Freedom Of Information Request Prompts Natural England Response....
Just to let you know that the complete bird control licence data is due for publication on 10th March.
Natural England finally contacted me about it earlier this week, but only after I submitted a freedom of information request to obtain the figures.
Unfortunately prior to that they had been completely ignoring my enquiries.
The same thing happened last year, with the proposed publication date being moved from March to June, all a bit of a farce which even saw 10 Downing Street involved at one point.
For an organisation that appears desperate to tell us that they have 'nothing to hide', they nevertheless seem somewhat reluctant to let us see the licensing statistics without a bit of a fight.
Anyway, I am told that the results of my freedom of information request will be available next month, together with simultaneous publication on the Government's website.
The Head of Natural England's Wildlife Licensing Service told me that my request has been "discussed" and said "we’ve got everything in place to provide the stats in our FOI response by 10th March."
He also added "concurrently, we will prepare the information for its publication on our gov.uk webpage," and pointed out that "the statistics should be in the same format as what you have received before, so hopefully this will allow you to easily analyse and compare data with previous years".
So it's good news - but I have to say that Natural England should be publishing the data without pressure from me each year to get it released.
During discussions I had with them in 2019, they promised to do this as a matter of course going forward, but each year since it seems they have needed a reminder and some persuasion.
As soon as the figures are available I will let you know, then begins the work of sifting through the data and seeing what is there.....
I was hoping to have some news for you, as to when Natural England plan to publish the annual declaration of bird control licences (it's due next month).
I've also asked for more on the 'teaser' I was given before Christmas by Natural England's director for wildlife licensing, David Slater, about the controversial licences that enable eggs of Black-headed gulls to be collected from nesting colonies for the 'fine dining' trade. Mr Slater told me there would be "something public on this in the new year," which suggested to me that changes might be in the pipeline.
Wall of Silence
I've been politely asking for a conversation about both of these matters for the past two weeks and I'm afraid I've been met with a wall of silence.
It's not entirely surprising - I have a battle every year to get the licence data released - but it is irritating and, frankly, just really bad manners to ignore my requests.
I have worked hard to establish useful dialogue with Natural England and through this have managed to successfully bring about changes in the way they operate the licensing system. I think this is mutually beneficial - and moreover has strengthened protection for our wild birds. I believe that the achievements of our campaign (so far) have saved the lives of countless birds.
So it's hugely disappointing when Natural England go quiet on me like this.
"We have nothing to hide"
If Natural England are proud of the work they do (and they do blow their own trumpet frequently), then we might expect that they would freely share the data with us. Indeed three years ago I was promised that they would happily declare the complete licence information every year going forward. "We have nothing to hide" they kept telling me.
Yes, well..... every year since then I have had to 'persuade' them to release the data. And it looks like this year may be no exception.
So, to the 390,253+ amazing people who support and follow our campaign, please be assured I will not give up.
I'll keep putting pressure on Natural England, in the knowledge that I have your support.
In addition I will be looking closely at some of their plans for 2022, including the rolling out of their new 'organisational licences' which could potentially make it easier for local councils to control gulls.
We're not going to go away, so it might just be better for them to communicate more efficiently and show some respect.
As soon as I have an update I'll let you know.
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