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Cemetery and Allotment Charges (W10)

Cuts

Portfolio: Leisure and Local Environment Portfolio

Description

To increase charges for both the Allotment Service and Cemeteries to cover operating costs, making both services break even. 

Allotments

Currently there are 18 Council owned sites of which 11 are DBC managed and 7 self-managed.  On the Council managed sites there are 241 plots, of which on 88 plots the tenants pay full price and on 153 plots the tenants pay concession rate, which is half price.  15/16 prices are £54 for full plot and £27 for concession.  The proposal in this year’s MTFP for 16/17 is to raise the charge for a full price plot to £80.  Thereafter the proposal for allotments will be: in 17/18 to remove the concession altogether so all tenants pay the full price and over the following three years, further raise the charges by £40 in 17/18 to £120, £25 in 18/19 TO £145 and finally by another £25 in 19/20 taking the charge for an allotment plot to £170.

The 11 DBC managed sites are

  • Arnold Road 51 plots
  • Brankin Road Horse Site 10 plots
  • Dury Street 6 plots
  • Field Street 37 plots
  • Honeypot Lane 12 plots
  • Lascelles 35 plots
  • Park Lane 6 plots
  • Parkside 2 plots
  • Salters Lane North 55 plots
  • Salters Lane South 19 plots
  • Springwell Terrace 8 plots
  • Total 241 plots

Cemetery

It is estimated that the cost of operating the cemeteries by 2019/20 will be approximately £51,000 per annum, therefore to break even, charges for the services within the cemeteries would need to increase.  The burial charge for 2016/17 is £710 (subject to Cabinet approval), which will need to increase over the next two years by approximately 12.5% rising to £742 in 2017/18 and in 2018/19 to £799.  

Link

W10 Cemetery and Allotment Charges

 


 

Keywords: voluntary sector VCS

Related FAQs

What will be the impact on voluntary organisations such as Citizen’s Advice, Age UK, GADD? What happens if they close?

What will be the impact on voluntary organisations such as Citizen’s Advice, Age UK, GADD? What happens if they close?

We fully support the work of our voluntary sector partners and hope to continue to work with them in the future. However, the financial situation is such that the Council is not able to continue funding these organisations at current levels. The likely impact of the budget proposals on these organisations is currently being identified, following discussions with the organisations most affected. We hope that they are able to continue their work by looking at where they can make further cost and efficiency savings, but we appreciate that in some cases this may not be possible and it will therefore mean a reduction in the support they can offer to the residents of Darlington.  It could lead to the closure of organisations if they are unable to make the necessary changes for them to be sustainable, which will be very regrettable. We want to avoid this happening and we will support organisations making grant applications where we can. We will also be undertaking work to understand the impact of any reductions in service on individuals accessing them. 

Why do charges for allotments have to increase so much?

Why do charges for allotments have to increase so much?

All services have to contribute to helping the Council balance its budget. Currently there are 18 Council owned sites of which 11 are DBC managed and 7 self-managed.  On the Council managed sites there are 241 plots, of which on 88 plots the tenants pay full price and on 153 plots the tenants pay concession rate, which is half price.  The charge for an allotment plot from April 2016 is £80 for a full plot and £40 for a concession.  The proposal in the MTFP is to remove the concession from 2017/18 altogether so all tenants pay the full price and over the following three years, further raise the charges by £40 in 2017/18 to £120, £25 in 2018/19 to £145 and finally by another £25 in 2019/20 taking the charge for an allotment plot to £170.
The increased charges are required to cover operating costs, making the service break even. 

Why are you increasing burial charges – they are already very expensive?

Why are you increasing burial charges – they are already very expensive?

The Council has to cover its costs in running the cemeteries and crematorium. We estimate that by 2019/20 those costs will be around £51,000 a year, therefore to break even, charges for the services within the cemeteries would need to increase.  The burial charge for 2016/17 is £710 (subject to Cabinet approval), which will need to increase over the next two years by approximately 12.5% rising to £742 in 2017/18 and in 2018/19 to £799. 
Charges are comparable with those set by other authorities, as the 2015/16 figures show:

Darlington

625

South Tyneside

786

Newcastle

786

Sunderland

782

Gateshead

757

North Tyneside

762

Stockton

420

Middlesbrough

522

Durham

760

Your Say

5 comment(s)

This table lists comments from the public about this proposal

Comment

Cut W10 (Cemetery and Allotment Charges)

It's discrasful that your even making it harder for family's to burry there loved ones. Did I not read the council would be funding 1.8 million to destruct honey pot lane gypsy camp. Yet you make cuts to the cemetery and so many other needy services. Am I right that when I go to the chemist to PAY for my prescription i wait online with drug addicts getting there methadone? Another discrasful rule.

Cut W10 (Cemetery and Allotment Charges)

I write to express my concern and strong disagreement with the proposed allotment rent increases. I understand the council has financial issues, and am perfectly prepared to pay RPI or inflation related increases in allotment rates, however the proposed raises involve a raise of approximately 225% over 4 years, from £54 in April 2015, to £175 in April 2019. The letter I received today proposes to make it a 'break even' operation for the year 2017 by "removal of all concession" by increasing rent from the 2015 level of £54 per year by 122% to £120 per year. This can only mean that the subsequent increases between 2017 and 2019 of almost 46%, are intended to generate profit, being way above predicted RPI increases, or inflation. These figures alone concern me, as I was advised when I took my allotment, that the rent covers water rates. I appreciate the allotment officers wages must be paid too, but fail to see where costs of £120 per plot are generated, especially since no sewage costs are applicable. I will be following this train of thought up with a FOI request. That aside, I would draw your attention to precedent in an identical case - I have attached a copy of the full discussion, but would particularly like to draw your attention to the case of Mr Harwood vs Reigate & Banstead Borough Council. The rent rise (deemed unlawful) was in this case 300%. "His argument was that the increase was not reasonable, and the judgement was that a Council could charge what it liked for allotment rental but as allotments are a recreational amenity, the rent increases must be in line with increases applied to other recreational amenities provided by the council. THE COUNCIL CANNOT BY LAW RAISE RENTS OF ALLOTMENT HOLDERS IN ISOLATION OF OTHER RECREATIONAL AMENITIES. This is discriminatory practice and is UNLAWFUL." The full transcript including the above quote is available via the link in the information I have pasted below. I would also like to draw to your attention the following: "On 17-Feb-2012 Southampton County Court ruled against Eastleigh Borough Council when they tried to increase allotment rents by 60%. In essence the judge ruled... COUNCILS COULD NOT INCREASE RENTS JUST TO LOWER COSTS. Any increases should commesurate with those applied to leisure and other services Councils should accept that allotments are a subsidised activity and therefore loss making" Furthermore, I draw your attention to the following; "The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 makes it automatically unfair for the landlord to impose an arbitrary increase in rent. Guidance by the OFT on unfair terms in tenancy agreements indicates that unless increases are linked to such external factors as the RPI or evaluated by an objective person independent of the landlord they may be deemed to be unfair" I would be interested to know if , for instance, Dolphin centre prices will be rising by the same percentage? It appears you are not only intending to prevent loss in this case, but also gain profit, as I have outlined already. In addition to all of the above, I would like to point out that, in my particular case, having waited for several years on the allotment waiting list, I eventually got a half plot, which was essentially waste ground. I have invested over £1000 developing this plot into a well managed piece of land capable of growing food, in the form of soil improvements and treatments, tools, raised beds, fencing, shed, water butt (the current water source is a considerable distance away) pathways (I am disabled) compost bins, greenhouses, perennials including fruit trees (given the 'less than 2m' requirements, they were particularly expensive since I had to purchase those with a dwarfing rootstock) etc etc ad infinitum. It therefore seems unfair to me that I should be charged a premium for what is now a productive plot, when I am the one who turned it from a weed bearing wasteland, with my own money and sweat : a substantial investment of time and effort into something I was not aware I was going to be charged 3 times the price for in a couple of years. Had I been aware that rents were likely to be increased to a level that makes keeping the allotment more expensive than simply purchasing the produce I grow there, I may well have thought twice before investing not inconsiderable time and money in it. But the cynical side of me suggests that pricing people off the allotments may be the whole point of these astronomical rent increases for financial reasons. Please be aware, given the legal precedents set, that I am committed to taking this further if the proposed plans for rent increase go ahead at the current level, and in isolation of other recreational activities. If you intend to raise both allotment fees AND recreational activity costs by the same ludicrous percentage you will not only shorten the lives of your residents, but have a considerably less healthy population while they are alive, who are more of a burden on the NHS and council services, therefore making these price increases counterproductive. Please be reasonable and reconsider your proposals to discriminate financially against allotment holders. 225% in 4 years is NOT reasonable. Increase in allotment rents Well, looks like our Allotment Association got a good result in battle with the Town Council over a proposed increase in allotment rents of up to 100%. The Amenities Committee’s decision was as follows… Rents should increase by 10% from October 2011, so standard plots will cost £27.50 per year, small plots £13.75 Some of the income from rents should be reinvested to improve facilities To avoid years of no increase followed by sharp rises, rents should increase annually by the rate of inflation The current charging structure should remain (i.e. based on standard or small plots, rather than large, medium and small or based on ground area) The Committee will look into the feasibility of providing concessions for pensioners or the unemployed So that means by 2011 there’ll have been an average increase for the last three years of 3.3% (bearing in mind there was no increase in 2009 and 2010)… not a bad result. The pleasing thing was a desire by the Councillorson the Amenities Committee to invest some of the allotment income in improving facilities. Specific mention was made of toilets, this being one of the top requests by our members when we did a recent survey, click here to view the survey results. Of course the challenge now is to get members of the committee to carry this through. It’s taken quite a bit of work to get a good result. In case any other Allotment Association is faced with the same challenge, here’s the way the issue developed and how our Association tackled the problem. Hope it’s a help! Background Although rents had not increased since 2008, in the years immediately prior there had been a 100% increase from £12.50 to £25.00 for a standard plot size of 250 sq metres. So there had certainly been an average of 20% increase over the previous ten years. Current rents in 2010 are £25.00 for a standard sized plot and £12.50 for a small plot. However, plot sizes vary greatly. To see a scale plan of the plots at Hill Rise Allotments click here. The facilities provided by the Town Council are basic. There are no communal facilities such as toilets or a hut, no secure fencing. Access paths are closed in winter because they are not metalled and water tanks can be more than 50 metres away. First signs Mon 11-Oct-2010 The first indication that anything was afoot came in an on site liaison meeting with the Town Council in early October when the Town Clerk floated the idea of a change in charging structure to allow for the variety of plot sizes. Nothing at all about an actual rent increase. The next we know about it was an item on the Amenities Committee’s agenda for 27-Oct-2010 about allotment rents. When we asked for a copy of the report behind the agenda item we received a document not only recommending changing the charging structure to large, medium and small, but also an increase in rents of either 100%, 40% or 20% depending on how you were affected by the charging structure change. You can read the Town Clerk's report by clicking here. Delayed result Wed 27-Oct-2010 In Town Council committee meetings there’s fifteen minutes allowed for public participation when anyone can speak for a few minutes on an item to be considered by the committee. Richard, our Association Chairman, took the opportunity to put the Association’s views on the Town Clerk’s recommendations. The Amenities Committee then discussed the Town Clerk's report. Although the public can attend to listen to the discussion they cannot comment unless asked by a committee member to do so. Quite frustrating when a comment is innocently made which is incorrect or misleading! The minutes of the meeting, which you can read by clicking here, don’t give any indication of the intensity of the debate. Voices were raised, points of order called and members displayed a fair degree of passion in their views. You can see from the minutes the decision was deferred to the next meeting for further information on allotment costs. Preparation In advance of the next meeting we did a fair amount of groundwork as follows… Average allotment rent We knew one of the things we would be under attack on was that our allotment rents were lower than the national average… but just how low? Firstly we checked with the NSALG regional representative. She confirmed the more typical rent was £35 per year for a standard size plot of 10 rods or 250 square metres; for this you would be expecting the basic facilities of a water supply and secure fencing. We do have water tanks, although some plot holders have to walk more than 50 metres to access, but no secure fencing. A few enquiries with allotments in surrounding villages and towns showed the following: Huntingdon charge from £30 to £12.50, but all sites have 2 metre high metal fencing to secure Cambridge charge from £30 to £10 and again all sites are secure Alconbury are a newish self managed site where plot holders pay about £1 a week, £52 a year Legal position A trawl around the internet highlighted the following… A Mr Harwood successfully challenged Reigate & Banstead Borough Council in the High Court Chancery Division when his allotment rent was increased by 300%. His argument was that the increase was not reasonable, and the judgement was that a Council could charge what it liked for allotment rental but as allotments are a recreational amenity, the rent increases must be in line with increases applied to other recreational amenities provided by the council. The Council cannot by law raise rents of allotment holders in isolation of other recreational amenities. This is discriminatory practice and is unlawful. The full transcript can be read here. Bolton Council backed down from imposing increases of up to 700% on allotment holders in the light of the above decision. You can read the decision of the Borough Solicitor of Bolton here. The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 makes it automatically unfair for the landlord to impose an arbitrary increase in rent. Guidance by the OFT on unfair terms in tenancy agreements indicates that unless increases are linked to such external factors as the RPI or evaluated by an objective person independent of the landlord they may be deemed to be unfair. The guidance under section 3.102 can be read here. UPDATE: On 17-Feb-2012 Southampton County Court ruled against Eastleigh Borough Council when they tried to increase allotment rents by 60%. In essence the judge ruled... Councils could not increase rents just to lower costsAny increases should commesurate with those applied to leisure and other servicesCouncils should accept that allotments are a subsidised activity and therefore loss making Grateful thanks to Alex Mullins, Chairman, Eastleigh & District Allotments, who successfully brought this case against the Borough Council for the princely sum of £50. Press reports are available at BBC News, Southampton Daily Echo and Eastleigh News. Final outcome Wed 24-Nov-2010 We received the Town Clerk's report for tabling at the next Amenities Committee several days beforehand, to read this click here. No definite recommendation this time, only to consider alternative charging methods and an increase in rents. There’s some difference of opinion about the quality and quantity of work done by the Town Council’s grounds maintenance team on the allotments. The figures in the Town Clerk's report indicate 3 man days per week are spent on the allotments in summer, about 1 man day per week in winter, none of this involving any capital projects work. Our Association don’t recognise the three days a week in summer, and contend that often the grounds maintenance team have to come back and fix things they should have got right in the first place… why should we pay for shoddy work? Their work is primarily grass cutting and strimming about once a month and occasional site inspections. However, any criticism of the grounds maintenance team has lead some Amenities Committee members to passionately jump to their defence, so we stayed well clear of that in our response to the Town Clerk's report. Following an HRAA Committee meeting on the Monday we agreed to major on accepting a reasonable increase in line with inflation, but retaining the current charging structure. We steered clear of making a legal challenge to avoid creating unnecessary conflict… we could always follow up later by putting the legal position if the decision didn’t go our way. Our response was emailed to each of the committee members, to read our response click here. Since our Chairman Richard was away in Newcastle overnight I delivered a short summary of the Association’s views in the public participation section before the Amenities Committee meeting. To read that summary click here You can get a flavour of the subsequent discussion by the Amenities Committee from the notes I took by clickinghere. By the way, the comment by Mayor Councillor Hodge ‘If we applied the same increase as HRAA did for their membership fee we’d be almost at £30’ was one of those frustrating moments when I wished I could have responded. At our AGM we agreed to increase HRAA membership fees from £6 to £7 for a plot holder and from £4 to £5 for a cultivator or associate, the reasons being… To put the Association’s finances on a sound footing. After one year of formal standing we had made a surplus of income over expenditure, primarily due to the St Ives Flower and Produce Show. And although the intention will always be to at least cover the Show’s costs from its own expenditure, we’re always at risk of spending quite a bit of money on the Show and then having a poor attendance or having to cancel because something happens at the venue. We’d very much relied on our Chairman’s contacts to get speakers at low cost (e.g. a small gift) for events. If we wanted a continued high quality of speakers we recognised we’d have to allow for greater costs… at least to pay expenses, as well as covering a potential increase in the cost of hiring venues. Finally, members get a 10% discount from local retailers on production of their membership card, with the average value of that discount being about £20 over a year… on that basis membership is a no-brainer! The formal minutes of the meeting have yet to be published, but will be found on the Town Council’s Amenities Committee page, to access click here. You can also read the preceding post about this topic with more information at Increased Allotment Rents.

Cut W10 (Cemetery and Allotment Charges)

I have received this years account for my half plot allotment and have noted that there has been an increase from lasts years cost of £27. The cost has risen by £13 to a total of £40. I have also received the letter outlining the proposals for further increases. Next year I would have to pay double what I paid last year with further increases the year after. Resulting in a possible payment of £87.50. I was on the waiting list for an allotment for a number of years and took this one in 2013. It was in a deplorable state full of rubbish, rubble, broken glass, asbestos as well as the usual weeds and brambles. I was not able to grow anything for my first season and have since spent a lot of time, money and effort to improve it. Whilst I enjoy growing my own vegetables the proposed increases in costs would make it uneconomic to carry on. I understand that the council are looking to make savings but I feel a large number of current allotment holders will be giving up their plots if these increases are imposed.

Cut W10 (Cemetery and Allotment Charges)

I am currently renting an allotment on Salters Lane South, it is a half plot and the cost is currently £40 per annum as per the latest bill. I have also received a letter with the bill regarding budget proposals for allotment holders which I have several issues with. The site at Salters Lane South is based at the bottom corner of Bensham Park and can only be accessed via a private lane (not council owned) and then over the grassy playing field, this means that for 6 months of the year the plots are inaccessible by car (usually October to March but depending on rainfall in other months). There is no security other than a padlocked gate which is accessed directly from the playing field. The site does not have the benefit of having a skip provided (which other council run sites do) and this, along with the lack of accessibility for 6 months causes many problems for plot holders. Whilst this has been accepted in the past as many plot holders lived in the houses surrounding the site and had direct access from their gardens, this is not the case any longer and most plot holders are travelling from outside the direct area. The proposals for the increase in rent cause a major problem in that if we are to be charged more, then we should expect the same access/security etc that other sites enjoy. There is also the added problem of the proposal to reduce the grass cutting in green areas from approximately every 15 days to every 30 days. As I have mentioned the site suffers from extremely poor access at the best of times but for the grass not be cut as regularly would mean that vehicles would be unable to drive over the playing field at all as the risk of cars getting stuck in long and wet grass would be too great and would also potentially damage the grass permanently. I am sure you understand my concerns and I would ask you to consider these points while comparing Salters Lane South to other sites in the borough. I look forward to your urgent response as the gardening season is already upon us and as yet I have been unable to access my plot by car.

Cut W10 (Cemetery and Allotment Charges)

Mrs X tells me that she knows the Council is in a difficult financial situation and accepts that there should be increases in allotment rents. However, she says the scale of increases proposed is far above predicted RPI increases or inflation, and in excess of any likely increase in costs. Increases on this scale she says undermine the considerable recreational and health benefits which come from the provision of allotments.

In the time she had held her allotment plot she says she has brought it back from waste ground into productive use, making a substantial investment of time and energy. If she had known that rent increases of this scale would be proposed, putting such a financial premium on her allotment produce, she said she would have thought twice about doing this.