Claims management companies are targeting Milton Keynes and other councils over the damage caused to properties by tree roots.
A meeting at MK Council next week is due to be told that the authority is working its way through 60 ‘disrepair’ claims, at an estimated total cost to next year’s budget of £240,000.
In addition, Wednesday’s (Oct 2) meeting of the Budget and Resources Scrutiny Committee will be told that council officers want to contract a tree surgeon next year at an additional cost of £150,000. Until now, the council has had a ‘minimal’ budget for tree works, background papers reveal.
“Disrepair cases are on the rise as Milton Keynes, like many other local authorities are targeted by claim companies,” says the council’s asset manager, Mark Johnson, in his report to the committee.
“We are currently working through 60 plus disrepair cases and we need to allocate funding to ensure we have funds to cover any successful claims made.” They estimate that successful claims average at £4,000 each.
Until now, the money to pay for successful claims against it has been taken from the council’s repair budget.
The council is also planning to increase investment in its housing stock to “lower the day to day repairs required”. And they add that they will be “robust in contesting claims.”
In another related report, Mr Johnson says: “Tree removals are becoming more prevalent due to increased notification of damage to structures and buildings through root damage.
“If this funding is not forthcoming, then we would expect a rise in disrepair cases from tenants experiencing structural movement.”
There are more than 22 million trees planted across the borough of Milton Keynes, with many of them close to properties. Tree roots can cause the ground to move and this movement can cause structural damage to buildings.
A spokesperson for Milton Keynes Council said: “In order to deal with properties with structural defects caused by movement either small and large it was viewed that the budget is increased to remove trees when causing issue.
“Housing repairs and maintenance needs do attract possible disrepair claims given the age of the properties and investment needs which we are addressing through our £165m Investment programme over the next five years.”
The issue of damaged and diseases trees also cropped up at a meeting of the Parishes Forum, at Milton Keynes Council yesterday (Thursday). The forum gives a chance for representatives of the 48 parish councils in the city to discuss issues with MK Council.
Nick Hannon, the council’s head of environment and waste, responding to a question from a representative, said the council is carrying out its first tree survey in years.
The council is in the process of trying to devolve landscaping and other services to the parishes, but there is concern if the borough hands over diseased or damaged trees, the liability could fall upon the network of local parishes.