Three-fold fees increase for Hartlepool allotments set to be scrapped after council leader announces more funding
Plans for a three-fold increase in allotments rents in Hartlepool could be quashed after the council leader announced extra funds are to be made available to subsidise plot holders.
Suggestions included creating a split plot service, raising rate for new plot holders while maintaining rates for current holders, and allowing holders to sell produce.
Council leader Coun Shane Moore said following the Chancellor’s budget last week the council was planning to subsidise allotment rent and costs would only rise in line with inflation.
He also said the motion was ‘premature’ as the council had not yet agreed budget proposals for 2020/21.
He said: “Whilst I recognise the importance of keeping allotment rent at an affordable level, I do believe the motion is somewhat premature.
“I recognise allotments are an important leisure facility that supports the health and wellbeing of the community and I believe the service should be treated in the same way as other leisure and recreational services.
“The good news is that following the Chancellor’s budget announcement last week we anticipate an increase in the public health grant which will enable the council to continue to subsidise leisure and recreation services including allotments.
“I’m very, very thankful that we have found ourselves in a position where we can commit to subsidising it ongoing every year going forward.
“That’s why we have made the commitment we will only increase allotment rents by the rate of inflation.”
He added the issue went back to budget decisions made in 2017 by the previous Labour administration.
Coun Dave Hunter, deputy leader of the Labour Party on the council, claimed the funding only came following the work of the Labour group, which Coun Moore disputed.
He said: “I would like every possible option explored to ensure these guys [the allotment holders] get the deal they deserve.
“This is about people’s health, it’s about mental health and physical health.
“This money has been identified only as a result of us Labour Party bringing this matter forward and publicising the fight of these guys and you’ve went and found some money under the mattress.”
He said at a June allotment focus group meeting, council officers had spoken about potential specific increased costs to rent.
However Coun Moore said for the Labour party to take credit for it ‘went against the incredible amount of work from councillors on all sides, along with officers’ in recent times.
Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, who represents the Socialist Labour Party, accused the councillors of playing party politics, stating everybody wanted the same thing.
He said: “The same thing is wanted, I think it’s down to politics and the wording of something.
“I think the way forward is, lets stop kicking this round like a football, give it the credit it deserves and let it go to Neighbourhood Services Committee.
“It’s just becoming a political football.”
Concerns had also been raised over the proposed two-tier payment for allotment holders and the legality of aspects of the motion.
Ultimately the tabled motion and amendments were withdrawn and councillors voted to discuss the issue further at a future Neighbourhood Services Committee for a full review.