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> Allotment Rent Protest
Simon Kirby
post Feb 6 2012, 08:46 PM
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Not me this time. The town's allotment associations have finally had enough and they've written to the Town Council in protest at the latest rent increase.

QUOTE
For the attention of councillors at the Town Council Meeting, Monday, 23 January 2012

Dear Councillors

We are contacting you on behalf of allotment holders at West Mills and Southby's sites, to express concern on behalf of our members about the proposed increase in allotment rents for 2012-2013.

We understand that the Council’s Community Service Committee meeting held on Monday 12th December discussed a proposal to increase allotment charges from £6.94 per pole to £7.30 per pole (an increase of 5.2% over the 2011/12 rate).

The following table shows how rates for allotments in Newbury– in price per pole – have increased since 2008/09

[table showing the latest rent of £7.30 is a 78% increase in four years]

The committees of West Mills Allotments Society (WMAS) and Soutby's Allotments Association (SATA) recognise that the town council, along with every other local authority and, indeed, every Government Department, is having budgets squeezed.

On the other hand, we also recognise that individuals are suffering increases in the cost of living and appreciate that for many, not least those reliant on the state pension, “every penny counts”. Allotment holders come from all walks of life, but there is a high proportion of pensioners and of young families. Both of these groups are particularly struggling in these difficult economic times. There will also be plot-holders facing pay cuts or even redundancy. In these situations, the money that can be saved by 'growing your own' is vital to household budgets.

We therefore wish to register our objection to these proposed increases, and ask that you reconsider these rates. We would hope that rents can be pegged at the 2011/12 levels for another year.

Yours sincerely

Susan Millington Chris Lawrence

Chair, WMAS Chair, SATA


While Newbury's £7.30 per pole rents is expensive in relation to the national average of around £4.00 and puts Newbury in the top 10% of charging authorities nationally, the £20k-odd the council collect in rent revenue hardly makes a dint in their £120k running costs so from the Council's perspective the allotments are a financial embarrassment. Time for the site associations to put up or shut up really, as self-management is the only legitimate way to get back to a reasonable rent.


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user23
post Feb 6 2012, 08:50 PM
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Thought we hadn't had an allotments themed thread from you for a while.
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Guest_xjay1337_*
post Feb 6 2012, 08:59 PM
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rolleyes.gif Lol.

Good luck with your campaign, I don't think you'll get anywhere though. The letter was far too nice.

I'd have simply written "If you raise our rent for allotment sheds you will find yourself sleeping with a mouldy cabbage".
I don't think you get horses in your line of work so a cabbage would do just as well.
So within the self management aside from lowering rent prices what else could you and the association offer?
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Simon Kirby
post Feb 6 2012, 09:27 PM
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QUOTE (user23 @ Feb 6 2012, 08:50 PM) *
Thought we hadn't had an allotments themed thread from you for a while.

biggrin.gif


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Simon Kirby
post Feb 6 2012, 09:47 PM
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QUOTE (xjay1337 @ Feb 6 2012, 08:59 PM) *
rolleyes.gif Lol.

Good luck with your campaign, I don't think you'll get anywhere though. The letter was far too nice.

I'd have simply written "If you raise our rent for allotment sheds you will find yourself sleeping with a mouldy cabbage".
I don't think you get horses in your line of work so a cabbage would do just as well.
So within the self management aside from lowering rent prices what else could you and the association offer?

To be clear, the two association have nothing whatsoever to do with me.

Good question. The conservative budget I drafted produced a rent of around £5.00/pole, which is above average but it allowed for quite a bit of maintenance to be contracted out while the capacity of the site associations to take that work on themselves was developed. I know of plenty of established self-managed sites with lower-than-average rents, and self-management would certainly come in well below £7.30/pole so self-management does deliver chearer allotments, but it delivers much more:

Self-managed sites decide for themselves how to develop their sites, so for example if they want a site toilet they just install one, and if they want to improve site security they just plant a hedge.

The allotmenteers also control the site rules, so for example if a majority want to be allowed to grow trees or keep turkeys when the rules say they can't they just vote the change through at the AGM.

Self-managed sites also have better access to grants that are closed to public authorities so raising money for capital projects such as site toilets and fencing is much easier.

And there is also much less need to raise money because allotmenteers are resourceful. Hedging for example is just growing stuff, and that's what allotmenteers do, and even site toilets and meeting huts can be built for next-to-nothing with a bit of scavaging.

And then there's the social benefit. People enjoy running their own sites and being responsible for themselves, and working parties get people out and working together.


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Guest_xjay1337_*
post Feb 6 2012, 10:35 PM
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Well thanks for the response, I mean it's not really a topic which affects me (I don't have an allotment or anything) however from how you describe it does actually sound like self-managed would be better for everyone...council get to wash their hands of it and people who use it will be able to, well...self manage!

The whole "if you don't like a rule you can vote to change it" thing sounds very democratic as well..I mean so many things on paper sound awesome but in practise they are rubbish, but if the self-managed reality s anything like what you described then why would anyone be against it?

smile.gif
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Simon Kirby
post Feb 7 2012, 12:27 PM
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QUOTE (xjay1337 @ Feb 6 2012, 10:35 PM) *
Well thanks for the response, I mean it's not really a topic which affects me (I don't have an allotment or anything) however from how you describe it does actually sound like self-managed would be better for everyone...council get to wash their hands of it and people who use it will be able to, well...self manage!

The whole "if you don't like a rule you can vote to change it" thing sounds very democratic as well..I mean so many things on paper sound awesome but in practise they are rubbish, but if the self-managed reality s anything like what you described then why would anyone be against it?

smile.gif

Typical allotmenteers prefer self-management to council management for just these reasons. The Wash Common Allotment Society surveyed its members - some 40 of the 80 plots - asking would you like a say in changes to the rules, would you take part in a maintenance working party, and would you help out with administration, and pretty much everyone said yes.

It's actually not unusual for a council to decide for itself to devolve the management of its allotments onto the allotmenteers whether they want it or not. If there's not already a site association that wants the job this can be a bit of a shock because at least a couple of allotmenteers will need to volunteer to run the show, but typically the option is to self-manage and set your own rent or stay with the council and pay a lot more, and that's usually enough encouragement.

From a tax-payer's persepctive it seems perverse for the Town Council to refuse even to discuss self-management when it has the potential to save some 10% of the tax-burden, but from the Town Council's persepctive this is exactly why they suppress self-management - for them the allotment service is a £120k turnover business and a substantial chunk of everything they do, and they're not going to lose that business without a fight.


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On the edge
post Feb 7 2012, 01:12 PM
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I guess the allotmenteers might well agree with the concept; but would not actively seek to'make it happen' unless someone lead the way. By that I mean working up a detailled scheme and getting the Council to agree. All of which takes time plus you are, for whatever reason, up against some blockers at the Town Council - only guess at why. So, is there some sympathetic Councillor who whould be willing to drive this through; doubtless providing someone was behind the scenes doing the work? Apart from pushing our own Councillors on the grounds of saving - its difficult to know what else 'us non allotmenteers' could do to help practically? More than happy to try that! The opening post seems to be a good start, what can we do to support its passage?


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Simon Kirby
post Feb 7 2012, 07:07 PM
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QUOTE (On the edge @ Feb 7 2012, 01:12 PM) *
I guess the allotmenteers might well agree with the concept; but would not actively seek to'make it happen' unless someone lead the way. By that I mean working up a detailled scheme and getting the Council to agree. All of which takes time plus you are, for whatever reason, up against some blockers at the Town Council - only guess at why. So, is there some sympathetic Councillor who whould be willing to drive this through; doubtless providing someone was behind the scenes doing the work? Apart from pushing our own Councillors on the grounds of saving - its difficult to know what else 'us non allotmenteers' could do to help practically? More than happy to try that! The opening post seems to be a good start, what can we do to support its passage?

Certainly nothing can happen without the support of the town councillors, and that can't begin without a dialogue, but without a regime change I don't see that happening. Always happy to be proved wrong though if you think there might be a sympathetic councillor out there.



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Cognosco
post Feb 7 2012, 08:02 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Feb 7 2012, 07:07 PM) *
Certainly nothing can happen without the support of the town councillors, and that can't begin without a dialogue, but without a regime change I don't see that happening. Always happy to be proved wrong though if you think there might be a sympathetic councillor out there.


If enough taxpayers started making noises then you may be lucky enough, if an election was due of course, to make a councillor think it worthwhile but don't hold your breath! rolleyes.gif


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Andy Capp
post Feb 7 2012, 08:04 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Feb 7 2012, 07:07 PM) *
Certainly nothing can happen without the support of the town councillors, and that can't begin without a dialogue, but without a regime change I don't see that happening.

And the Russians or Chinese would veto sanctions anyway.
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Turin Machine
post Feb 10 2012, 05:09 PM
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Hows the fight going Simon ??


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Simon Kirby
post Feb 10 2012, 07:30 PM
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Thanks for asking TM. As far as I can see on the rent protest the Council have simply ignored the societies. I'm not really that bothered, the site associations sold their members out when they did nothing to protest the unlawful 47% rent increase two years ago so why they want to quibble over a tiny rise now, or indeed why they think the Council will listen to them, is beyound me.

I have enough to worry about fighting my own eviction on 1 April for demanding self-management and asserting my consumer rights, and there's no movement on that whatsoever, and this was to be my seventeenth year on the Wash Common site.


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Turin Machine
post Feb 11 2012, 07:12 PM
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Not an allotment user but am willing to support U with signiture if it helps (or even a letter if you like) I think it's actually a good idea.


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Cognosco
post Feb 11 2012, 07:35 PM
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QUOTE (Turin Machine @ Feb 11 2012, 07:12 PM) *
Not an allotment user but am willing to support U with signiture if it helps (or even a letter if you like) I think it's actually a good idea.



If Simon gets evicted there needs to be a press and a protest gathering and ask the council the reason why he is being evicted.

The question also needs to be raised why does NTC charge so much for administration costs and why such an expensive charge per plot? Why has self managment never been allowed to be discussed in any shape or form?
Just why are the council not giving answers to taxpayers genuine questions regarding allotments?


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NWNREADER
post Feb 11 2012, 08:28 PM
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Probably because not enough taxpayers ask the questions.
If Councillors are not challenged by their constituents they ride roughshod.....
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Andy Capp
post Feb 11 2012, 08:35 PM
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QUOTE (Simon Kirby @ Feb 10 2012, 07:30 PM) *
Thanks for asking TM. As far as I can see on the rent protest the Council have simply ignored the societies. I'm not really that bothered, the site associations sold their members out when they did nothing to protest the unlawful 47% rent increase two years ago so why they want to quibble over a tiny rise now, or indeed why they think the Council will listen to them, is beyound me.

I have enough to worry about fighting my own eviction on 1 April for demanding self-management and asserting my consumer rights, and there's no movement on that whatsoever, and this was to be my seventeenth year on the Wash Common site.

From what I have seen here, they can just tell you to 'leave', can't they?
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Simon Kirby
post Feb 12 2012, 08:21 PM
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QUOTE (Turin Machine @ Feb 11 2012, 07:12 PM) *
Not an allotment user but am willing to support U with signiture if it helps (or even a letter if you like) I think it's actually a good idea.

Thank you so much, I'd appreciate any help at all, and it cheers me up a lot to think you'd speak up for me when you don't know me or have an allotment. I can't imagine any allotmenteers wanting to risk their own tenancies to support me so I can't see a petition working, but maybe you could write to a couple of parish councillors.


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Cognosco
post Feb 12 2012, 08:52 PM
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QUOTE (Andy Capp @ Feb 11 2012, 08:35 PM) *
From what I have seen here, they can just tell you to 'leave', can't they?


So are we saying if the face doesn't fit or you dare to disagree with the views of the council no allotment? blink.gif

Are you sure the allotments are run by NTC then or some despotic third world regime? unsure.gif

I could understand if rules were continually broken, plot not tended etc, and after suitable warnings they were still ignored then maybe I could understant eviction! But for calling for self management and, allegedly, getting evicted then councillors must be held to account. angry.gif

Is there any paperwork from the council Simon stating a reason for why you are being evicted?


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Simon Kirby
post Feb 12 2012, 09:14 PM
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QUOTE (Cognosco @ Feb 11 2012, 07:35 PM) *
If Simon gets evicted there needs to be a press and a protest gathering and ask the council the reason why he is being evicted.

The question also needs to be raised why does NTC charge so much for administration costs and why such an expensive charge per plot? Why has self managment never been allowed to be discussed in any shape or form?
Just why are the council not giving answers to taxpayers genuine questions regarding allotments?

AS always, thanks for the support Cognosco, and yes, those are the questions the Council has suppressed and the questions they need to answer.

I've estimated the services charges from the latest budget approved the other week and the £93,374 allotment service cost breaks down as £24,677 running costs for site maintenance and water rates, £36,387 service staff costs, a £2,992 share of the £29,945 central overheads for things like the capital building reserve and bank charges, a £30,496 share of the £180,782 central administration cost for things like photocopying and paperclips, and a £17,983 share of the £106,601 cost of office accomodation and council running costs, with a revenue of £19,160.

The Council accept that the £24,677 running costs, £36,387 service staff costs, and £2,992 central overheads are properly allotment service costs and they use these costs in their per-capita precept breakdown, but they completely refuse to accept that the other costs can be apportioned to the allotment service and account instead for an administration service (£180,782), town hall services (£81,755), committee expenditure service (£13,531), Young People's Council service (£4,239), and election expenses service (£7,076). The Council declared me to be a Vexatious Complainant for disagreeing on this point. My position is that it's a complete nonsense to talk about these overheads as services. Administration isn't a service, is a cost of supporting the delivery of the actual services, such as parks, cemetaries, and allotments. The Town Hall doesn't serve the tax-payer per se, it just accomodates the administrators. Committees and elections aren't services, they're just the mechanism of local government administration. Reduce the Council's service delivery and these overheads reduce too, and it's only proper to account for these overheads within the cost of the actual service.


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