’. Other proposed cutbacks would see less spent on improving biodiversity, restoring native trees on ancient woodlands, reduced funding for heritage buildings and for rangers’ work, as well as less for village improvement schemes.

Mr Williams said: “There is nothing good to reduce, so it’s a conversation across all offices what area we will be able to reduce with the least impact.”

Jim Bailey, the authority’s chairman, said he supported the action to cut funding across a range of activities on a short-term basis “to get us out of a hole”. He said the authority’s decision to grant-fund projects rather than employ staff to carry out the work had particularly paid off since the pandemic, enabling it to “cut grants and regroup”, where other national parks had been forced to look at making redundancies.

Mr Bailey said: “I don’t see any option to reducing grants, but I am absolutely committed to delivering projects through grants and through others.”