Gove warned as staff given Brexit work

Western Daily Press - - News -

MICHAEL Gove has been warned not to let Brexit prepa­ra­tions get in the way of work to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment.

Some 400 staff have been loaned or sec­onded to the De­part­ment for En­vi­ron­ment, Food and Ru­ral Af­fairs from its agen­cies.

En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Mr Gove in­sisted that “pri­or­ity roles” in bod­ies in­clud­ing Nat­u­ral Eng­land and the En­vi­ron­ment Agency were be­ing “back­filled” if staff had left to work on Brexit.

But Mary Creagh, chair­woman of the Com­mons en­vi­ron­men­tal au­dit com­mit­tee, said it was “dis­ap­point­ing” that NE had been “raided” for staff.

Around 50 staff from NE have been sec­onded to Brexit roles.

Of those, 13 had been spend­ing most of their time work­ing on sites of spe­cific sci­en­tific in­ter­est.

In a let­ter to Ms Creagh, Mr Gove said: “The work that peo­ple were do­ing on SSSIs prior to their EU Exit sec­ond­ments has been passed to oth­ers to ab­sorb into their work plans.”

Con­cerns have been raised about SSSIs af­ter fig­ures from Nat­u­ral Eng­land showed a fall over the last two years in the pro­por­tion of SSSIs as­sessed as be­ing in a favourable con­di­tion.

Ms Creagh said: “Prepa­ra­tions for leav­ing the EU must not get in the way of pro­tect­ing our trea­sured nat­u­ral spa­ces and iconic Bri­tish wildlife.

“It is dis­ap­point­ing that De­fra has raided staff at Nat­u­ral Eng­land, the or­gan­i­sa­tion re­spon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing some of the most highly val­ued wildlife ar­eas in Eng­land to pre­pare for Brexit.

“Nat­u­ral Eng­land must not be­come a poor re­la­tion to De­fra. Min­is­ters must en­sure the valu­able work it does to pro­mote bio­di­ver­sity is given the pri­or­ity it de­serves.”

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