Public and Commercial Services Union
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Forestry body costs public less than a packet of crisps a year

The public body responsible for managing the UK's forests costs less than the price of a packet of crisps a year for each person in England, PCS says.

The value for money provided by the Forestry Commission, at less than 30p each every year, is highlighted as the government prepares to sell off forests with a ‘consultation’ being launched today.

The union, which represents 900 staff at the commission, says the government should keep the whole of the English public forests in public ownership and publicly run.

The Forestry Commission currently runs multipurpose forests – visited by 40 million people a year – providing economic, social and environmental benefits, as required by internationally recognised principles for good forest management.

Public ownership ensures the commission carries out a wide range of functions that the union does not believe can be provided by the private and voluntary sectors.

In 2009 the commission conducted a detailed study of the long-term role of public forests that concluded public ownership was essential in supporting the forestry estate.

Private sector owners would inevitably want to make a profit and would be likely to cut down swathes of forests, restrict public access and facilities, and would not provide the same level of support for environmental objectives.

With charities having to rely on fundraising, as well as support from taxpayer-funded grants, the union does not believe there are any savings to the exchequer from such a transfer.

In a recent YouGov poll for campaign group 38 Degrees, 84% of the public said they did not want their forests sold for private profit, and more than 200,000 people have signed a petition to oppose the sell-off.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Our public forests are extremely important for the environment, for wildlife and to help solve problems such as climate change. The government is putting all this at risk with a dangerous ideological plan to sell them off to the highest bidder.

"While the voluntary sector does a lot of good work in our forests, we do not believe volunteers can replace experienced staff and forest managers.

"With the Forestry Commission providing such good value for money the alternative is clear, and the government should scrap its plans to allow big businesses to profit from our natural environment."

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