MD2567 Urban Tree Challenge Fund - revised London grant award

Type of decision: 
Mayoral decision
Code: 
MD2567
Date signed: 
14 January 2020
Decision by: 
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Executive summary

In October 2019 the Forestry Commission (FC) offered the GLA a grant of £2,165,246 from the national Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTCF) to plant new street trees in London. This followed the GLA co-ordinating a bid to the fund from 20 London boroughs and the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone team. It was necessary for the GLA to co-ordinate the bid as the government was only accepting ‘block grant’ applications for funding over £500,000 which precluded boroughs from applying individually. The acceptance of this funding was approved by the Mayor under cover of MD2528.

However, the FC temporarily withdrew funding offers to all applicants nationally in November 2019 due to errors in how the initial offers were calculated. The FC revised their calculations and in December 2019 offered the GLA a grant of £2,011,461. Under Mayoral Decision Making in the GLA, this reduction in income is sufficient to require a fresh Decision.

The FC grant requires match funding. The GLA will provide match funding of up to £1.2m (approved under cover of MD2141 and MD2285) from the Greener City Fund and the boroughs will provide match funding of up to £1.24m

The combined funding from the UTCF, GLA and boroughs will enable the planting of 7072 new street trees. This is a reduction of 619 trees compared to the 7691 due to be planted through the original grant offer. The street trees will be planted in 2019-20 and 2020-21, targeted in wards of low canopy cover and high deprivation. The FC grant will be paid in arrears to the GLA in 2019-20 and 2020-21 with further maintenance payments in 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24. The GLA will be the accountable body for the FC funding in holding the grant funding and distributing it to boroughs.

Decision

That the Mayor approves the GLA’s receipt of £2,011,461 from the Forestry Commission; and expenditure of up to £3,211,461 (comprising the sums to be reimbursed from the Forestry Commission funding and up to £1.24m from the GLA’s Greener City Fund) to deliver street tree planting through the Urban Tree Challenge Fund.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

MD2528 sets out the background to this project and it records the Mayor’s approval of the original grant award to the GLA from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund, as well as the expenditure of GLA match funding. As this grant offer was subsequently revised by the Forestry Commission, this new MD2567 seeks approvals in respect of the updated budget and outputs for the London street tree planting project through the Urban Tree Challenge Fund.

The Mayor approved (under cover of MD2141 (July 2017) and MD2285 (May 2018)) the budget for the £12,000,000 Greener City Fund for the period 2017-18 to 2020-21, including £4,500,000 for trees and woodlands. The £4,500,000 for trees and woodlands was to support a number of programmes including providing match funding for public realm tree planting in 2019-20 and 2020-21 (MD2285, para 2.11 and Table 2).

In May 2019 the government announced its Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTCF), a national fund of £10,000,000 to support a number of objectives in Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan and also contribute towards meeting the government’s commitment to plant one million urban trees by 2022. The UTCF opened this summer for block bids of over £500,000 for tree planting projects in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

When applications opened it became clear that it would be necessary for the GLA to co-ordinate any London bid as the government were only accepting ‘block grant’ applications for funding over £500,000 which precluded boroughs from applying individually. The GLA worked with the London Tree Officers Association and invited all boroughs to submit expressions of interest to participate in the bid. Twenty boroughs expressed an interest in bidding and provided their planting requests to the GLA, who collated the bid.

The GLA submitted an application at the end of August 2019 for £2,800,000 of government funding from the UTCF, and heard from the Forestry Commission at the start of October that it had been successful in being awarded £2,165,246.

However, in early November 2019 the GLA heard from the FC that they were temporarily withdrawing all offers made through the UTCF due to errors made in the calculations of the initial grant offers. The errors varied but in the GLA’s case it was that the FC offer should not have included planting in certain wards which scored below 100 against the FC’s criteria (a combination of canopy cover and deprivation).

In early December the FC issued a revised grant offer to the GLA of £2,011,461. This offer removed 10 wards in Harrow, Kingston, Richmond and Sutton which were lower scoring. This is a grant reduction of £153,785.

Mayoral Decision Making in the GLA (the Scheme of Delegation) sets out the provisions where the value of a financial commitment associated with a Decision changes. Under Section 18.13, as this represents a reduction in income of over £50,000, a new Decision Form is required.

The UTCF grant requires match funding. The GLA will provide match funding to boroughs of up to £1,200,000 from the Greener City Fund (approved under MD2141 and MD2285). The GLA’s match funding has been maintained at the original level to support some additional planting in boroughs disproportionately affected by the reduction in Forestry Commission grant. This will be paid to the participating boroughs with the FC grant, meaning that the GLA will be awarding total grant funding of up to £3,211,461. The boroughs will provide match funding of up to £1,240,000. Note that the GLA Greener City Fund budget will not be providing match funding to the Royal Docks project, which will be matched from the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone budget. The FC grant funding for tree planting in the Royal Docks will be transferred to the GLA Royal Docks Enterprise Zone team budget once it has been received from the FC (see paragraph 2.5).

Objectives and expected outcomes
  1. The combined funding from the UTCF, GLA and boroughs will enable the planting of up to 7072 new street trees across the 20 boroughs who chose to participate in the UTCF application: Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Brent, Camden, Croydon, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Richmond-upon-Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster. Combined UTCF, GLA and borough funding will directly support the planting of 6938 trees, with 134 trees supported by GLA and borough match funding only. The street trees will be planted in 2019-20 and 2020-21, targeted in wards of low canopy cover (below 20 per cent) and high deprivation.
  2.  
  3. This is a reduction of 619 trees compared to the 7691 due to be planted through the original grant offer.
  4.  
  5. The FC grant will be paid in arrears to the GLA in 2019-20 and 2020-21 with further maintenance payments in 2021-22,2022-23 and 2023-24. We anticipate the process being: boroughs will make an annual grant claim to the GLA in arrears after the tree planting season each year, with evidence of expenditure and details of the trees planted. The GLA will then make its annual claim to the FC for the FC grant amount. Once the FC has paid the GLA’s claim, the GLA will then use the FC funding and the GLA match to pay valid borough claims. The GLA has requested details from the FC of the precise grant monitoring and claims processes for the grant funding. These reporting and claim requirements will be incorporated into the GLA’s grant agreements with boroughs.
  6.  
  7. The GLA match funding of up to £1.2m from the Greener City Fund (approved under MD2141 and MD2285) will form part of the grant awarded to boroughs in 2019-20 and 2020-21 and a condition of the award of funding to boroughs will be that they also provide their own match funding. The FC grant funding will cover all UTCF payments to boroughs in 2021-22,2022-23 and 2023-24.
  8.  
  9. The trees budget of the Greener City Fund requires re-profiling over 2019-20 and 2020-21 to align with the grant payments of the UTCF and also to reflect the grant profile of woodland creation projects (subject to a separate MD2529). See Table 1 for the current Greener City Fund tree delivery budget. Table 2 shows the proposed re-profiled trees budget line and Table 3 shows the tree delivery budget with the additional £2,011,461 income from the FC.
  10.  
  11. Table 1 – Current profile of the Greener City Fund - Tree Delivery Budget:
 

 

 

 

 

2019-20 (£000)

2020-21 (£000)

2021-22 (£000)

2022-23 (£000)

Total (£000)

Greener City Fund Budget - Trees

3,160

460

0

 0

 

3,620

               

 

  1. Table 2 – Proposed re-profile of the Greener City Fund – Tree Delivery Budget:
 

 

 

 

2019-20 (£000)

2020-21 (£000)

2021-22 (£000)

2022-23 (£000)

Total (£000)

Greener City Fund Budget - Trees

2,090

1,530

0

0

 

3,620

             
  1. Table 3- Proposed re-profile of the Greener City Fund - Tree Delivery Budget, including the additional income from the Forestry Commission:
 

 

 

 

 

2019-20

 (£000)

2020-21

 (£000)

2021-22

 (£000)

2022-23

 (£000)

2023-24

 (£000)

Total

 (£000)

Trees (including additional FC income)

2,389

2,090

454

454

245

5,632

Forestry Commission income

-299

-560

-454

-454

-245

-2,012

Total (£000)

2,090

1,530

0

0

0

3,620

 

Equality comments

See MD2528.

Other considerations

Table 4 – key risks and issues

The risks are unchanged from MD2528.

Links to Mayoral strategies and priorities

See MD2528.

Financial comments

Approval is being sought for the receipt and expenditure of up to the revised £3,211,461 for the Tree Planting Project. Although the overall project has a value of up to £4,451,461 the GLA will manage and be accountable for up to £3,211,461 only. The Forestry Commission has confirmed it will award £2,011,461 of this with the GLA funding the remaining £1,200,000.

As the grant will be paid in arrears, it is recommended the Authority ensure all related expenditure is eligible before it takes place.

This reduction in funding has resulted in the need to rescope the project and further re-profiling of the budget as set out in table 3. This reprofiling will be highlighted as part of the quarter three reporting process.

As per MD2528, it should be noted that the Forestry Commission’s grant is to be transferred to the GLA as capital grant. However, as the GLA accounts for Tree planting as revenue expenditure (in line with previous tree planting programmes), the grant of £2,011,461 will be subject to a capital/ revenue swap via the Authority’s Capital Programme Reserve.

This project will be contained within the Environment Programme budget, specifically the Greener City revenue budget.

Activity table

Activity

Timeline

GLA sign funding agreement with the Forestry Commission to accept the grant funding

Early January 2020

GLA sign grant agreements with 20 boroughs + Royal Docks to award the FC funding

By mid-January 2020

Announcement of grant funding

January TBC by Forestry Commission

Tree Planting Delivery 2019-20: year one

Jan-early March 2020

Year one monitoring and grant claim from FC; grant payments to boroughs

March 2020

Tree Planting Delivery 2020-21: year two

November 2020-Feb 2021

Year two monitoring and grant claim from FC; grant payments to boroughs

March 2021

Delivery End Date

April 2021

Year 3 maintenance payments

TBC 2021-22

Year 4 maintenance payments

TBC 2022-23

Year 5 maintenance payments

TBC 2023-24

Final evaluation start and finish (external)

TBC by Forestry Commission

Project Closure

April 2024


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