Hartlepool allotment holders face three-fold rent hikes as service faces £70,000 losses
Allotment rents are expected to go up across Hartlepool threefold as council chiefs must find more than £5million of budget cuts.
Rent paid by plot holders to Hartlepool Borough Council is set to almost treble over five years as the council says it can no longer afford to subsidise the service.
Allotment holders are charged 16.5p per square metre, but that could rise to 45p to make the council’s allotment service self sufficient by the year 2026.
It is understood the service, which costs £140,000 a year to run, is running at an about £70,000 loss. A £50,000 Public Health Department subsidy is due to come to an end in 2021/22.
Tony Hanson, Hartlepool Borough Council’s assistant director for environment and neighbourhood services, said the authority was speaking to the focus groups to inform tenants of budget pressures and discuss proposals.
“These meetings are ongoing, and we will be writing to all allotment holders to ensure those who are not association members are fully aware of our position, and also feel able to contribute their views,” he said.
Mr Hanson added “several options are being considered” and the final decision would be taken at a future council meeting amid a background of a “forecast budget deficit for the next two years of between £5.7million and £7.4million.”
Minutes from an Allotment Focus Group state rent increases over five years is the council’s preferred option.
Don Cameron, who pays about £60 a year for his plot at Briarfields in Hartlepool, said such an increase could force some plot holders to quit.
He said: “You could buy more veg than you can grow for £60, so if they are going to double the rent I certainly wouldn’t be bothering any more and other plot holders wouldn’t be either.”
Mr Cameron suggested significant staff cost savings could be made by handing more control to allotment associations.
John Hays, of the Burn Valley allotments and security group, added: “It’s becoming a dear hobby. It is a leisure activity and pensioners won’t be able to afford it.”