- Summary of priority issues of concern
While broadly accepting the case for rents to rise, plot holders have requested Councillors and BHCC officers to look again at the following before the proposal is finalised:
- The flat fee for plots – seen as unfair to those with smaller plots. Can the formula be revised to achieve the same amount of additional revenue in a way that reflects the size of the plot?
- Whether the impact of the proposed increase on those on low incomes (and not covered by existing concessions) has been examined in the equalities impact assessment?
Other issues of concern that plot holders would like BHCC to address:
- Explain how the admin fee was calculated and provide more clarity on allotment service costs and budgets.
- Improve the invoicing and billing of rents – invoices to be sent out on time, provision of capability for monthly/quarterly direct debits would help people on lower incomes to budget.
- Ensure improvements in the service that justify the increase.
- Look again at the case for blanket concessions for the over 60s. Many plot holders in that age group feel it is inequitable and the concession should be income related.
BHAF ALLOTMENT FORUM MEETING 25.01.23
Transcript of discussion on proposed rent rise is attached below
Councillor Jamie Lloyd, ETS Committee
Rachel Chasseaud, Assistant Director, City Environment
Robert Walker, Head of City Parks
Chair: Mark Carroll, BHAF
Hilary Standing : Secretary BHAF
BHAF Committee members: Hannes Froehlich, Vicki Williams, Andrew Amos, Giuseppina Salamone, Maude Casey, Allan Brown, Ronnie Mair
Also present: Bruce Riach, Allotment Officer, City Parks.
Around 40-50 people attended this meeting to hear from Councillor Lloyd and put their questions and concerns about the proposed rent rise to him and senior officers from BHCC.
Councillor Lloyd presented the reasons behind the rise. He stressed that they did not want to raise charges and fees for any Council services but were left with no other option to plug the 20 million gap in the Council’s finances. They were facing having to close nurseries and other vital services. They needed to raise an additional £45,000 to fund the allotments service from 2023. £6,000 would come from increased rental by improving the void rate. £39,000 would be raised by charging an additional flat rate admin fee on all plots, along with an inflation rise of 3%.
The original proposal was for an across-the-board rent rise of approximately 37%. The current proposal emerged (after representations from BHAF) that given the cost-of-living crisis, it is essential to protect those on concessions – pensioners, the unemployed and others on benefits – from rising rents. The reason for proposing a flat fee is because the admin costs are the same for each plot, regardless of the size of the plot.
ANNEX – CONSULTATION METHOD AND RESULTS
- 36 detailed email responses.
- Facebook poll. The post was read by 480 people of whom 180 completed the poll.
- Special meeting of the Allotment Forum on 25th January to which all plot holders were invited, and attended by Councillor Jamie Lloyd and BHCC officers (approx. 50 participants).
- BHAF Facebook group poll.
The poll question was: “Do you think, considering the financial situation the Council finds itself in, the current state of the allotment service and the cost-of-living crisis, that the fee increase of £25 per plot is acceptable?” Here are the results:
|Yes, as long as people on low incomes are protected from the rise||68%|
|No, I would have to give up my plot||0%|
- Email responses
Response/Issue raised No of views expressed
|Rise acceptable/supported if those who can’t afford it are protected||10|
|Happy to pay without further changes to the proposal||4|
|Prepared to pay more than the proposed charge to subsidise those who can’t afford the extra rent||4|
|Supportive of a lower charge||1|
|Proposed increase not acceptable||3|
|Can’t afford to pay more||4|
|Need to protect everyone who can’t afford to pay||3|
|Remove automatic concession for over-60s from those able to pay the full increase||2|
|Should provide option to pay monthly or quarterly to make it easier for those on low incomes||2|
|Increase not justified – BHCC should recognise the wider social and economic benefits of allotments to health, welfare and food security||5|
Unfair to those with half and quarter plots
Prepared to pay more for a full plot
Will those with separated half plots have to pay twice?
Concerned that it sets precedent for future rises
Needs to be justified – what exactly is it funding that is not covered by the existing rent?
We need an improved allotment service to justify higher charges (lack of support to site reps, requests go unanswered, lack of maintenance, junk piling up, overgrown trees and vegetation, untended plots not being let)