Workers in the New Forest face the prospect of losing their homes if the Forestry Commission goes ahead with ‘draconian’ rent rises of 80 per cent over the next two years.
About 25 workers, who earn about £21,000-a-year, will be hit if the commission increases the rents by 40 per cent in January 2018 and by the same amount in January 2019.
Unite, the country’s largest union, which represents a number of the workers, is due to have another meeting with the Forestry Commission surveyors on Friday (8 December) to put forward the case for ‘a sensible and compassionate approach’ to rent rises.
Unite regional officer Richard White said: “Unfortunately, we have not been able, so far, to change the commission’s mind and these draconian rent rises are set to go ahead in the new year.
“These workers – some of whom are retired - are on modest incomes and won’t be able to afford these increases, so will be forced to give up their homes and seek accommodation elsewhere.
“This is a travesty as these employees, with many years of dedicated service to the preservation of the New Forest, are part of the DNA of these ancient woodlands.
“The commission is under pressure from the government to charge so-called ‘market rents’, which our members patently can’t afford.
“For example, a property was offered to workers at £1,000-a-month, which was well beyond their budget, and then it was put on the market at £1,300-a-month with the intention of attracting prosperous professionals with no connection to the husbandry of the forest.
“It is clear that the commission can’t see the wood from the trees and only appears interested in raking in money at the expense of the forestry workers. An urgent re-think by the commission is required.”
Last year when this issue was mooted support for the forestry workers came from New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis who expressed concern that traditional long-term rental contracts were being phased out and replaced by short-term ones of a couple of years, with the prospect of rent rises every time they are renewed.
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.