I object to the rent rises declared by City of Edinburgh Council on the following grounds:
1. They change the historic tradition that allotments are an amenity supported by public funding (on a not for profit basis), and instead knowingly raise revenue over and above the cost to the Council of running the allotments. (See attached FEDAGA document submitted to the Council and adopted without amendment)
2. After far exceeding inflation as measured by the Retail Price Index (RPI) for the past 5 years, rents increases are set to outstrip the RPI for 4 more years in a row.
3. The Council has disregarded the benchmarks adopted in the first Allotment Strategy published in 2002. This cites two “comparability factors”:
a. The level of allotment rents in the rest of Scotland and the scale in England
b. Costs of other outdoor recreational or leisure activities provided by the authority
The 2010 rent proposal sees Edinburgh allotment rents , which are already head and shoulders above other local authorities, projected to widen the gap with the rest of Scotland and the rest of the UK. In 2011 Glasgow is charging £33.50 for a full plot, Edinburgh £70. Glasgow rent rises are in line with the RPI, Edinburgh is increasing rents by £10 per year regardless. There is no centralised database for allotment rents across the UK but I can produce evidence from surveys which indicate the average UK allotment rent is between £30 and £40. Edinburgh is £70 rising to £ 100. ( I have been unable to gather information on the second comparability factor as City of Edinburgh Council has hived off the provision of sporting facilities to Edinburgh Leisure who are subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act – but I can find no indication that this factor was taken into consideration either)
The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999 deems such arbitrary increases to be automatically unfair and Guidance by the OFT 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.
4. I do not accept that the CEC allotment budget has to break even. Some degree of public funding has been part of the equation since they were first set up under legislation in 1892. The current target of covering costs through rent clearly integral to the Council’s logic in setting rents. The basis of calculation used, being the total rental income, takes no account of the 50% concession granted to the elderly and unwaged by City of Edinburgh Council. If the Council requires a concession to be made, then the funding of that concession should be drawn from the whole of the Councils revenues and not just from allotment holders. Under the proposed scheme the base allotment rental has been increased to the point where income after concessions exceeds costs. Roughly 40% of plot holders currently pay a concessionary rent. Their rate is being increased to cover the discount and, by double this amount, so too is the rent of the 60% full rate payers. Allowing for the concessionary provision from outside the allotment budget, Edinburgh Allotments became self-funding in 2010. The £40 increase in rent thereafter represents an extra tax on allotment holders over and above those levied on all other Edinburgh Council Tax payers
This is indefensible, morally and probably legally too. I ask City of Edinburgh to halt their programme of increases now, and to return to a “fair rent for the purpose” as stipulated in the legislation. Allotments(Scotland)Acts 1892 to 1950