Audit Wales highlights the diversification of income to support national park authorities’ financial resilience

Audit Wales highlights the diversification of income to support national park authorities’ financial resilience
An image depicting a pound coin, a graphic of Wales highlighting the National parks authorities and two trees with a park bench

Continued reliance on decreasing Welsh Government funding risks undermining Authorities’ efforts to safeguard nation’s breathing spaces.

In a national report published today, Audit Wales calls on Welsh Government and National Park Authorities to work together to identify appropriate ways of diversifying the funding available to protect and promote our National Parks. We have also published a self-assessment tool to help National Park Authorities to navigate this transformation and identify how best to diversify their income.

Like many public bodies in Wales, National Park Authorities are facing significant budget challenges. Coupled with increasing demands and expectations, delivering their key functions is increasingly difficult. In 2022-23, we published three reports on how National Park Authorities in Wales are diversifying their income streams to support delivery against their statutory purposes. Our report published today looks at some of the key themes impacting all three National Parks in Wales and the extent to which the Authorities are diversifying their income.

We’ve found that none of the National Park Authorities have set a clear strategic approach to income diversification, and further work is needed to make this a priority. There are also important ethical considerations in appraising options, and governance arrangements need to be agile and robust enough to effectively support future income generation activity.

Our report draws on examples from English National Park Authorities, some of which have ventured into growing commercial activity to support key services. Successfully diversifying income requires Authorities to review their asset portfolios to identify suitable opportunities. This is just one of six key building blocks that our review focused on. Taken together, these steps can help National Park Authorities to unlock the benefits and mitigate some of the risks associated with income diversification.

Looking to the future, our report highlights the importance of considering different sources of funding, with National Park Authorities uniquely positioned to build on a strong track record of partnership working to deliver grant funded projects. Welsh Government also has a key role in supporting National Park Authorities, both financially and in terms of guidance and direction to help deliver on the expectations set by the Minister for Climate Change.  

Alongside our reports, we’ve published self-assessment checklists which we recommend each Authority should use to identify their strengths and weakness. This will help to inform their future strategies on income diversification.

National Park Authorities in Wales face a difficult challenge in delivering with reduced funding. As the guardians of our nation’s most beautiful landscapes, it’s important that they balance the need to diversify their income streams with delivering their core purposes. My report today summarises the findings of our review and supports National Park Authorities on this journey.
Auditor General, Adrian Crompton
Income Diversification for National Park Authorities in Wales