Local FWAG groups hope to go it alone

A cash crisis at the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) has prompted some local staff to explore the possibility of setting up as independent conservationists.

Bosses at the national body spent much of this week locked in emergency talks in a last-minute bid to secure a future for the organisation.

FWAG has sustained heavy losses over the past year, leaving some staff unpaid for the past month. FThe company was expected to call in the administrators as Farmers Weekly went to press.

Projects would be completed and customer requirements met where possible, said a letter to members from FWAG chairman Henry Lucas.

Local FWAG groups in Cumbria, Suffolk and south-west England are now exploring the viability of establishing independent advisory groups in the event that the national body cannot be rescued.

The NFU is also following events closely.

“It would be wrong to raise people’s hopes because we are not looking to rescue FWAG, but we are looking to see if any of its services can be salvaged,” said NFU policy director Martin Haworth.

The charity has found it difficult to keep its head above water since its core funding was withdrawn following the government’s comprehensive spending review last autumn.

It has also suffered from a downturn in stewardship applications.

A recent legal judgment added further financial woe. The courts ruled that FWAG’s historic assets could no longer be used to secure lending, which led to the banks withdrawing the charity’s credit facility last month.

FWAG is an independent body providing environmental and conservation advice to farmers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was established in 1969 by a group of farmers who were concerned about the loss of habitat and wildlife.