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> Newbury Town Council Allotment Rent Protest, Seems the Town Council have been caught in a lie
Simon Kirby
post Feb 1 2011, 12:26 PM
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I have been in dispute with Newbury Town Council for the last eighteen months over the enforceability of their allotment rent increase. Consumer protection legislation makes it unlawful for the Council to increase the rent without notice. The Council's position was that if a tenant pays then that makes it all right, but I felt strongly that the Council had a moral duty to operate within the legislation and was left with no option but to withhold payment of last year's increase and risk eviction.

The Council served notice and set a deadline for eviction of 17 May, and then extended the deadline to 13 December. It would now appear that the Council were bluffing as I set them a final deadline for the end of January to follow through with their threatened court action, yet still they prevaricate.

For me then the issue is resolved as there is no remaining doubt that the rent increase is indeed unenforceable so my rent stays the same. However, I made a stand against the Council in the interests of my fellow allotmenteers too because rents have almost tripled over the last 10 years and none of those year-on-year increases have been lawful. Not only is the Council obliged to reset rents to the rate at the start of our tenancies, but many tenants will have overpaid enough to give them their plot rent-free for the next five years.

This debacle wasn't just the usual Town Council ineptitude and heads must roll. There has been a deliberate and concerted attempt to evade the consumer protection legislation. I was threatened by the Council with the consequences of raising the issue, and since I have done so the Council have waged a campaign to smear, intimidate, and marginalise me. They have made spurious complaints against me for a number of imagined infractions of their site rules such as flying my flag too high, brushing my dogs on my plot and singing too loud at the summer social. I have already been served with an eviction notice because they say my allotment path is not the regulation width, and I have no doubt that this harassment will now be stepped up. To be honest I could do with a little support now.


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Iommi
post Feb 1 2011, 12:34 PM
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Is there no arbitration or ombudsman you can use to get these tossers off your back (notwithstanding being a little less brusque with them!)?
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Simon Kirby
post Feb 1 2011, 12:49 PM
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QUOTE (Iommi @ Feb 1 2011, 12:34 PM) *
Is there no arbitration or ombudsman you can use to get these tossers off your back (notwithstanding being a little less brusque with them!)?

It needs to go to court, and of course this is exactly why the Town Council will not follow through with their threatened action, because it would find them out. If the Council don't concede that the rent increase was unenforceable then I can use the Civil Procedure Rule to bring the matter to court, but there's no benefit to me in doing that because I'm not paying the increase and I'm not being evicted for it, so unless a whole bunch of disgruntled allotmenteers join me and stand up for themselves that part of the dispute ends here.

Ending the intimidation is not so easy because it has the councillors' willing endorsement, but unless it's actually a councillor doing the intimidation there is no one to complain to. In a free society you kind of assume councils won't behave like this, but hey. It would obviously help if my fellow allotmenteers spoke up, but that's not happened yet.


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Iommi
post Feb 1 2011, 12:57 PM
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So our resident 'terrier' Benyon is not a plausible option?
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Simon Kirby
post Feb 1 2011, 01:36 PM
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QUOTE (Iommi @ Feb 1 2011, 12:57 PM) *
So our resident 'terrier' Benyon is not a plausible option?

We've spoken about it, but he'd been briefed by the town council who assured him that they were right. Not unreasonable that he should believe them.


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Iommi
post Feb 1 2011, 02:53 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Feb 1 2011, 01:36 PM) *
We've spoken about it, but he'd been briefed by the town council who assured him that they were right. Not unreasonable that he should believe them.

I'm thinking about the way they seem to be 'harassing' you, perhaps there is human rights legislation that could be pursued?
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Simon Kirby
post Feb 1 2011, 04:43 PM
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QUOTE (Iommi @ Feb 1 2011, 02:53 PM) *
I'm thinking about the way they seem to be 'harassing' you, perhaps there is human rights legislation that could be pursued?

It would be a very hard way of going about it. HRA is helpful to bring into a defence as you can use it in the lower courts, but you can only bring an action under the HRA in the High Court, and it's not so obviously a HRA issue.

It might be possible to sue for breach of the landlord's implied obligation to give me quiet enjoyment of my allotment, but it's not so easy. At some point someone on the Council has got to look at what's going on and speak up for me, surely. It's kind of ironic that it was to defen tenants from just this sort of harasment that I created the allotment society over three years ago, and it was becuse I stuck my head above the parapet that I've been singled out for the treatment. Disappointing that the allotment society won't speak up too.


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Iommi
post Feb 1 2011, 05:44 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Feb 1 2011, 04:43 PM) *
Disappointing that the allotment society won't speak up too.

Is there not a national allotment body for this sort of thing?
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Simon Kirby
post Feb 1 2011, 06:18 PM
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QUOTE (Iommi @ Feb 1 2011, 05:44 PM) *
Is there not a national allotment body for this sort of thing?

There's a Nationl Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners who, had I been a member, might have given me some technical advice, but to be honest I've probbly got as good a graps of the legislation as they have. There's a serious question to ask about how much help Trading Standards should have been because they obliged the Town Council to change the tenancy agreement but I feel that their duty is to have gone futher still and to have prevented the Town Council from relying on an unfair agreement. This wasn't just me you understand, there are over five hundred allotmenteers with plots from Newbury Town Council.

Like I say, this was a concerted effort to circumvent the legislation and heads must roll. The Council are having an emergency meeting to discuss their response so it's possible they'll hold their hand up and put things right, but it depends on them chosing to do the right thing so I'm not holding my breath.


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Cognosco
post Feb 1 2011, 07:45 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Feb 1 2011, 12:26 PM) *
I have been in dispute with Newbury Town Council for the last eighteen months over the enforceability of their allotment rent increase. Consumer protection legislation makes it unlawful for the Council to increase the rent without notice. The Council's position was that if a tenant pays then that makes it all right, but I felt strongly that the Council had a moral duty to operate within the legislation and was left with no option but to withhold payment of last year's increase and risk eviction.

The Council served notice and set a deadline for eviction of 17 May, and then extended the deadline to 13 December. It would now appear that the Council were bluffing as I set them a final deadline for the end of January to follow through with their threatened court action, yet still they prevaricate.

For me then the issue is resolved as there is no remaining doubt that the rent increase is indeed unenforceable so my rent stays the same. However, I made a stand against the Council in the interests of my fellow allotmenteers too because rents have almost tripled over the last 10 years and none of those year-on-year increases have been lawful. Not only is the Council obliged to reset rents to the rate at the start of our tenancies, but many tenants will have overpaid enough to give them their plot rent-free for the next five years.

This debacle wasn't just the usual Town Council ineptitude and heads must roll. There has been a deliberate and concerted attempt to evade the consumer protection legislation. I was threatened by the Council with the consequences of raising the issue, and since I have done so the Council have waged a campaign to smear, intimidate, and marginalise me. They have made spurious complaints against me for a number of imagined infractions of their site rules such as flying my flag too high, brushing my dogs on my plot and singing too loud at the summer social. I have already been served with an eviction notice because they say my allotment path is not the regulation width, and I have no doubt that this harassment will now be stepped up. To be honest I could do with a little support now.


What with this story and the CCTV Fiasco there surely must be some way to bring a rogue council to heel?
You would not believe we are living in a market town in England more like some small dictatorship in some third world country. Give Watchdog a try they may be interested in something like this? Meridian news would maybe give it a run as well? Just splash it all over wherever you can?





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user23
post Feb 1 2011, 07:56 PM
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QUOTE (Cognosco @ Feb 1 2011, 07:45 PM) *
What with this story and the CCTV Fiasco there surely must be some way to bring a rogue council to heel?
You would not believe we are living in a market town in England more like some small dictatorship in some third world country. Give Watchdog a try they may be interested in something like this? Meridian news would maybe give it a run as well? Just splash it all over wherever you can?
Sounds more like the council are bringing a "rogue" tenant to heel to me.
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Cognosco
post Feb 1 2011, 08:06 PM
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QUOTE (user23 @ Feb 1 2011, 07:56 PM) *
Sounds more like the council are bringing a "rogue" tenant to heel to me.


A council that does not follow the law and acts illegally, makes charges to tenants that will now have to be reimbursed allegedly, then tries to find some petty things to get rid of the tenant that exposed this, that makes really good reading does it not? What with this and the CCTV Fiasco how much lower can they get? angry.gif


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Iommi
post Feb 1 2011, 08:13 PM
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QUOTE (user23 @ Feb 1 2011, 07:56 PM) *
Sounds more like the council are bringing a "rogue" tenant to heel to me.

Well they are seem to be taking their cowardly time about it.
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Berkshirelad
post Feb 1 2011, 08:20 PM
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What about the Local government ombudsman - does his remit extend to parish/town councils?

Even if his scope does not extend that far, the refusal letter may point you in the right direction
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NWNREADER
post Feb 1 2011, 08:24 PM
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I may well be dense, but I see no exposure of a lie. At the moment there is only inactivity.
Have I missed a point?
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user23
post Feb 1 2011, 08:29 PM
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QUOTE (Cognosco @ Feb 1 2011, 08:06 PM) *
A council that does not follow the law and acts illegally, makes charges to tenants that will now have to be reimbursed allegedly, then tries to find some petty things to get rid of the tenant that exposed this, that makes really good reading does it not? What with this and the CCTV Fiasco how much lower can they get? angry.gif
Firstly, Simon's wrong when he says they've acted illegally. In fact he's the only tenant making a fuss over his £70 a year rent because he wants to run things himself.

Secondly, what have they got to do with the "CCTV Fiasco"? I think you might be a bit confused here.
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Iommi
post Feb 1 2011, 08:32 PM
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QUOTE (user23 @ Feb 1 2011, 08:29 PM) *
Firstly, Simon's wrong when he says they've acted illegally.

How do you know?
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Simon Kirby
post Feb 1 2011, 08:57 PM
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QUOTE (user23 @ Feb 1 2011, 08:29 PM) *
Firstly, Simon's wrong when he says they've acted illegally.

Show me where I've claimed that the Council have acted illegally.

The rent demand was unlawful because it couldn't be lawfully enforced. Unlawful does not mean illegal.


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Iommi
post Feb 1 2011, 09:15 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Feb 1 2011, 08:57 PM) *
Unlawful does not mean illegal.

I think it does.
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blackdog
post Feb 1 2011, 09:30 PM
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QUOTE (Iommi @ Feb 1 2011, 09:15 PM) *
I think it does.

I suspect you are wrong.

Illegal activities are subject to criminal law, the 'unlawful' act discussed in this thread would only be considered by a civil court. Simon's view is (I think) that NTC will not take action against him for non-payment of the rent rise because they are uncertain that their imposition of the rise is lawful (or they are certain it isn't). It is safer (and considerably cheaper) for them to find another way to get Simon out of their hair - such as eviction for having his path too narrow.

Until a court rules on the lawfulness of the rent rise we will not know for sure if it is enforceable, or not.
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