CSR analysis - Arboriculture

Review throws up contrasting opinions

Starkly contrasting views of the future for arboriculture professionals were emerging after the spending review. Some believed everything in the profession was likely to take an economic hit, while others thought legislation and a better understanding of the role of trees could mitigate potential cuts.

Myerscough lecturer Dr Mark Johnston said: "I'm reasonably optimistic: the Conservative Party campaigned on green issues and has a tree logo. We've moved on from the Thatcher cuts era when tree departments were decimated. But we must drive home how crucial trees are to urban areas."

By contrast, former chair of the Consulting Arborist Society David Lloyd-Jones predicted a fall in workforce numbers by a quarter and that every company offering tree services would be hit. He said: "Tree budgets are the first to be cut and this could have an ironic plus. The need for cuts will focus the mind in local authorities on how miniscule a risk trees are to people, so there's likely to be less drastic intervention."

Southampton City Council senior tree officer Mike Harris said: "Parks and trees are seen as prima donnas against social services and education so it's hard to see positives. But councils have legal duties on tree safety and amenity protection.

"I don't envisage serious cuts in Southampton - funding has to be found to meet our legal obligations. But if the cuts do start to bite we may have to change how we handle areas such as good neighbourliness on matters like encroachment."

Arboricultural Association director Nick Eden said: "The parks department is the Cinderella of local government and trees the Cinderella of the parks department, so an easy target for cuts. Tree officers must fight their corner like never before.

"Their work could be lumped into general grounds or infrastructure upkeep. And with less money around there's always a white van man offering a cheap service, which is not good for anybody.

"Public and private sector professionals will be hit: half a million people on the dole is half a million not spending on trees. But there are opportunities. Technical issues need specialists and I can see a growing market for outsourced consultancy work."

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