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UK Gov't axes its sustainability watchdog

22 July 2010

Hilary Benn, shadow environment secretary, said the coalition's pledge to be the greenest government ever was "collapsing".

"The SDC has led the way in scrutinising government's environmental performance, helping to save money in the process," he said.

"Fundamental to its success is independence from Whitehall. It's now clear that the government does not want to be held to account in this way.

"Caroline Spelman is behaving like the manager of a closing down sale - everything must go. The loser will be our natural environment."

Jonathon Porritt, who was the SDC's chairman between 2000 and 2009, responded angrily to the announcement.

"Let's not beat around the bush: their justification for getting rid of the SDC is transparently vacuous, if not downright dishonest," he said.

"This is an ideological decision - in other words, a decision driven by dogma not by evidence-based, rational analysis.

"The only conceivable reason for allowing dogma to dominate in this way is that the government doesn't want anyone independently auditing its performance on sustainable development - let alone properly-resourced, indisputably expert body operating as 'a critical friend' on an inside track within government."

Jane Davidson, Environment Minister for the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG), also expressed disappointment at Defra's decision.

"We are committed to funding the delivery of the SDC's agreed work programme this financial year. This will give us time to set in place new arrangements in Wales," she said.

WAG contributes about £360,000 each year to the SDC's core funds. The Scottish government provides £570,000 annually, Northern Ireland £120,000, and Defra £1.9m annually.

Extract from Mark Kinver Science and environment reporter, BBC News

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