The London Borough of Barnet hopes to use the creation of three new tree services contracts to boost employment across the borough.
The council is seeking suppliers for two arboriculture contracts, covering cyclical planned maintenance of street trees as well as responsive and emergency works.
The third contract is to provide planting and maintenance of young trees and could require a more horticultural rather than arboricultural approach.
Each contract is worth at least £200,000 per annum, and would last for four years with a potential two-year extension. The winning suppliers could be required to form partnerships with smaller tree firms in Barnet or neighbouring boroughs.
Barnet's trees and woodlands manager Andy Tipping explained: "Local authorities have changed over the years so we're no longer the biggest employer in the area. So in this way we're hoping the contractor can provide the employment that we traditionally would have given.
"Trying to find skilled labour in the greater London area is extremely difficult, mainly because of accommodation costs. There is a dearth of skilled arborists but plenty of good little local firms that struggle to win local authority contracts because of financial constraints."
Tipping has produced a graduated pricing structure that he believes will be fairer to the council and contractors. Instead of traditional bandings with large jumps in price over a difference of 1cm, each tree will have its own price calculated according to its exact diameter.
"The banding structure has caused problems in the past in that we either pay too much or too little for the work, and that causes conflict on the ground," he said.
Shortlisted contractors will be assessed on the quality of their work - including health and safety - before a final decision is made.
In an unusual move, nurseries supplying the trees will be required to follow the biosecurity standard BS8545, which stipulates that trees must be grown on in a UK nursery for one year to avoid importing European diseases and pests such as oak processionary moth.
Council officers will be available for site meetings in late August and early September to answer further questions. The deadline for tenders is 18 September. See www.barnetsourcing.co.uk.
KeyStat - There are 30,000 trees and 850ha of parkland in the London Borough of Barnet