Bees and other pollinators are vital to our crops, our gardens and our countryside. But they’re under threat. Some UK species are already extinct. Others that were once widespread are now less abundant, or found in only a few places.
The UK government introduced a National Pollinator Strategy in 2014 following successful lobbying by Friends of the Earth and Buglife. But far more needs to be done to protect our bees and other pollinators especially by councils.
Many councils are taking some steps to help our pollinators. However, only a handful have introduced comprehensive plans to protect all pollinators.
Polling suggests that the majority of people agree that councils should be doing more to save our bees. In 2017, Buglife and Friends of the Earth produced a guide for councils to point them in the right direction. If your council doesn’t have a comprehensive pollinator action plan why not ask them to introduce one?
Here are some tips, background information and resources that may help you. However, please note that Friends of the Earth and Buglife may not have the resources to offer individual support for people lobbying their councils.
Talking to your council
Depending on where you live, your council could be a county council. It may or may not have separate district councils within it, or a borough or metropolitan council.
Some larger, mostly urban, areas also fall within larger “Combined Local Authority” areas such as Greater Manchester – where each council keeps its separate identity but works jointly across the bigger area for purposes such as strategic planning and transport.
As a starting point take a look at our guide on how to work with your elected representative. All of these different types of council, big or small, can do something within their remit to help bees and other pollinators.
Pollinator friendly councils
Friends of the Earth and Buglife contacted 27 English County Councils to survey whether they had pollinator action plans in place. 19 replied and out of those only Devon and Dorset have plans in place, Hampshire, Kent, Worcestershire and Somerset are also in the process of drawing up pollinator action plans.
Other councils which also have pollinator action plans include, Cornwall (a unitary authority), Newcastle City, North Tyneside, Oxford City and Monmouthshire.
Please note that this list may not be complete so it’s worth checking with your council if you are unsure. If you don’t know who to ask, try your elected councillor. Do let us know if you discover a council not on our list that does have a pollinator action plan.
Find your local council or councils by entering your postcode into https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council. To find your elected councillors, visit www.writetothem.com – and enter your postcode. Public libraries should also have information about local councils and details of councillors.
You can also contact your council to find out who is the cabinet member responsible for environmental issues – their exact title will vary from council to council. Ask if there is a nature conservation officer or ecologist in the council who you could talk to. They might be a good source to find out what is already being done and where there could be opportunities to raise the issue.
Your local councillor(s) are good people ask to support a pollinator action plan. There may also be other councillors with a particular interest in environmental issues who could be approached too. Talking to councillors at their surgeries is a good way to assess their interest and press them to support your cause.
When you contact your councilor you should point out:
The importance of protecting Britain’s bees.
Some of the things that a pollinator action plan should include.
That measures, such as cutting grass less frequently, can even save money.
That a number of councils already have pollinator action plans (see below).
That Friends of the Earth and Buglife have an online guide to help councils introduce a pollinator plan.
Dorset County Council saves around £93,000 a year by only cutting rural road verges when needed. Burnley Borough Council estimates that it saves around £50,000 helping pollinators by not cutting grass so often. They are also making savings and helping bees by planting perennial, bee-friendly flowers in their flower beds, instead of annual bedding plants.
Councils who have introduced pollinator action plans include:
After 2,500 Cornwall residents signed a petition, the council committed to producing a pollinator action plan. It will include better road verges for bees and more wildflowers on council land. It plans also to ban the use of bee harming pesticides on council-owned land such as parks, gardens and verges. Farms on council-owned land will be encouraged to reduce their use of neonics.
The council agreed to adopt a pollinator action plan in June 2016. The plan includes banning bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides wherever it can. The cutting of hedges and grass verges will be changed to offer more food and shelter for bees. And native wildflowers, trees and shrubs will become more widespread in planting schemes.
It has committed to prohibit the use of bee-harming pesticides on its land, where it can. The council also agreed a range of bee friendly measures including changing management practice on cutting road verges and hedgerows, and planning guidance.
Newcastle City Council
It has a pollinator action plan as well as a Bumblebee Species Action Plan, which is part of their Biodiversity Action Plan.
Support from others
Working in alliances is key to a successful campaign to persuade your council to adopt a pollinator action plan. Your local Wildlife Trust in particular is likely to be an invaluable friend; they will have lots of inside knowledge of who to talk to in the council and which councilors are likely to be sympathetic.
You might also want to see if other organisations will support your call for a pollinator action plan. Local environmental, wildlife or political organisations are sometimes worth asking, and your Friends of the Earth local group. Allotment and horticultural societies might be keen. And the Women’s Institute has campaigned to save bees – their local branch might be interested.
Local media could play a role too. You could start off with a letter to your local paper calling for a council pollinator action strategy. Have a look at our how-to guides on working with the media.
Find out more about the role of local authorities in helping bees in Helping Pollinators Locally – a free guide by Friends of the Earth and Buglife.