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Despite having reserves of £227 million, data shows the RSPB furloughed over 1,100 people

FieldSports TV today published the findings of their investigation which revealed the true extent of the RSPB's colossal wastage.

As local businesses across the country are suffering from the economic devastation caused by Covid-19, the RSPB have been sat on the comfort of knowing they have reserves available of £227 million. Yet despite that, they still decided to take more much needed public money by furloughing 1,100 people - all half their staff base. Could they not have used a bit of their own reserves to fill the gap?

The RSPB are no strangers however to colossal mismanagement of public funds. Just look at what has happened at their flagship nature reserve in Wales, Lake Vyrnwy. Despite managing it for 40 years they have now lost most of their wildlife there and are desperately trying to campaign to raise more public money.

Everyone should read and share this article by the terrific Ben O'Rourke for Fieldsports TV.

How come the RSPB gets to accept government and National Lottery grants for conservation work in 2020, and then furlough half its staff. Ben O’Rourke wants RSPB members to put that and other questions to the bird organisation at its AGM on Saturday 10 October 2020.

It’s that time of year when the RSPB celebrates all the good work it has been doing over the past year. The bad or questionable work may not be mentioned unless members and donors ask the right questions. So here’s a hand cut-out-and-keep guide for anyone who wants to dig a little deeper than the bigwigs running the event are planning to go – questions and facts to enlighten you and annoy them.

1: A lot of charities are in trouble this year because of the government’s coronavirus lockdown. How has RSPB coped?

Surprisingly well. It’s costs were down about 6% and cash up by 4.5%, so it has about 10% – roughly £21 million – than this time last year.

Despite the gain, RSPB has furloughed half its staff – 1,100 people. So 80% of their wages is paid by the government, meaning the charity is saving even more money. It’s unclear whether it will need to pay back the government or other funders. That;s a good question to ask them.

2: The Devon housing development built on cirl bunting habitat – how does that work?

Taxpayers are effectively giving the RSPB free land and free money because developers want to build in an area where cirl buntings live. To ‘offset’ damage and disruption to the little birds, the RSPB borrowed £500,000 from Lloyds Bank to buy an area called Ash Hill.

The developers then give Teignbridge council Section 106 payments – totally £650,000 so far – for the privilege of building on the land. The money or a proportion of it is then given to RSPB. One of the developers operating in Teignbridge is Barratt Developments, one of RSPB’s ‘business supporters’.

Investor Richard Taylor finds the arrangement odd: “Rather than benefitting the locals like buying the land itself to benefit rate payers, it’s giving money to the RSPB to buy land for itself, effectively passing money from public hands into charitable hands.”

3: Where else does the RSPB get its money from?

Besides donors, the RSPB constantly applies for grants and subsidies – even ones for farming. However, we struggle to find the checks and balances associated with such large amounts of cash changing hands, and we can’t find out whether the money has been put to good use unclear.

“I asked the Welsh government how successful an RSPB project was and they just said ‘ask the RSPB’,” says Ian Coghill, chairman of the Coordinated Uplands Partnership. “RSPB said nothing. So I asked again, you gave them the money, you gave them the consent, aren’t you interested?”

4: Natural England says hen harriers are fairing well on grousemoors. Can the same be said for moors managed by the RSPB?

No. Most of the successful 19 nests this year (2019) were on managed grousemoors. The few on RSPB-managed land didn’t do so well. Ornithologist John Cavana explains:

“They have a moorland reserve at Geltsdale,” he says. “40% of failed hen harrier nests were on that reserve. That’s a way of spinning the figures – two out of five nests… I think they were monitoring the other three nests.”

5: The RSPB routinely accuses gamekeepers of killing hen harriers and other birds of prey. Why has it set up a hotline for people who want to report wildlife crimes?

In most cases there is no evidence or even a carcass to pin the blame on anyone, and yet incidents are used in the charity’s anti-grouse shooting campaign. Should people be reporting crimes to the RSPB before they call the police? Absolutely not. The idea crimes should be reported to RSPB rather than your local police is absurd. Fieldsports Britain has already tested this in this eye-opening film.

“Raptors found dead and blaming gamekeepers goes against RSPB’s own policy against discrimination and persecution,” says Cavana. “If you see a taxi driver speeding, it doesn’t mean every taxi driver speeds… Why would you report a crime in progress when you should report it to the police? If you saw someone speeding would you call the AA?”


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