Horticulture Week Custodian Award - Best urban tree initiative

Winner - iCo Green, London Borough of Islington

At a time where many local councils are dealing with service cuts, the London Borough of Islington’s tree service has developed a model that has enabled it to make the required savings while increasing the size of its team and continuing to provide a high-level service to its residents.

This success has been achieved by setting up a trading arm, expanding the range of amenities provided by the tree services team, maximising compensation for any trees that may be lost to development and reinvesting that money into improving the urban forest.

The service manages a large stock of trees for a variety of clients, both within and outside the borough, and the number of sites across which it works has grown in recent years.

The team’s goal in 2016 was to meet and surpass the targets set for council savings for the tree service by generating income and thereby reducing the need for cuts. The solution — setting up a trading arm — would mean an expansion of the range of services the team offered, an increase in staff numbers and the development of relationships with key partners to deliver more efficient and effective services.

A business plan was created for the launch of the trading body, iCo Green, which received start-up investment from the council. A website was created and a client officer was recruited to reach and manage external clients. A new tree inspector was also taken on to increase the capacity of the team.

The development of skills and knowledge for new members of staff has been facilitated by the service’s more experienced officers.

External clients including other local authorities and private companies have been secured. In addition, a joint tender process for an innovative new tree work contract was led. An application to the mayor’s London Tree Programme 2016-17 secured £9,000 to help cover the expenses of tree planting requested by residents.

The service has also developed the application of highway asset management principals to trees using the CAVAT tree tool. As a result of this work, the team has managed to generate an excess of £200,000 via compensation for trees removed due to development. This money is re-invested in the urban forest.

As a result of these developments the tree service has grown in size to nine members of staff and income targets have been met.

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