Earlier this year, news broke that Council spending on the upkeep of roadside trees was being cut drastically by £187k (from £240k to £53k) as part of wider savings planned for the highways budgets.
Critics have argued that this draconian measure was brought in without proper consultation and without taking any advice from professionals like the Council’s own in-house arboriculturalists and important advisory local bodies such as the Bristol Tree Forum.
Furthermore, they suggest that this apparent cost saving measure could well prove to be counter-productive in the long term, as poorly maintained trees represent a risk to public safety and may result in an increase in compensation claims for personal injury or damage to property. Short term savings are likely to be more than offset by higher future maintenance costs.
Now, Cllrs Goulandris and Weston have tabled questions on this issue to the Mayor (and a formal resolution) for the next Members’ Forum and Full Council, to be held on Tuesday, 18th July.
Cllr Goulandris (Stoke Bishop) said: “The level of public concern over this appalling decision is quite extraordinary.
“Equally shocking has been the total lack of transparency in arriving at this saving. Specific details of the proposal – passed by the Mayor’s Labour colleagues in February - appear to have been hidden under a very broad heading of planned reductions in the Highways maintenance budget.
“The lack of consultation over the efficacy of this move is also extremely worrying. Not consulting even the Council’s in house tree experts beggars belief and casts serious doubt on the credibility of the proposed savings.
Many residents have approached us to say that, if the Highways Department has to make savings, this should come from cutting back on expensive, over-engineered traffic schemes and installations rather than the essential upkeep of our street trees.
“Slashing funding on tree management sends out a strange, contradictory message from this Administration, especially when Bristol only recently handed over its mantle of European Green Capital.
“Therefore, we intend to urge the Mayor to rethink this daft idea and reinstate the funding, until a proper analysis of this proposal has been undertaken and a sensible new street tree policy adopted.”