Petition launch as opposition councillors campaign against allotment rent increases in Hartlepool

Labour councillors in Hartlepool are to put forward a range of alternative suggestions to potential significant allotment rent rises.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 12:45 pm
Updated Friday, 6th September 2019, 2:43 pm
Summerhill allotments in Hartlepool.
Summerhill allotments in Hartlepool.

Hartlepool Borough Council says it can no longer afford to subsidise allotment rents beyond 2021 as it faces budget shortages of between £5.7m and £7.4m for the next two years.

Plot holders are currently charged 16.5p per square metre, with a £25 standard charge a year.

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Labour Group leader Councillor Paddy Brown and Jesmond ward Councillor Amy Prince.

A motion by Labour asking council chiefs to consider a variety of other options is due to be debated at the next Full Council meeting on Thursday, September 12.

It proposes creating a split plot sharing service, increasing rates for new plot holders but not existing tenants, and allowing allotment holders to sell produce to raise funds.

Labour estimates a typical allotment rent could increase from £84.50 to £137 which it says is likely to be prohibitive to holders, particularly retired people.

Jesmond ward Councillor Amy Prince said: “Allotments foster a sense of community and belonging, as well as helping to tackle mental and physical health through reducing social isolation and increasing physical activity.

“This proposed increase represents a tax on the vulnerable and I am 100% opposed to it.”

Deputy leader of the Labour Group, Councillor Dave Hunter described it as a ‘smash and grab’ rent increase and urged the ruling Independent Union-Conservative coalition not to allow it.

Labour will also be raising a petition and campaigning on this issue on Saturday, September 7, between 10am and noon at the bottom of the ramp in the town centre.

Labour Group leader Coun Paddy Brown said: “This is about standing up for local people and the real Labour values we share.”

Tony Hanson, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Assistant Director for Environment and Neighbourhood Services, previously said: “Allotment rent is currently subsidised by the council, and the rate is 16.5p per square metre (with a £25 standard charge) per annum.

“The council has implemented cost-saving measures but can no longer afford to subsidise the service, as it has for the past three years and will continue to do so until 2021. We took a proactive approach by speaking to the focus groups to inform tenants and allotment association representatives of the budgetary pressures, bring forward proposals and also to generate discussions around how these issues could be tackled.

“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.

“Several options are being considered but ultimately the decision will be taken at a future Committee, when decisions will be made about how the Council will address the impact of continuing Government grant cuts and a forecast budget deficit for the next two years of between £5.7m and £7.4m.”

Next Thursday’s Full Council meeting starts at 7pm and will be held in the chamber of the civic centre.