Ahead of the 12 December general election, the HTA has set out a manifesto outlining policy themes and ‘asks’ that are fundamental to developing a strong and vibrant horticulture sector.
This includes maintaining access to seasonal labour in a post-Brexit world, including "better recognition within a future immigration system to ensure the sector can continue to develop and thrive". The HTA is calling for Ornamental Horticulture to be included in a Seasonal Workers scheme. The salary threshold for full time experienced workers needs to be lowered in any points-based system to better recognise the market rates in ornamental horticulture. With the recent sector skills survey showing horticulture facing on-going labour shortages, this threatens an overall industry that is contributing over £24bn GDP to the UK economy.
Political party manifestos have promised up to 2bn trees to be planted to deliver carbon reduction. The HTA says "there needs to be a strong degree of certainty created by Government, public and private bodies to provide fully funded plans. This includes proper financial support for capital expenditure and policies to alleviate the current shortage of labour. Nurseries require this to commit to the significant upscaling and investment in production infrastructure that will needed to meet the demand."
HTA policy and communications director James Clark said: “In this general election campaign we are calling on all political parties to foster supportive and innovative economic programmes to boost our dynamic sector’s full potential. We want to see sustainability and climate change given the high priority it deserves. The garden industry is uniquely placed to support wider national health and well-being benefits of gardening and help create a Greener Britain. Not to forget, with 25m gardeners in the UK - making it arguably the country’s biggest hobby - it is a group of voters that political parties would be foolish to ignore.
“In the manifesto, we set out three key policy themes that matter most to our members’ and the changes that will make the most positive difference to the UK. We are committed to working in a collaborative, cooperative and coordinated approach with a future Government on developing these policy proposals.”
The HTA’s three policy themes and specific ‘asks’ of Government are:
A competitive, productive and growing economy that benefits everyone
- Employer taxes and wage floor increases should reflect market conditions
- Backing a flexible marketplace
- Horticulture should be better recognised and supported by the Government as an engine of economic growth
Making the best of a post-Brexit world
- Championing free and frictionless trade
- Horticulture needs must be included in immigration policy
- Plant health and biosecurity needs to remain a high priority
Creating a greener Britain
- Climate change and carbon reduction matters
- Back tree planting, but the detail is crucial
- A mix of woodland and urban tree planting is needed
- Plant pots should be included in a consistent local authority recycling system
- Work with industry on peat reduction