MINUTES OF THE ABAS MEETING
12th March 2024 at Astley Bridge Cricket Club
Chair: Richard Heyes, Secretary: George Wild, Treasurer: Terry Farrell, Assr. Secretary: David Jackson
This was another well attended meeting. It is estimated that between 50 and 60 people crammed into a back room at ABCC. We are going to need more space!
The pertinent points were:-
- ABAS Fees etc.
- The question was asked as to why ABAS had not been more actively seeking membership subscriptions from Societies.
- It was explained that the Committee had felt that it needed to demonstrate what ABAS could provide and the value of membership to Societies before asking for money.
- ABAS is now happy to accept memberships and membership fees.
- Each Society’s membership fee is calculated as 50p per paid up member of that Society.
- Fees should be paid to the Treasurer Mr T Farrell.
- ABAS proposed new draft constitution
- It was felt that participants had had insufficient time to read the document provided and that there were insufficient copies available on the night. The Assistant Secretary agreed to post the document on the Harpers Lane web-site. He has since set up an ABAS blogsite – http://www.abas2014.blogspot.co.uk on which the document can be viewed.
- Site Visits
- Terry Ferrell and Jeff Gibson have been visiting allotment sites in Bolton.
- A list has been drawn up of those societies / sites with whom ABAS has had contact either by representatives coming to the meetings or by email. Jeff and Terry have visited most other sites in person to pin up notices about ABAS or to speak where possible to plot-holders. It is estimated that of the 1000 plots in Bolton only 18-20 are left on sites where no ABAS contact has now been made.
- Waiting Lists
- When will the freeze on new lets and transfers be lifted, when will site secretaries get the new clean waiting lists?
- Operational Management Agreements
- How do Societies who want to enter into Operational Management Agreements (OMs) start the process of getting one? The Assistant Secretary agreed to post a copy of the draft OM agreement on the Harpers Lane web-site. He has since set up an ABAS blogsite – http://www.abas2014.blogspot.co.uk on which the document can be viewed.
- Some Societies will not wish to take on OMs – they still sought clarification as to what will happen to their services – we’ve undertook to provide a summary. The Assistant Secretary agreed to post the document on the Harpers Lane web-site. He has since set up an ABAS blogsite – http://www.abas2014.blogspot.co.uk on which the document can be viewed
- Reporting Problems
- There is still a lack of awareness about the email address Allotments@bolton.gov.uk – some at the meeting still didn’t know how to report issues now they can’t “phone Alan”.
- The issue concerning the ‘legality’ of a ‘balanced budget’ approach which was raised by a participant at the meeting on 12.02.2014 was revisited. ABAS had contacted the National for guidance on this matter but received no reply.
- Additional Note: This argument may gain new impetus following the article about Bowling Greens in the Bolton News of 14.03.2014 in which it was stated that expenditure on Bowling Greens is £175k and income is £17k leaving an apparent subsidy of £158k which the Council is seeking to reduce by £20k (which would be a 13% reduction).. The Allotments had a subsidy of £31k which the Council reduced by £31K i.e. a zero subsidy. It has been suggested that the subsidy in 2010 was £87,000. On face value this does appear to create an unfair situation.
- Community Plots
- The question of Community Plots was discussed. A number of sites (Harpers Lane being one) have a different view about the future of community plots to the one which seems implied in your presentation.
- Although we can all see the benefits of a single permanent induction training plots(such as plot 1 at Harpers Lane with its grant-funded poly-tunnel and raised beds etc.) many sites would like to also use the ‘inductees’ (if such a word exists) to clear plots which for various reasons have become unkempt and are thus difficult to relet. (Plots 40 and 41 on Harpers Lane are extreme examples of this, but other sites like Rawlyn Rd have similar plots).
- The suggestion was made at the meeting that such plots could be designated ‘community plots’ and thus rent-free for a fixed period– they could then be cleared by working groups either from Site Societies or from the waiting lists, brought up to standard, used for a season and then let to permanent tenants (who would then pay rent to the Council).
- This idea could even be extended to areas which have fallen out of allotment use to increase the number of plots available.
- It might be that an idea mentioned in Malcolm Russells’s briefing – but not developed – that of creating individual site development plans within the OM system, could provide the vehicle for this kind of collective improvement.
- The meeting expressed strong support for ABAS operating the main Borough-wide Allotments Competitions. It is hoped that at the next meeting (April 14th) we can elect a Competitions Committee who can liaise with the Council and put into place the mechanisms for running the competitions.
- It was felt that the model previously used whereby Site Societies nominate a limited number of plots on their site in each of the categories for judging etc. should be retained. There are a number of practical issues – what about sites without a society etc – which will be discussed in April.
- There was heated discussion as to whether plot-holders on sites which were not paid-up members of ABAS would be allowed to enter the competitions. It was felt that the competitions should be OPEN to all in the Borough.
- Additional Note: It has been later suggested that if there is an entry fee for the competitions, then there should be different rates for ABAS members – perhaps free entry - and non-members.
- OMs and savings on the costs of providing Council Services
a. Potentially this is a topic that ABAS and the Council could usefully discuss in the future.
b. If Site Societies take on roles (both administrative and practical) under OMs etc. then they are effectively ‘saving the council’ an element of the costs of providing the Allotments Service.
c. In other authorities (Birmingham, Leeds, Nottinghamshire) a rebate on the rents collected is paid to the Society by the Council.
d. Cllr Morris stated in the Bolton News that it was the Council’s intention to create a ‘pool’ of money (£500k was mentioned) which could be used to provide funds to organisations which help the council reduce the costs of providing services. Should Allotment Site Societies not be considered as recipients of such a fund?
e. ABAS wishes to encourage Site Societies to look at cost savings / service improvement schemes either individually or collectively – examples include reducing water usage on sites, putting in solar panels or small wind turbines to reduce electricity bills and especially installing composting and other toilet facilities. Potentially these initiatives could reduce the Council’s expenditure on site provision. The nasty question arises ‘Who gets the benefits?’. At the 12.02 meeting you were clear that any savings would be ploughed back into the allotments service. The question raised since is ‘How?’
f. All societies recognise that we need to think collectively and that there is now and is likely to continue to be a need to ‘subsidise’ certain sites because of their size and / or lack of facilities. However, we are also conscious that there needs to be real incentives for individual sites to undertake the design of schemes, to seek grant-funding, to organise work etc. There needs to be a balance.
- Vote of Thanks
- The meeting on 12th March 2014 voted to send a vote of thanks to Malcolm Russell personally for attending the meeting on 12th February 2014 and giving his presentation to the assembled representatives of the Allotments Community. It was felt that this was a positive development in what has not always been a harmonious relationship, and that we could hope to build a constructive and progressive partnership to the benefit of allotments in Bolton.
- It was agreed that the next meeting would be moved to Monday 14th April to ensure that a room of sufficient size would be available. The dates of future meetings will be reviewed.
PLEASE NOTE: ALL THE ABOVE POINTS WERE COMMUNICATED TO MR. RUSSELL FOLLOWING THE MEETING AND WE HAVE RECEIVED A FULL SET OF REPLIES TO EACH POINT. IN PARTICULAR POINTS 4a, 5a and 5b, 7b and the whole of point 10 have been addressed. Mr Russell’s responses will be made available as ‘Matters Arising’ at the meeting referred to above.
Additional Item: The Committee were approached by a representative of the site at Cemetery Rd. Farnworth. He reported that the Cemetery Wall had collapsed onto plots and smashed into sheds causing a lot of damage. Since this was a recent collapse, and it would take time to organise repairs the complainant was advised to ensure that the matter had been correctly reported via Allotments@bolton.gov.uk or by phone to Neighbourhood Services and that we would wait a short while to see what the contractor or council is planning to do about the repairs and making the wall safe, before making any official approach through ABAS.