THE FORESTRY COMMISSION ENGLAND EXECUTIVE BOARD
MINUTES OF THE 64th MEETING
Room 301, Ergon House, London
17 December 2009
Present: Paul Hill-Tout, Chairman
In attendance: David Felstead (Item 3)
Bruce Rothnie (Item 8)
Karen Simpson (Minute Secretary)
Paul Hill-Tout opened the meeting.
2. MINUTES AND MATTERS ARISING FROM MEETING ON 17 NOVEMBER
The Board approved the minutes from the meeting on 17 November.
Corporate Plan 2010-13
The Board noted the second draft of the Corporate Plan and it was agreed that Board
members would send any detailed comments to Karen Simpson.
Action 64/1: All Board members
Paul Hill-Tout updated the Board on the GBEB meeting that had taken place the
previous week. The SLA budgets had been signed off and it had been agreed that
the 2010/11 budget for England should not exceed the outturn for 2008/09. The GB
staff survey report had been discussed.
3. INFORMATION SERVICES
David Felstead presented the Board with an update on the work of IS. He outlined
the IS Strategy, including strategic priorities and governing principles, which had
been approved by the GB Executive Board the previous week. David Felstead noted
that the principles did not stand alone but set the ground rules for IS in the context of
the business. It was important that IS colleagues have input at the start of projects to
ensure that the appropriate technology was being used. The strategy was intended
to use resources more efficiently and free up capacity in order to provide a better
Paul Hill-Tout noted that it would be useful for the Board to be given a better
understanding of what the fixed costs of providing basic services was for all of the
It was agreed that a copy of David Felstead’s presentation would be circulated to the
Action 64/2: Secretariat
EEB members would consider how to disseminate the presentation to their teams
and would send David Felstead any suggestions on how he can engage further with
areas of the business e.g. attending relevant meetings.
Action 64/3: All Board members
4. FINANCE REPORT
Steve Meeks introduced Paper 58/09 which updated the Board on the financial
position as at the end of November and updated the Board on business continuity
within the finance function. Current indications were that FCE remained broadly on
track against budget, although this was dependent upon our various Winter and
Spring Supplementary Estimates and non-cash bids being accepted by Defra and the
Treasury. The outcome of those bids should be known by early January 2010.
FEE was forecasting additional resource expenditure and income on various
partnership projects with the net position remaining broadly neutral. The timber
market remained steady and FEE was on track to meet this year’s income forecast.
FEE’s cash flow remained volatile and robust management would be required as the
final quarter of the financial year approached.
There was a £2m shortfall in asset disposals due to the delay in the sale of
development land in Dorset. Defra had agreed to £1.5m cover in the Spring
Supplementary which was repayable in 2010/11, with the balance being found from
within the disposal programme.
Forecasts needed to be as robust as possible and it was agreed that EEB members
would let Steve Meeks know as soon as possible if their teams became aware of
emerging issues or uncertainties that may result in material variances from the
Action 64/4: All Board members
The Board noted the latest report on the financial position as at the end of November
and the measures being taken on business continuity within the finance function.
5. 2010 BUSINESS PLANNING – CURRENT POSITION AND NEXT STEPS
Paul Hill-Tout had had Business Planning meetings with EEB leads earlier in the
week, and Steve Meeks presented a summary of the current position. Initial
submissions from EEB leads were approximately £2m over the agreed 2010/11
settlement and Steve Meeks had written to EEB leads about this. A paper would be
presented to the ENC at its next meeting on 20 January. Paul Hill-Tout noted the
need to provide Defra with clear examples of efficiencies gained to date and Steve
Meeks would be contacting EEB members.
Action 64/5: Steve Meeks
6. RISK MANAGEMENT QUARTERLY REVIEW
Steve Meeks introduced Paper 59/09 and updated the Board on progress in England
in testing the Business Continuity Plans (BCPs). A sample of country BCPs had
been reviewed by external consultants to ensure compliance with current standards.
Although largely compliant, the consultants noted that plans are primarily focussed
on physical assets rather than key business procedures. This would be reviewed.
Work was progressing in Silvan House on the production of BCPs and consideration
was being given to the business needs of IS disaster recovery.
The Board reviewed the latest versions of the Risk Registers. The Registers had
been presented to the Audit and Risk Committee on 18 November, which had
discussed Diversity in detail. The ARC recognised that real progress had been made
and the risk of legal action had been addressed. However, it recommended that
sustained work was still needed to make sure that measurable change happened
soon and requested an update in a year’s time.
Laura Jones noted that the SROs for each risk needed to be reviewed. It was
agreed that Board members would consider who the SRO should be for each risk
and send any changes to Steve Meeks.
Action 64/6: All Board members
The Board agreed that it was important to strike a balance between having
comprehensive risk registers and focusing on the main risks. It was agreed that the
top three risks at any one time would be identified and included in the regular finance
Lord David Clark had retired as Chairman of the Forestry Commission on
9 December. A process was underway to appoint a new Chairman and an
announcement would be made in the New Year. In the meantime, Tim Rollinson
would be acting chair of the GB Commissioners and Tayo Adebowale would be
acting chair of the England National Committee.
A number of Government reviews were underway which were of relevance to the
Forestry Commission and Paul Hill-Tout updated the Board on these. These
included Deep Dive for which terms of reference were not yet available. Defra
economists had been asked to provide an economic analysis of Defra’s programmes.
Pat Snowdon had been approached to pull together existing material for an economic
analysis of the Forestry Commission and would be liaising with Defra. As regards the
Review of Arms Length Bodies, Paul Hill-Tout had received terms of reference and
the heads of all delivery bodies were being asked to provide information by 8
January. It was agreed that Paul Hill-Tout would circulate the terms of reference to
Action 64/7: Paul Hill-Tout
He would circulate a draft of the Forestry Commission’s response in the first week of
January to seek comments of Board members.
Action 64/8: Paul Hill-Tout
Work was ongoing with the Public Value Programme, the PFE Study and Operational
As lead in England, Laura Jones presented the Board with an update on
Phytophthora. Roger Coppock was the lead at GB level and Bruce Rothnie was
undertaking the national project management role. Work was ongoing with Fera and
FR to understand the disease and the extent of infection. A quick survey of the
disease on the public forest estate had been done, and an England Task Group
established. A communication plan had been prepared to support ongoing work.
The Board discussed the risks and next steps and agreed that FCE should continue
with a collaborative approach. Mark Pritchard outlined the Commission’s powers and
the legal situation. FC staff would be meeting with affected owners early in 2010 to
discuss our assessment of the situation and seek their co-operation to fell under
notice. Private sector views and input to the strategy would be sought. The Board
agreed with the approach and actions being taken, and expressed its thanks to
colleagues who had been working on this.
Paul Hill-Tout noted that Tim Rollinson and Wilma Harper were undertaking wider
work on biosecurity issues. It was agreed that Robin Maynard would consider
whether there was alternative wording to ‘biosecurity’ which could be used.
Action 64/9: Robin Maynard
Paul Hill-Tout had been liaising with Roger Coppock about a submission to update
Ministers on Acute Oak Decline. It was agreed that the EEB would discuss Acute
Oak Decline early in 2010.
9. WOODFUEL IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
Richard Britton updated the EEB on the WIP. Since its meeting on 30 November, the
Woodfuel Programme Board had focussed on two main issues, namely assessing
resources and commenting on the latest version of the draft Plan. The EEB
discussed the resources available and noted progress.
10. HR UPDATE
Sarah England presented Paper 61/09 which updated the Board on HR issues. E-
recruitment was being rolled out with training for staff scheduled from December to
February. The results of the staff survey were on the internet and it was agreed that
Sarah England would present the results of the survey in England to the Board in due
Allan Mackenzie has requested that FCE set up a Health and Safety Committee for
formal consultation with the FCTU. The majority of issues that would arise were
likely to be FE related and Sarah England was considering how best to take this
Given the recent business need for a number of longer-term TRA opportunities, the
Board agreed that Sarah England should explore the possibility of creating a policy
for England with FCTU that would allow staff to take up posts as development
Action 64/10: Sarah England
As regards Investors in People (IiP), three key areas for improvement had been
identified and collectively work was needed towards ensuring we retain IiP next year.
Sarah England would discuss the development of an action plan with the HR team
and L&D, and would present the results to the EEB in 2010.
Action 64/11: Sarah England
As regards Diversity, it was agreed that it would be useful to do some analysis of the
applications received for job vacancies arising at the National Office in Bristol as a
result of the changes in National Office arrangements.
Any Other Business
Business Sustainability Programme
Simon Hodgson reported that there had been a meeting of the Programme Board the
previous week. Sustainability reporting in our accounts would be undertaken by the
Finance Team. He noted the considerable increase in the workload and that
baseline data was now available for 2008/09.