WHILE Sheffield Council continues to insist that it has no target to remove 17,500 of the city’s cherished street trees – despite the wording of a clause within its £2.2bn highways maintenance contract with private provider Amey and the new emergence of an operational plan from 2012 setting out proposals to replace precisely that number – questions remain.
In March this year, the council told The Yorkshire Post that there would be a “financial adjustment” to the contract terms should fewer than 17,500 trees be removed but said they could not explain whether it would be the authority or Amey footing the bill.
The council now states it will not be able to answer the seemingly simple question of who would pay out should a smaller number of trees be removed for another 19 years. The basis for this argument is that as it is impossible to say exactly how many trees will be replaced by the end of the contract in 2037, the authority “will not be in a position to answer this question until this time”.
While it may be difficult to ascertain what the exact costs would be, it should surely be possible to say in general terms whether the council or Amey would benefit from fewer than 17,500 being removed. This leaves two possibilities – either a council is ignorant of the terms of its own multi-billion contract and the consequences of alterations to it, or the public is still not being told the full story. Even the council’s own cabinet member for environment, Lewis Dagnall, has described the need for transparency as “incredibly important”. Taxpayers should not have to wait almost two decades for answers.