Environment quangos: It could be worse, but fears persist

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Green campaigners will be relieved that the three main environmental quangos, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission, have at least survived the cull; there had been fears since the election that the first two would be merged and the last abolished.

However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says the three will be transformed in a "radical and comprehensive" way, which may be one way of saying that their budget cuts next week will be so enormous that they will have to undergo major restructuring just to function.

Another hint of what may be coming lurks in the ominous phrases that they will "stop activity that Government does not need to do", which may mean handing over the network of national nature reserves in England to wildlife charities.

They are also to "stop policy-making and lobbying activities". This announcement closes the door on any environmental, non-departmental, public body telling the Government in future that it is going about things in the wrong way – at least publicly.

Another major green quango, British Waterways, which looks after the 2,200-mile network of canals, is ceasing to be a quango and will re-invent itself as a charity.

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