Subject: Street tree budget cuts
In May, Cllrs Stevens and Negus submitted questions and statements to Cabinet about the safety and financial risks and the alternatives to the proposed budget cuts to street trees. They were reassured that the proposals would be looked at again. At the time of writing we have not heard any updates on this review.
We understand that Bristol Tree Forum volunteers are looking for constructive ways to work with the Council to solve this problem, but trust is at rock bottom and each time new information emerges it gets worse.
The emergency Tree Forum meeting on 4th July revealed some uncomfortable truths:
- The Council’s Highways Department did not consult the Council’s arboricultural officers, the TreeForum or any other relevant experts about street trees before making their decision to cut 78% off the budget.
- The budget line RS02 voted on in Full Council in February referred to £1.2m of Highways Maintenance Reductions in 17/18 and wasn’t specific as to what these would be.
- Highways are justifying the decision on the basis of cutting back to a statutory service, usually doing this achieves the minimum short term cost. For street trees maintaining a statutory service level is not minimum cost as was and has been pointed out time and time again. We are still yet to see the fully costed business case and risk assessment.
Could the Mayor clarify whether he wants to minimise the cost of managing street trees, or does he want the service to be at a statutory level which will cost the Council more (possibly more this year as reserves might need to be allocated to cover the higher risks)?
Could the Mayor check with his legal officers the personal liability of himself and/or the Deputy Mayor and/or the Council should an accident occur where it is proven that the Council has a duty of care (e.g. Maintaining the highway) and that the damage is directly caused by this change in policy? Given the facts that have come to light, it seems that in such an instance it could be a case of negligence.