So as to provide the best opportunity for the Committee to provide the public with the fullest answer, questions from the public should be submitted by 12.00pm Monday 13 March 2023.
Where relevant notice of a question has not been given, the person presiding may either choose to give a response at the meeting or respond by undertaking to provide a written response within three working days.
Questions should be submitted to Democratic Services firstname.lastname@example.org
(Note: Public Question Time will operate for a maximum of 30 minutes.)
Members were asked, “By what process did the Council decide that Trees for Streets, a national company based in London, offered the best model to engage the public and achieve the goal of having more street trees? Were other organisations asked to bid? In particular, why weren't local green groups with considerable numbers of volunteers and expertise in engagement invited to submit proposals that could have offered alternative ways to deliver these aims? £24k of funding over a period of 3 years for engagement and sourcing trees from local projects could have made a huge difference to the sustainability of local environmental non-profits, contributing to a stronger local economy and providing better value for money and equitability. In any case, why will the cost of sponsorship be £395 per tree when Trees for Streets own website recommends a charge of £100-200 and WSCC Donate a Tree scheme charges £200? What provision is being made to ensure that neighbourhoods that can’t afford to sponsor are not excluded?
This council has the ambition to be fair, green and local in both policy and action. Given this committee's role in holding the Executive to account, is the committee satisfied that the process by which this decision was made has delivered the best outcome possible? If not, will you hold the executive to account and ask that they reconsider?
The Trees for Streets approach and platform had been reviewed by Officers who were confident this provided value for money as this provided a full package of support and an easy step through experience to engage all residents across the Borough. The Council reviewed internal and external factors when seeking a platform that integrated nicely to the Council’s needs whilst, more importantly, creating a very easy to navigate customer facing experience to ensure all residents and all communities had the opportunity to engage with the programme, whether on an individual basis, street basis or as part of a group. The Council also took soundings from three existing authorities utilising the platform.
The Council didn’t have the resources and expertise to create a crowdfunding platform of the nature offered by the Trees for Streets organisation. Trees for Streets bespoke software supported the coordinated marketing of the scheme enabling a steady stream of applications. Whilst £24k (over 3 years) could be utilised for green projects, the Council needed to invest in the capability and functionality to increase the reach, and generate the interest, in caring for and planting more trees in the Borough.
The pricing structure per tree was yet to be formally agreed however the report noted that no tree would cost in excess of £395 and not necessarily £395 per tree. The Worthing Borough scheme had proposed additional social value as it included equipment for use by communities which would help in neighbourhood watering and make use of rainwater harvesting. Aligned to the community funded trees were those sponsored by businesses and the Council was hopeful that businesses, who expressed an interest, would look to locations where a community may have the desire but not the means to sponsor their own or to expand on their neighbourhood crowdfunding to date. As specialists in this field Trees for Streets facilitated a joined up approach in a way that WSCC Donate a Tree scheme, for example, currently didn’t.
Given the substantial breadth of the proposed Trees for Streets scheme the council welcomed volunteer help in the delivery of the project and welcomed thoughts on how they might work together to give the scheme every chance of success.
The answer provided was a pre-prepared answer provided by officers not present at the meeting, so the Chairman promised a written response to the member of the publics’ supplementary question.