by Mo Metcalf Fisher

The quango responsible for protecting the environment in Wales has been accused of being "wasteful" and "hypocritical" because of its spending on petrol and diesel vehicles.

Freedom of information requests from the Taxpayers' Alliance and the Countryside Alliance have revealed that Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has spent more than £1.6m on buying and hiring vehicles over the past three years.

Although some of the vehicles were electric, the vast bulk were petrol or diesel including six leases of the Isuzu D Max Extra Cab, with CO2 emissions of 220g/km putting it in the third highest of thirteen categories for government vehicles taxes.

The revelations come despite NRW, the largest quango in Wales with an annual budget of £180m, previously calling on all bodies and individuals "to change their behaviour to reduce greenhouse gases".

The freedom of information requests reveal the following expenditure by NRW:

2019/20: £596,845.19 on vehicle purchases, £187,153.63 on hire;

2020/21: £601,599.68 on vehicle purchases, £179,756.79 on hire;

2021/22: £445,809.20 on vehicle purchases, £139,285.37 on hire.

A further £626,656 was spent on petrol and diesel for staff personal cars over the same three-year period.

According to its own website, the body "aims to carry out our work... in an excellent way and to promote our learning on emissions reductions across Wales".

NRW is the Welsh Government's chief adviser on environment and natural resources was formed in 2013, taking over the duties of the Countryside Council, the Forestry Commission and the Environment Agency, as well as some of the government's own work. However, when asked by the BBC for their response to NRW’s spending, the Welsh Government said it was a matter for the quango.

NRW have claimed they work hard to reduce emissions and need vehicles suitable to move in difficult terrain and respond to environmental incidents.

Rachel Evans, Director of Countryside Alliance Wales said: “The publication of these figures comes at a time when questions are being asked about NRW’s priorities, especially in the context of a cost of living crisis. They must take urgent action to reign in their spending and focus on protecting our environment and the Welsh countryside. While we can understand the need for terrain suitable vehicles for emergencies and certain projects, we are still left with questions over the large number of estate cars and hatchbacks within its substantial fleet on top of the substantial sums spent on refuelling staff personal petrol and diesel cars. We expect and hope NRW become much more upfront when it comes to their spending, going forward. The public should know exactly what NRW are spending our money on and the reasoning behind it, made available annually on their website”.

Dr Mike Jones, researcher at the TaxPayers' Alliance said: “Taxpayers are fed up of hypocrisy from public bodies. This is yet another quango not only failing to do its job, but doing damage to the cause they supposedly promote. Time for the Welsh government to get a grip on this wasteful body”.

BBC Cymru has covered this story. Click here to view it via their website. 

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