John H Hutchinson

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,
I shall be grateful if you will respond to the following requests for information: -

1. What is the name of the officer who made the decision to fell the Gautby trees to ground level, under whose authority and according to which Policy was he acting?

2. Please may we see this Policy?

3. What was the financial gain to WMBC of tree maintenance at Gautby Park?

4. To what use was the Gautby Park timber waste put and where was this done?

5. Why was the usual coppicing practice of a 6- or 10-year rotation not employed for the Gautby Park trees?

6. Why are tree stumps covered with thick debris?

7. By what means is Mancoed monitored to ensure compliance with the WMBC contract?

8. Please may we see the tree maintenance contract redacted so as not to show commercially sensitive data?

9. Why does the WMBC contract allow tree maintenance to be carried out in the breeding season?

10. When did WMBC conduct its most recent tree survey?

This list might be too long for a single person to draft the Council's response. If so, I shall be grateful if you will let me know so that I may split it into shorter parts.

Yours faithfully,

John H Hutchinson

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Hutchinson

Further to your recent request for information, please see the Council's response below.

1. What is the name of the officer who made the decision to cut the Gautby trees to ground level, and under whose authority and according to which was he acting?
The officer in question is a qualified arboriculturalist working with the parks team, he had the authority as part of his role to make this decision. That decision is supported by the Council as entirely appropriate.

2. Please may we see this Policy?
We do not have a tree management policy. There is a tree strategy which is available online at www.wirral.gov.uk

3. What was the financial gain to WMBC of tree maintenance at Gautby Park?
There is no financial gain to Wirral Council.

4. To what use was the Gautby Park timber waste put and where was this done?
All arboricultural arisings are the responsibility of the contractor to legally dispose of or recycle as best they can. The timber here being mostly decaying crack willow has no commercial value.

5. Why was the usual coppicing practice of a 6- or 10-year rotation not employed for the Gautby Park trees?
We are unable to comment on historic management practice.

6. Why are tree stumps covered with thick debris?
This would have been done as part of the clear up of the site after the works, it should not inhibit coppice regrowth.

7. By what means is Mancoed monitored to ensure compliance with the WMBC contract?
We hold regular contract management meetings to discuss how the contract is performing.

8. Please may we see the tree maintenance contract redacted so as not to show commercially sensitive data?
Wirral Council are currently engaged with imminently issuing the renewal tender for the Arboricultural Tree Services contract and will shortly be issuing a high profile tender to award a 3 year Tree planting scheme. To ensure a legally compliant tendering process, we will not be releasing any information pertaining to the current Tree Service Management contract.

The Council considers that the disclosure of the information would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests both of the public authority and its suppliers as the information is commercially sensitive and, having given consideration to the fact that the information requested could be used/passed on to gain an unfair advantage in this imminent tender exercise, this part of your request is refused under the exemption contained in section 43 (2) of The Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The Council considers the public interest in maintaining the exemption under s43 in this case outweigh the public interest in disclosure at this time. Upon conclusion of the Tendering processes in March 2021, the Council may be able to reconsider a new request if submitted after that time.

9. Why does the WMBC contract allow tree maintenance, and hewing trees to ground level, to be carried out in the breeding season?
We are unable to limit works to the few winter months when birds are not nesting.

10. When did WMBC conduct its most recent tree survey?
Surveys are constantly being carried out across the Council’s estate.

You have the right under Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to ask for an internal review of the refusal of the information requested. Please direct any request for an internal review to [Wirral Borough Council request email] and your request will be allocated to an independent officer for review. You also have the right to complain to the information Commissioner, if you are dissatisfied with the outcome of any internal review, at www.ico.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

Lynette Paterson
Principal Information Management Officer
Wirral Council
Treasury Building
Cleveland Street
Birkenhead
Wirral
CH41 1AH

Email: [Wirral Borough Council request email]
Visit our website: www.wirral.gov.uk

This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received this email in error please notify the system manager.

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Tree maintenance - Gautby Park'.

Council's response makes for more questions than answers but that at Items 7 and 9 are of great concern.
1. Accepted.

2. Are you saying that Council manages the tree in the Borough in the absence of a tree management policy?

A strategy is a plan of action whilst a policy is a set of rules and regulations that sets the day-to-day decisions.

3. Am I correct in understanding that there was net cost on the Tax-payer for the tree works undertaken?

4. I understand the responsibilities of a contractor. The ultimate responsibility lies with the contractee. Council must ensure that legal actions are taken. What does the Council do to monitor the actions of its contractors, the tree felling company, in this case?

5. I was not asking about the Council's past management practice.

I was asking why the usual coppicing practice of a 6- or 10-year rotation was not employed for the Gautby Park trees?

Please will you answer the request?

Perhaps a tree management policy, if and when agreed, might include coppicing, which is common practice?

6. I note the use of the phrase "should not" allowing for the possibility of inhibition of regrowth.

What is Council proposing to do to allow for and encourage coppice regrowth?

7. Thank you, but I disagree. I asked that commercially sensitive information be redacted so as not to prejudice the commercial interests both of the public authority and its suppliers.

It is important for understanding that the overall works required to be done in the existing contract are seen to be relevant and proper so that future contracts will be improved. Knowledge of costs and prices is irrelevant to me, the requester. I shall be grateful for an internal review to have this question answered.

Council's desire to withhold information that will aid understanding of its operations is of great concern.

8. Accepted.

9. Is Council aware that under Section One of the Wildlife & Countryside Act (1981), it is an offence to intentionally damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built - which is also referred to as an 'active' nest?

10. Accepted.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t...

Yours faithfully,

John H Hutchinson

InfoMgr, FinDMT, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Hutchinson

 

 

We write further to your email of 7 Sept 2020 in which you expressed
dissatisfaction with some of the responses to your FOI request provided 7
September 2020.  This correspondence has been passed to me to conduct an
internal review of the Council’s handling of your request.

 

I note you have accepted responses to Q1 , Q8 and Q10 of your request.

 

Your further comments and questions asked have been noted and reviewed
please find the Council’s response as follows:

 

 

2. Please may we see this Policy?

We do not have a tree management policy. There is a tree strategy which is
available online at [1]www.wirral.gov.uk

You have therefore asked/commented:

Are you saying that Council manages the tree in the Borough in the absence
of a tree management policy?  A strategy is a plan of action whilst a
policy is a set of rules and regulations that sets the day-to-day
decisions.

IR response

Wirral Council can confirm it has a tree risk management methodology which
informs the risk assessment and inspection of our trees, decisions on
individual are taken with reference to BS 3998 – Recommendations for tree
works and the officers assessment of the health of the tree.  We trust
this clarifies your question posed.

https://www.wirral.gov.uk/planning-and-b...

 

 

3. What was the financial gain to WMBC of tree maintenance at Gautby Park?

There is no financial gain to Wirral Council.

You have therefore asked/commented:

Am I correct in understanding that there was net cost on the Tax-payer for
the tree works undertaken?

IR response

There is no financial gain to Wirral Council and it cost the council
£10,785.60 to carry out the tree works on this site.

 

 

4. To what use was the Gautby Park timber waste put and where was this
done?

All arboricultural arisings are the responsibility of the contractor to
legally dispose of or recycle as best they can. The timber here being
mostly decaying crack willow has no commercial value.

You have therefore asked/commented:

I understand the responsibilities of a contractor.  The ultimate
responsibility lies with the contractee. Council must ensure that legal
actions are taken.  What does the Council do to monitor the actions of its
contractors, the tree felling company, in this case?

IR response

As referred to above all arboricultural arisings are the responsibility of
the contractor and therefore subject to contractual rule and procedure
adhered to by the Council.  We can confirm that monthly contract
management meetings take place and post inspections on a random selection
of schemes are undertaken to ensure compliance with the specification.

 

 

5. Why was the usual coppicing practice of a 6- or 10-year rotation not
employed for the Gautby Park trees?

We are unable to comment on historic management practice.

You have therefore asked/commented:

I was not asking about the Council's past management practice.  I was
asking why the usual coppicing practice of a 6- or 10-year rotation was
not employed for the Gautby Park trees?  Please will you answer the
request?  Perhaps a tree management policy, if and when agreed, might
include coppicing, which is common practice?

IR response

Wirral Council has noted your comments and further question however the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 relates only to information already held
in recorded form and we can confirm that the Council does not hold any
recorded information in response to your enquiry.  Wirral Council is
therefore unable to assist further with this.

 

 

6. Why are tree stumps covered with thick debris?

This would have been done as part of the clear up of the site after the
works, it should not inhibit coppice regrowth.

You have therefore asked/commented:

I note the use of the phrase "should not" allowing for the possibility of
inhibition of regrowth.  What is Council proposing to do to allow for and
encourage coppice regrowth?

IR response

Wirral Council has noted your comments however our response remains and we
have no further information to your question posed.

 

 

7. By what means is Mancoed monitored to ensure compliance with the WMBC
contract?

We hold regular contract management meetings to discuss how the contract
is performing.

You have therefore asked/commented:

Thank you, but I disagree.  I asked that commercially sensitive
information be redacted so as not to prejudice the commercial interests
both of the public authority and its suppliers. It is important for
understanding that the overall works required to be done in the existing
contract are seen to be relevant and proper so that future contracts will
be improved.  Knowledge of costs and prices is irrelevant to me, the
requester.  I shall be grateful for an internal review to have this
question answered.  Council's desire to withhold information that will aid
understanding of its operations is of great concern.

IR response

Wirral Council has noted your comments, it is not clear of the question
that is being asked, contracts are subject to contractual rule and
procedure adhered to by the Council as noted in Q4 above and our response
remains the same.

 

 

9. Why does the WMBC contract allow tree maintenance, and hewing trees to
ground level, to be carried out in the breeding season?

We are unable to limit works to the few winter months when birds are not
nesting.

You have therefore asked/commented:

Is Council aware that under Section One of the Wildlife & Countryside Act
(1981), it is an offence to intentionally damage or destroy the nest of
any wild bird while it is in use or being built - which is also referred
to as an 'active' nest?

IR response

Wirral Council has noted your comments however our response remains the
same.  We are aware of the wildlife and countryside act and thusly comply
with this legislation. As birds can nest from March through to October it
just isn’t practicable to limit tree management works to the winter
months.  Should nest building or occupation be observed then, if safe to
do so, the works are delayed until fledging or access under the tree
restricted.

 

 

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of an internal review you also
have the right to complain to the information Commissioner, at this link
[2]https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/

 

We trust that this information is of assistance to you and concludes your
enquiries.

 

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

Tracy O'Hare

Information Management Officer

Wirral Council

Treasury Building

Cleveland Street

Birkenhead
Wirral
CH41 1AH

Email:[3][Wirral Borough Council request email]

Visit our website: [4]www.wirral.gov.uk

 

 

 

This information supplied to you is copyrighted and continues to be
protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.   You are free
to use it for your own purposes, including any non commercial research you
are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other reuse, for
example commercial publication, would require our specific permission, may
involve licensing and the application of a charge

 

 

show quoted sections

John H Hutchinson

Dear InfoMgr, FinDMT,
Thank you for your reply of 5 October 2020 to which I make further comments that are available for the public to read.

3. If the cost to the council was £10,785.60 then the answer to my question was that the cost to the Tax-payer was £10,785.60.

Please, do not patronise us with obfuscatory sentences.

4. It is clear that the Council does not understand its legal obligations with regards to this particular contract.

Council cannot and must not rely after the event upon its contractors conforming to the law. Council by means of an all-inclusive tree management policy, which covers amongst other matters, disposal of tree waste, euphemistically "arboricultural arisings", must instruct its contractors of what the law is, means and does.

Please, do not patronise us with obfuscatory sentences.

5. In the absence of records that would have answered my question, Council is falling back on the self excusing "Wirral Council is therefore unable to assist further with this."

WMBC should be able to say why it does not follow general principles of good management by means of coppicing. It is using the law to hide its shortcomings from the public.

In the absence of a policy on the matter of coppicing WMBC is unable to say anything especially that which will give it due protection. A good policy gives protection to all.

WMBC could say that coppicing will be taken into account when the tree management policy is written in the absence of which its tree risk management methodology will be amended to cover this practice.

6. My comments in 5 above should be taken into account so that Council may say that when the tree management policy is written this practice will be taken into account until then the tree risk management methodology will be amended to cover this practice.

7. Commercially sensitive data can be redacted to show the Council's policies, methodologies and actions to the public so that we may see how the tree risk management methodology is applied to the contractor and determine that it is sufficient for purpose.

8. Wirral Metropolitan Council has replied demonstrating that it has little or no regard for wildlife. WMBC could have replied but failed so to do saying that wildlife concerns and such matters will be taken into account when the tree management policy is written in the absence of which its tree risk management methodology will be amended to cover this practice.

Regardless of practicalities, the law must be obeyed. WMBC abrogates the law.

Nest building and wildlife habits must be taken into account when the tree management policy is written in the absence of which its tree risk management methodology will be amended to cover this practice.

Council's disregard for the law will generate continuing correspondence from concerned residents and others outside of the Borough with concerns for wildlife that WMBC does not have.

Yours sincerely,

John H Hutchinson

John H Hutchinson

Dear InfoMgr, FinDMT,

Thank you!

Yours sincerely,

John H Hutchinson