Confor: Constructive industry meeting held with GLA
ConFor facilitated a constructive industry meeting with senior representatives of the Gangmaster Licensing Authority, at which proposals for improving the licensing system for forestry businesses were discussed.
“We were keen to explore ways of significantly reducing the burden on forestry businesses given the industry’s view that it is a low risk sector”, said ConFor chief executive Stuart Goodall. “I was pleased that the GLA was prepared to talk constructively with us and some really good ideas were identified and discussed.”
GLA’s chairman, chief executive and policy officer met with ConFor, FCA and forestry businesses to discuss each other’s views on the nature of gangmaster activity in forestry and on the impact of licensing on businesses in the sector. The industry made clear that, while it did not condone gangmaster activity, it believed that the current operation of the licensing system was having a counter-productive effect pushing many small businesses out of the sector and undermining achievement of government targets for forestry.
A key issue discussed was whether the forestry sector could act as a pilot industry for an enhanced risk-based approach to licensing. This could involve a reduction in the number of physical inspections and a significant, or even perhaps a total, removal of the one-off licensing fee. This idea will be explored further in the next few months.
The level of the annual fee was also discussed, with industry noting that the annual turnover of many businesses was far below that of the minimum band of £1 million. This issue, along with that of the scope of the Act, is something that industry will take up now with Defra.
The lack of clear, up-to-date guidance for forestry was raised and GLA welcomed an industry offer to help draft this.
“The impact of gangmaster licensing on businesses in the sector has been an issue of real concern. I hope we can work with the GLA to come up with an approach that will ensure we remain a sector that is not plagued by such activity, but that is also able to benefit from increased interest in planting, managing and harvesting trees”, said Stuart.