Conservatives attack higher charges for Brighton and Hove allotment holders

Posted On 20 Feb 2012 at 6:43 pm

Brighton and Hove Conservative councillors want to “down tools” over higher allotment charges.

The Tory group said that instead of charging more for plots the ruling Greens should cut the subsidy paid to union officials who work for Brighton and Hove City Council.

If they did this, said the Conservatives, then they wouldn’t need to put allotment charges up by 70 per cent.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald said that his party would try to bring about these changes to the Greens’ first budget on Thursday (23 February).

The draft budget proposes putting up the annual fees paid by allotment holders from £33 to £55 for a half plot and from £66 to £111 for a full plot over the next two years.

The Conservative proposal, if agreed, would restrict these increases to £3 for a half plot and £6 for a full plot.

The more modest rise would be paid for by reducing the amount of taxpayer funded trade union “facility time” within the council.

Councillor Theobald, leader of the opposition Conservative group, said: “This is a very simple choice for the Greens and Labour – do they support the city’s allotment holders or would they rather see taxpayers continue to fund trade union activity within the council at a level which is the third highest among all unitary authorities in the country.”

Baffled

Newly elected Westbourne ward councillor Graham Cox, who is himself an allotment holder, said: “Many of us are completely baffled by the Green Party decision to scrap the historic allotment subsidy.

“Talking to fellow allotment holders, they are really worried that poorer people and pensioners will no longer be able to rent an allotment in our city.

“These increases of 70 per cent by the Greens will raise a tiny sum of money in the context of a £750 million budget.

“The Green Party devoted a whole section of their election manifesto to the virtues of allotments, including how they help give people access to cheaper good food.

“It is hard to imagine a less green action, and I know that many allotment holders who voted for the Green Party are very disappointed.”

Councillor Pete West, a Green cabinet member, said at a recent meeting that allotments had historically been subsidised in Brighton and Hove.

He blamed the coalition government’s spending cuts for forcing the council to review subsidised services such as allotments.

It had been intended to put up the charges to the proposed levels from the next financial year but Councillor West said that the changes would now be phased in over two years.

Last year Councillor Jason Kitcat, the Greens’ finance chief, defended the subsidy that enabled staff to undertake union duties during work time.

He said that this saved the council money in the long run by preventing disputes from escalating and had been supported by previous Labour and Conservative administrations.

He did say that the number of staff involved would be reviewed as part of the council’s efforts to save money.

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