Gristwood & Toms starts 2013 with three major contract wins

Tie-up with East Sussex councils and London Borough of Richmond dwarfed by 25-year PFI deal.

Gristwood & Toms has already won three major contracts for 2013, including one that will run for the next quarter of a century.

The arboriculture firm, which also picked up a decade-long tree-care deal at Hastings and Rother councils in December, said its latest win, at the London Borough of Richmond, would be four times the size of that in Hastings in terms of scope and responsibilities.

Managing director Andy Toms said unlike many arb contracts, this one would include not just tree contracting but aspects from the client side, such as programming and surveying. His company has won another contract in London, which is to be signed off shortly.

The third major scoop for Gristwood & Toms, which is based in Shenley, Hertfordshire, is the longest. The deal forms part of a private-finance initiative (PFI) contract that will last for 25 years. The client is a big-name infrastructure firm, which has not released details of the contract.

Toms said: "Local authorities are trying to find a more integrated way of delivering services and our company can do everything from tree planting to decay detection.

"We have a nationwide reach and there are few companies, if any, with such a comprehensive offering."

Toms said profits were up by £500,000 in the first six months of the latest financial year, compared with the previous one.

The company has passed the 200 staff mark for the first time, and Toms attributed the success to many factors. But a crucial element is economies of scale.

"We can spread a lot of costs with more people, making us more competitive," he said. "Wages for admin and HR staff, for example, remain the same regardless of whether you have 100 employees or 200. Few companies are big enough to tackle contracts of over £1m."

Council contract - Sharing the costs

Hastings Borough Council and Rother District Council joined forces to contract their tree-care services late last year (HW, 7 December 2012).

The deal with Gristwood & Toms allowed the AmicusHorizon housing association to join the contract and take advantage of more competitive tree work.

A Gristwood & Toms spokesman said: "By putting out the tender as a partnership, the contract will result in reduced costs for tree work for both councils."

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