July 22, 2010 / 6:16 PM / in 8 years

REFILE-UK pulls funding for green advisors, criticised

* UK ends funding for two advisory groups

* Says government now more routinely pro-environment

(Repeats to correct spelling of criticised in headline)

LONDON, July 22 (Reuters) - Britain’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government said on Thursday it would cut funding to green advisory bodies, a move sharply criticised by green campaigners and members of parliament.

Caroline Spelman, minister at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, announced withdrawal of funding for the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), the body was tasked with providing advice to government departments on green issues.

She also announced the abolition of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

“Defra has around 90 arm’s-length bodies, many of which were set up at a time when our understanding of and engagement with environmental issues was less mainstream,” she said.

“Most of the things that these bodies do is now part of what the government does as a matter of course. Others are now no longer necessary.”

Government funding had formed the largest chunk, at 1.9 million pounds, of the SDC’s budget this year, with the rest of its core public funding coming from British regions.

Critics said the cut in funding would hurt moves toward environmental sustainability.

“These two organisations play an essential role in furthering sustainable development and environmental protection across government,” said Joan Walley, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North and the chair of a panel of members of parliament meant to report on environmental issues.

“It is unfortunate that your proposals have not been discussed,” she said in an open letter to the minister.

Spelman, however, repeated Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge after the coalition won the election in May for the government to be “the greenest ever”.

“I don’t want to hear warm words about the environment. I want to see real action,” he said at the time.

A spokeswoman for he SDC said it was unlikely to survive in its current form after the cuts.

“We are deeply disappointed,” said Will Day, chair of the SDC. “Our work has delivered efficiency savings totalling many times what the organisation has cost the government, and contributed towards much greater sustainability in government.”

“It will be particularly important to ensure that adequate plans are in place to ensure the UK government can measure and verify its commitment to becoming the ‘greenest government ever’,” he added.

The UK government foresees spending cuts of at least 25 percent for most government departments over the next five years. British government borrowing was higher last month than economists had forecast, Office for National Statistics data showed on Tuesday.

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