A quarter of Forestry Commission jobs will go, under Government plans

A quarter of Forestry Commission jobs will go, under Government plans

Britain’s biggest walkers’ campaign group said cuts to the Forestry Commission put in doubt the coalition Government’s commitment to the independent panel set up to look at the future of public woodland.

A quarter of the commission’s staff face the chop, along with the closure of a number of sites and offices.

The services the Forestry Commission offers the public will also be cut back under plans ordered by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and some of the functions of the FC face privatisation.

The proposals would mean 250 commission workers losing their jobs.

The Ramblers said the cuts undermined the credibility of the Independent Panel on Forestry before it had even started work. Ramblers chief executive Tom Franklin is a member of the panel, which is chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool. The panel was appointed by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

Justin Cooke, Ramblers senior policy officer said: “The scale of these cuts is far greater than expected and the timing is exceptionally poor.

“With the independent panel set to make a judgement on the future of the organisation and report back to the Secretary of State next spring,  these cuts risk the credibility of the panel and its final advice and undermine what it’s trying to achieve.

“How can the panel make a valid judgement on the work the Forestry Commission has been doing if these cuts are allowed to continue? It raises serious concerns about the Government’s willingness to let the public help shape the future of England’s forests.”

“We call for all major changes to the Forestry Commission itself to halt, until the panel has had a chance to report back to the Secretary of State. We appeal to the Government to honour this, in light of their own decision to halt all new forestry commission land sales for the very same reason.”

The independent panel recently announced its decision to visit three forest sites to canvass public opinion.

The Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, said: “There is no doubt that people care deeply about the forests and their future.
“This subject has touched a nerve with the public and part of the panel’s work is to understand why.”

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