Plaid Cymru MS concerned at NRW’s capacity to deliver

Plaid Cymru's shadow environment minister Llyr Gruffydd has urged the Welsh Government to reconsider the in-year budget cut of £7.5m imposed on Natural Resources Wales warning that it risks leaving the organisation unable to deliver on increasing demands for its services.

Mr Gruffydd, who raised the matter at a virtual meeting of the Senedd's Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, said reduced funding coupled with additional responsibilities and increased demands on its capacity, left Natural Resources Wales on an unsustainable trajectory at the very time its work was needed most.

He said: "NRW has had £7.5 million taken from its budget by the Welsh Government for this year to help combat the coronavirus. Whilst we all understand the need to re-focus resources we must remember that NRW is already facing up to £15m losses in income from its commercial timber division and reductions in their regulatory income this year. Put together it leaves Wales’ leading environment body in a precarious position at a time when the climate emergency and other events such as recent flooding across Wales are all creating a huge demand on its services.

"For an organisation that has seen its annual income tumble since its inception eight years ago, while being expected to monitor and regulate environmental issues, countryside matters and run the nation's publicly owned woodlands, this is a budget cut too far. Last year saw a flat settlement that was a real terms cut of 1.8%.

"We only need to look at the most recent flooding in the Rhondda to understand that NRW must have sufficient resources to be able to respond properly to all kinds of situations. It's not a good look for Labour MPs to call for NRW to compensate flood victims when the Labour government is constantly reducing its budget. We cannot expect NRW to keep doing more with less money.

"This is a matter of serious concern and the Environment Minister has to explain what activity she expects NRW to scrap as a result of the cut in funding. NRW has repeatedly told the Committee that a decreasing budget would inevitably mean difficult decisions in terms of its services. Be it responding to floods, investigating pollution incidents or responding to the climate emergency, this latest cut leaves me fearing that we will now start to see real impacts on frontline services.”