Many of you will have had the BHAF newsletter a few days ago from the always excellent Mark Carroll. The following few paragraphs are perhaps particularly interesting…
We are trying to address the perennial thorny problem of allotment costs and allotment rents. As you are all aware, according to the Council its costs more to provide the service to us than we raise in allotment rent. There is a deficit which we have been trying to reduce. Allotments in the City in general will be in a much safer position if they are cost neutral to the Council.
Whenever we ask plotholders the question about the amount of rent they pay we are presented with two opposing views. Some plotholders tell us that they already struggle to pay the fee each autumn, and any increase along with the other costs of compost, tools and seeds could possibly make them give up their allotment. They point out that allotments were intended for people on low wages and should be kept as cheap as possible.
We also have other people telling us that allotments are unbelievably cheap and that they would gladly pay double! Allotmenteers these days come from a much wider spectrum of society than they have historically. We have plot holders who work on the minimum wage and on zero hours contracts and we also have allotmenteers who are doctors and lawyers earning substantially more, but they all pay the same rent.
While it is impossible to ‘means test’ people to work out their allotment rent, we feel that people who would ‘gladly pay double’ should perhaps consider making voluntary over payments in order to keep allotments affordable for all sections of society. To this end, and after consulting Site Reps on the idea, we have approached the Council and asked them to look at a payment system that would allow people on higher wages to voluntarily over pay their allotment rent. The amount would be ring fenced to the allotment service and would not disappear into wider Council coffers! Some people are sceptical that many people would overpay, however I am optimistic and I think we should at the very least test it and see what happens.
A preliminary look shows that if just 15% of tenants voluntarily overpaid by £40 a year it would raise around an extra £15,000! Together with our water savings, improved letting rates and the money raised from the waiting list payments, it’s possible that we could see the deficit shrink to almost nothing or even disappear.
Mark always has interesting ideas, and it’d be nice if this one flew…