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Anger over allotment charges

Reporter: Reporter


ALLOTMENT holders in Newbury face a hike in fees of almost 50 per cent after the town council increased its charges this week.
At a town council policy and resources meeting last night (Monday), Newbury town councillors voted to increase the charge for both existing and new tenants from £4.71 per pole per annum to £6.94 per pole per annum from April 1.
This is a 47 per cent increase on the current charges and town councillors said the increases were necessary to reduce the subsidy currently paid by Newbury taxpayers for providing the allotments, making it fairer for all Newbury residents by having those benefiting paying the most.
However, tenants have reacted angrily to the increases, claiming that they are “unlawful” and well above the average cost for allotments.
The interim chairman of the Wash Common Allotment Society, Simon Kirby, said: “The council needs to get its spending under control – it is time they talked to the site associations about self-management, because self-managed sites actually run at a profit with zero cost to the taxpayer.
“We've been asking the council to involve us for the last couple of years but so far they have refused to even to consider the possibility, even changing the rules so that we couldn't help if we wanted to, but now it is clear how inefficiently the council is managing the service it really has no choice.”
Mr Kirby added that with more than 100 people on the allotment waiting list, the council needs to have a positive strategy for providing allotments.
He said: “Allotments are good for people and good for communities and the council needs to take its responsibility seriously and provide the plots that the people of Newbury are asking for without hiking up the rents and excluding all but the most affluent.”
However, the increases could have been worse for new tenants as the Liberal Democrats first suggested introducing a two-tier charging system, with an increase for existing tenants to £5 per pole per annum and a charge of £25 per pole per annum for new tenants.
Long-term allotment holder John Hatchman described this as “beyond a joke” and said the first year was already the hardest year for an allotment holder without such an increase.
The town council's Conservative members agreed and proposed an alternative of charging both existing and new tenants £5.65 per pole per annum.
However, after a brief adjournment to consider the proposal, the ruling Liberal Democrats said that a charge of £6.94 per pole per annum was required to achieve the desired reduction in subsidy of £17,500, while not putting an “undue burden” on new tenants.
Meanwhile, Mr Kirby said the society may now report the matter to trading standards.

Don't forget to read the Newbury Weekly News — Berkshire's largest–selling local newspaper — out each Thursday morning.


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