Today I am publishing the report of the triennial review of the National Forest Company (NFC) which was launched on 12 July 2013, Official Report, column 53WS. Triennial reviews of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) are part of the Government’s commitment to ensuring accountability in public life.
The National Forest Company was set up in 1995 to oversee the creation of the National Forest—a multi-purpose forest across 200 square miles of the midlands. The NFC’s work plays an important part in realising the objectives of the Government’s forestry and woodlands policy statement (2013)—“protecting, improving and expanding” woodland assets, with its emphasis on economic growth and creating a woodland culture.
The review concludes that the NFC is the most appropriate body to continue to lead the creation, management and evolution of the National Forest and that it should remain as an NDPB.
In the longer run, the Government and NFC share the aim of a staged progression towards independence of the NFC from Government. This would see a viable and sustainable organisation passed from Government into the third sector and enable innovation and enterprise to be pursued with greater freedom. The NFC’s new 10-year strategy (2014-24), due to be published in summer 2014, should set out how the company will move towards independence.
To support the move toward independence, the NFC should set out how it will increase the use of wider funding sources. As part of this, the review has concluded that the NFC should undertake further work on the potential for further integration with the National Forest Charitable Trust (NFCT), including a possible merger, and taking on charitable status. The NFC and DEFRA should agree a decision on possible integration with the NFCT and charitable status once this further work has been carried out and a decision should be announced next year, ahead of publication of the NFC’s new 10-year strategy.
The review also concluded that the NFC should ensure that there is sufficient local representation in the NFC’s governance processes and that its future governance structures are as effective as possible.
The report of this review will be published online, and copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.