The London Tree Officers Association (LTOA) is an organisation that represents and supports Local Authority tree officers. Local Authorities are by their nature political organisations which have to balance many conflicting priorities. One of the principal roles of a tree officer is to ensure that trees are seen as one of these priorities and that the benefits of trees are understood within their organisation. One of the principal roles of the LTOA is to help and empower tree officers to make these arguments and achieve these aims.
It must be acknowledged and accepted that on occasion councils can and do make political decisions that we do not agree with. However, it is the policy of the LTOA to not criticise individual councils for these decisions. To do so would compromise the position of our member tree officers, all of whom themselves represent the councils in which they work. Making public criticisms of council activities would undermine our ability as an organisation – and the ability of our members – to influence decisions in the future.
The ongoing situation in Sheffield is of obvious concern to many and has rightly attracted widespread attention. The understanding of the LTOA is that part of the problem in Sheffield has been caused by the fact that street trees are no longer being managed by tree officers, but that responsibility for this function has been outsourced to a private contractor. It should be noted that in those departments of Sheffield Council which still employ tree officers some fantastic work is being done. The LTOA support the suggestion that in order to enjoy a healthy population of urban trees, it is essential to also have a healthy population of urban tree officers. The situation in Sheffield serves to demonstrate how important this is.
Needless to say this position does not restrict any individual members from campaigning or signing any petition or undertaking any other activity in their own name or as a representative of their employer. We have no doubt that as professional arboricultural experts and tree lovers, many of our members will choose to do just that.