Monday, 30 November 2015


Corncrake - one of t5he RSPB's target species (Photo: Rachel Davies via Wikimedia Commons)

CASH continues to cascade into the coffers of the RSPB - but there are no guarantees that this will always be the case.

At last month’s AGM in Birmingham, the society’s finance chief, Graeme Wallace, warned: “We operate in challenging times and have been buffeted by headwinds.

“It is my responsibility as treasurer to ensure that the society makes the best possible use of the funds entrusted to it.

The “headwinds” include, for example, rising land prices, availability of grant funding and competition for the attention of the public and decision-makers.”

“It all adds up to a difficult operating environment,” claimed Mr Wallace.

He continued: “Within that context, I am pleased to be able to report that a small surplus for the year meant we were able to add slightly to our free financial reserves, taking them to £14.7-million, representing nine weeks of expenditure.”

Most of the RSPB’s income  is generated by membership subscriptions and donations (£45.6-million last year) from its 1,160,000 million members, about 88 per cent of whom renew every year.

Up until July 2018, the funding stream will also benefit from a three-year corporate partnership deal with the supermarket chain Aldi whereby it benefits from the proceeds of sales to customers of plastic carrier bags.

According to Mr Wallace this could raise as much as £3-million which will be used to fund “a programme to connect children with nature” across mainland Britain.

The hope is to set up nature-appreciation sessions in  15 cities and various related activities in parks and green spaces.

The society’s grant income in 2014/15 rose by £1.3 million to £26.7- million.

Legacies rose slightly to £30.6 million - as did income from the reserve shops and online sales which reached £21.8 million.

Overall, net income rose by £5.8-million to £99-million.

Despite the healthy balances, Mr Wallace said the society always had to be “mindful” of the possible consequences of government spending cuts and the potential volatility of legacy income.

“So it is more important than ever that we continue to look for ways to broaden and strengthen our various income streams,”he said.

Turning to expenditure, the treasurer said the society spent £4.4-million last year on acquiring 657 new hectares and carrying out major improvements to facilities on various reserves, including those at Bempton Cliffs, Sandwell Valley and Belfast Harbour.

One of the most recent additions to the society’s  reserveshas been  Boyton Marshes on the Suffolk Coast.

Here, 33 hectares of arable farmland will be converted to a vibrant wetland for wildlife.

The new scrape will become one of the largest in the UK, connecting Boyton Marshes to Havergate Island, giving a home to avocets, lapwings, Sandwich terns and common


There is also a plan to construct a new scrub-covered spoonbill nesting island.

There has also been further investment in upgrading some of the society’s reserves in the Hebrides and Orkneys to encourage corncrakes.

Good progress is being made. From a recent low of 200 in 2013, the number of territory-holding males bounced tomore than 250 last year.

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