Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh, has accused environment secretary Michael Gove of having “raided” staff from Natural England to bolster his department’s Brexit preparations.
Creagh's (pictured) outburst, in a letter to Gove, followed his note confirming that 400 staff had been moved from a number of agencies to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to work on Brexit. Of those, he said, “circa 50” were from Natural England. Gove confirmed that 13 of those seconded from Natural England were spending over 50% of their time working on Sites of Special Scientific lnterest (SSSIs) prior to their secondments,
“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,” wrote Creagh. She added: “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.”
Gove, in his letter had said: “When identifying candidates for secondment, consideration was given to ensuring the potential impact on Natural England’s KPIs was minimised. He added: :”Secondees’ substantive roles which are not deemed a high priority have been left unfilled and work reallocated or paused for now,” and went on: “The work that people were doing on SSSIs prior to their secondments has been passed to others to absorb into their workplaces.”