New way forward on council allotments to be discussed

Proposals setting out the potential rental cost and management of Leeds City Council allotments in the future are set to be discussed by senior councillors next week.

This report, which will be presented to members of the executive board, follows a two month public consultation undertaken by the council that asked plot holders across the city and allotment federations for their views on how best to address a net subsidy in the allotment service, which currently totals £133k a year.

Presently, there are 97 allotment sites in Leeds, with 37 directly managed by the council’s Parks and Countryside service and 60 managed by allotment associations.

The results of the consultation found that out of three proposed options that were put forward to meet the £133k subsidy, 52.6% of respondents favoured applying an increase to all plot holders in proportion to what they currently pay.

Having listened to the consultation, the council has now set out plans to remove the subsidy in full by 2016/2017. This would be delivered in part through a revised lease with the allotment associations that will see a phased price increase introduced to plot holders from 2014/15.

As part of a new agreement, it is proposed that a notice period of 12 months is given on 29 September 2013 to allotments associations in order to terminate the existing lease. A new lease will then be drawn up which will be based on the associations receiving the same level of revenue they now receive by 2016/2017. This would be achieved by the implementation of the new pricing structure.

In order to keep these new price increases as low as possible for plot holders, the council has also identified further savings within the service.

Steps taken to reduce cost will include not filling a proposed Community Food Officer post, which will save approximately £29k and reducing the improvements budget by £24k. This will be replaced by targeted work that will focus on opportunities to prioritise existing allotment sites and grant/funding bids to improve new sites.

With one of the key concerns raised in the consultation that any potential rises may hit the vulnerable, the council has also announced its intention that concessions continue for those who are registered disabled, unemployed, a full time student or in receipt of pension credit. A new 20% concession is also being proposed for those who are in receipt of a state pension.

Councillor Mark Dobson, Leeds City Council’s executive member for the environment said:

“We are extremely fortunate to have fantastic allotments across our city, and I have been determined from day one to find a sensible and proportionate way forward regarding the management and pricing at our sites that meets both the needs of plot holders and the extremely difficult budgetary challenge the council currently faces.

“We have listened closely to the views that were offered through the public consultation, and with that in mind have put forward a proposal that would see incremental price rises introduced every year instead of one large blanket charge.

“Concessions will also continue for groups such as the disabled and unemployed, while we have targeted further savings in our service in order to lessen the subsidy and reduce the cost passed on to the allotment holders.

“This has been an extremely difficult process, and I would like to thank every plot holder and the allotment associations for the constructive manner in which they approached and contributed to the public consultation.”

Notes to editors:

Three options stated for consideration through the public consultation process were:

Option 1: review prices by applying an increase to all plot holders in proportion to what they currently pay to recover a £133k subsidy.

Option 2: review prices by applying an increase to plot holders who currently pay the full rate whilst retaining plot rental levels for those entitled to concessions to recover a £133k subsidy.

Option 3: review the management arrangements to seek a third party operator for allotment provision who would determine pricing arrangements and meet all costs associated with provision.

For more information, please see: http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/documents/s101405/Allotments%20Cover%20Report%20v2%20230813.pdf

For media enquiries, please contact;

Colin Dickinson, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 39 51578

Email: colin.dickinson@leeds.gov.uk