UKTC Archive

RE: Councils Carrying Out Tree Inspections on Private Land

Subject: RE: Councils Carrying Out Tree Inspections on Private Land
From: Tim Moya
Date: Dec 21 2011 15:39:22
It has been common for local authorities to employ outside consultants as 
officers for some time. We have done and still do provide these services, 
however, we do not take on private work in the authority areas concerned 
while in post. In principle there should not be any reason why council 
officers should not provide services to private clients. However - 

The Audit Commission examined this issue and provides guidance

"In using external support the council has to be aware of potential conflict 
of interest. Our study showed that the councils using external consultants 
required them to declare any conflicts of interest when processing planning 
applications and appeals. This is no different from councillors declaring an 
interest and therefore not voting on a planning application. However, it is 
advisable, prior to any contract being agreed, for the council and the 
consultant to discuss the levels of private work that the consultant 
undertakes in the council's area and, based on this, decide whether the firm 
can realistically provide development control services to the council. 
However, we stress the fact that in all cases it is the council that remains 
the planning authority and issues the decisions. This can either take the 
form of a) a consultant's report to committee, where councillors take the 
decision, or b) a consultant can prepare a recommendation and a planner, 
directly employed by the council, makes the decision under delegated powers"

Taking the point about the level of private work that consultants do in the 
council's area and applying this to tree officers working in or for the 
planning department it would seem likely that they would not pass this test 
in relation to giving advice on private trees within their borough. If a 
private consultant was principally involved in working on planning projects 
within a single borough they would not be likely to be considered suitable as 
an external consultant to the council.

None of the above answers the points raised about tree officers being paid 
for in part by local businesses with whom they will be competing.


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