Plotholder anger as City Council proposes 100% funding cut to Allotments

Posted on January 11, 2011 by

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Southampton City Council has sprung an unexpected New Year resolution on the city’s allotment plotholders, with proposals for the complete cutting of allotment services due to be rushed through and decided on in February.

The City Council are proposing to make allotments “self-funding”, which in practice translates as a 100% cut for allotments.  Maintenance, mailings, mowing of unkempt plots, keys cut, the employment of a council officer (who will not be cut but will have to be funded by allotmenters) to help run the city’s 1,600+ plots and other services are all expected to be funded out of plotholders pockets in future.

This has raised concerns that less well-off plotholders will effectively be priced off their plots with much higher rents to cover the loss of funding, with costs expected to at least double.  However, the alternative option is to raise rents less than needed and have services to plotholders severely reduced, potentially making it harder to run a plot for less able plotholders.  The formation of an allotment ‘trust’ has also been mooted, but with details from the Council sparse on how this option would work.

Full details are only expected to be sent to plotholders in late January, but as budget decisions are made in February this gives them hardly any time to properly object to changes.  This has angered many, with some claiming that it feels like the Council is “trying to slip this under the public’s radar” to get it passed quickly.  Some have suggested at least delaying the decision to allow more time to work with plotholders, rather than forcing it through so quickly.

For many people allotments are crucially important as they provide much-needed open space and a chance to grow some food, which they otherwise might not be able to get on their own properties.  People in smaller and less well-off households especially find allotments a great resource, and allotments also help make the city greener and improve the local environment.  Much higher rents and reduced services could reduce equality of access to allotments in the city and make it much harder to keep them from getting run down.  As a side issue, councils can only get rid of allotment sites by law if take-up is low and sites become run down, and as these measures potentially make both more likely it’s possible that the future may see site sell-offs as a result.

Southampton Allotment and Gardens Association (SAGA) have met with the Council to lobby them and will be meeting them again later in January to discuss the proposals, and in the meantime have organised a petition, stating that:

We… believe that a decision on the Allotment Savings Proposal should not be rushed through before the setting of the Council budgets in February.
We think that the proposed 100 per cent cut to the allotment budget is disproportionate. It would have far reaching consequences not only for the mental and physical well being of the city’s residents but also for the city environment. It needs time to be thoroughly discussed by all allotment holders and interested parties.

SAGA have recommended concerned plotholders contact Sue Ashdown, the Council’s (current) allotment officer, or Councillor Williams who is responsible for allotments, and to email SAGA to get a copy of the petition to distribute.  Emailing local councillors may also help make pressure within the Council to postpone the decision.  Campaigners are hoping that if 1500 signatures can be found then councillors have to debate the petition, potentially forcing the Council to pay more attention to plotholders before making this decision.

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Posted in: News, Southampton