THE future of one of the country’s most highly-protected nature reserves could be under threat after local authorities threatened to withdraw funding.
Langstone Harbour, between Portsmouth and Havant, is a haven to aquatic wildlife and birds.
Now both Portsmouth City Council and Havant Borough Council want to withdraw funding completely within two years, saying they cannot afford to keep funding it.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘My view is lots of other things which the council used to fund have had to become self-sufficient and Langstone Harbour Board will have to try to do the same.
‘At the moment taxpayers in Havant and Portsmouth put in about £140,000 a year which is split equally.
‘It’s a body that has a turnover of about £500,000 a year with £250,000 in reserves.
‘My suggestion is that this year the subsidy from taxpayers is reduced by half and they use £70,000 from their reserves. What I have asked them to come up with is options for the harbour board to look at to become self-sufficient financially.’
But members of the board say it will not be possible to become completely self-sufficient for four to five years.
The board is asking for a contribution of £127,200 for the financial year 2013/14.
Councillor Ken Smith, of Havant Borough Council, sits on the board. He said: ‘This year we have managed to reduce the precept by 10 per cent with an objective, in the long term, of zero per cent.
‘Our point is we think Portsmouth’s suggestion is a slash and burn approach and takes vital money out of reserves we’ve built up to maintain equipment.
‘The result of losing that funding is we will lose the expertise of really, really good staff who manage the harbour.
‘When the boards were set up it was a requirement that local authorities must give us the cash if we need it.
‘They are obliged to pay.’
At the last harbour board meeting Councillor Tony Briggs, leader of Havant council, sided with Portsmouth’s view and voted to slash funding by half next year and withdraw it completely in 2014.
It led to a deadlock and the board must reconvene this month to thrash out a deal.