Statement from Wivenhoe Town Council - Allotments - Annual Rent Increase 2019/2020
(photo courtesy of Niko3518 (Flicker))
For many years, Wivenhoe Town Council has provided allotments for rent by local residents. Over a period of several years, allotment rents have either not increased or nominal rent increases have been made. The result is that the income accrued by the Council falls some way short of expenditure incurred.
After reviewing various costs, the Council took a decision in September 2018 to move, over a phased period, towards a position where the income from its allotments covers the expenditure incurred. In the current situation, the Town Council subsidises its allotments and therefore, by definition allotment holders. This means effectively that residents of Wivenhoe who are not allotment holders subsidise allotment holders through their Council Tax. Town Councillors judge this situation as unfair and this is something that Councillors have resolved to address over the next few years on an incremental basis.
The Council resolved to increase the allotment rents by 25% with effect on 1 October 2019. The Town Council notified allotment holders of this increase in September 2018 providing a full 12 months notice of the increase .
Since the announcement of the October 2019 rent increase Wivenhoe Allotment and Garden Association (WAGA) and a number of allotment holders have challenged the Town Council about the cost of providing the allotments service. In responding, the Council wishes to reassure those with concerns that it wants to be transparent and to clarify the situation. People do not always recognise that in addition to the time and work of the Estates Team, the Council provides significant administrative support and that that comes at a cost.
The Town Council wishes to acknowledge the considerable efforts of WAGA to assist in the overall provision of the allotment service. Without WAGA the Council's costs would be higher still. There is no doubt that both the Council and the allotment holders benefit from the work of WAGA and need it as part of the mix to help provide a quality allotments service.
It is conceded that the letter to allotment holders advising them of the 2019/20 increase did not provide an explanation or the reasoning behind the rent increase. For that Wivenhoe Town Council wishes to apologise. The Council plans now to form a Working Party to conduct a thorough review of its allotment service. This will include a consultation exercise. The Working Party report and any subsequent policy decisions will be shared with allotment holders.
Notwithstanding the proposed rent increase, the Council is fully convinced that the costs of an allotment remains superb value for money and the Town Council is very proud to provide this valuable community amenity. With regard to the rent increase, if any allotment holder is suffering genuine financial hardship, they should contact the Town Clerk.
I hope I have explained the Town Council rationale for the rent increase and clarified the Town Council's position.
Kevin Harkin, Office Manager