Bristol Green Councillors call in allotments rent hike 

Bristol’s Green Councillors have called in a decision made by Cabinet last week to increase allotment rents and charges across the city.

Decisions can be called in when councillors believe that a decision was not made following the decision-making principles laid out in the council constitution.

The call in points out flaws in the consultation process, inadequate provision of information and inadequacies in the equalities impact assessment. This followed recently proposed changes that sparked a huge backlash and included a range of new fees and rules for allotment holders across Bristol.

Green Councillor Martin Fodor said, “Allotments serve key functions to communities across Bristol, providing an outdoor space to not only grow food, but for education and community, all of which can improve quality of mental and physical health. 

“Whilst we recognise that fees may need to gradually increase to restore the smooth running of the service for plot holders, the decision from Cabinet to increase rents was deeply flawed. The consultation was a complete muddle, survey results were ignored, key information like the real budget of the service was presented late and totally inadequate, and the equalities impact assessment was not fit for purpose. 

“These proposed shock rent increases are the result of an ill-judged freezing of rents by the Labour administration, which has created a failure to invest in the service for many years. In 2022, the Council agreed an inflationary rent rise of 25% to cover the period 2018-2025, which was never implemented. The administration and Cabinet member with responsibility for Public Health and Communities must also answer why this was never put in place.”  

There will now be a public meeting of the Call-In Sub-Committee, made up of members from all parties which will take place at 5pm in City Hall on Wednesday 27th March. 

Cllr Emma Edwards, Leader of the Green Group on Bristol City council, said, “Until May, Labour has total control of Bristol City Council, despite the Green Group being the largest political party. As opposition councillors, although we are limited with the information we can get and the influence we can have, we have enough information to believe that this decision was in breach of the decision-making process as laid out in the constitution.” 

“When the city finally gets balanced committees representing all parties elected by residents, the Greens will make sure the committees pick up the pieces and start to listen to the concerns, wisdom, and insight of allotment communities.  

“These voices will be central in shaping our strategy to support the service and ensure there is a clear budget to sustain it. Meanwhile we will continue to gather information about what the current administration is doing. 

“Sadly, the furore created by these ill-judged proposals means it will be a more difficult task to ensure a collaborative debate that develops a better way to manage this service.”  

NB: Overview and Scrutiny Rule OSR17 states that where non-executive councillors have evidence which suggests that the executive did not take the decision in accordance with Article 14 (Decision Making) of part 2 of the Council’s Constitution, at least five non-executive members may ask the proper officer to call-in a decision for scrutiny. 

Cllr Fodor’s speech at Full Council on the item on the allotment rent increases can be watched here from 1:07:30

Main image: Photo of Cllr Martin Fodor