Monday, 17 January 2011

Self-management initiative

It is widely believed by both major national allotment associations (our own AGC and the NSALG) that self-management (i.e. the running of allotment sites by plot-holders for plot-holders) is the way forward for site management. Self-management would involve the Society leasing the land from the Council (at a pure land rent excluding services and management fees), and then sub-letting individual plots to plot-holders. Members would vote at the AGM to determine what services (e.g. water, toilets, site maintenance) were to be provided, at what level etc. and to approve a budget for running the site (which would include the payment to the Council). This budget would be covered by the rents and fees charged to individual plot-holders. The national associations argue that provided a reasonable settlement can be reached with the Council most societies would be able to provide a better service at lower costs than those currently prevailing.
Following the AGM, the Society formed a Steering Group (Margaret Jackson, David Jackson, Sue Colman, Glyn Platt, Gill Chamberlain, and Tom Riley) to assist the Committee in examining the benefits to the Society in Harpers Lane becoming a SELF-MANAGED site. The Group was invited to meet with Council officers (Malcolm Russell and Alan Crook) on January 6th to discuss whether such a project might be feasible.
From the officers’ comments it is very clear that (despite assertions in some quarters) no political decision has yet been made as to whether the Council will offer self-management as an option to individual sites, this awaits a discussion within the Policy Development Group and a decision by the Executive Member.
It is equally clear that the Council will have little or no funds to allocate to allotments and that if we remain under direct Council management, we can expect minimal services at best in 2011/12 and beyond, whilst there will remain strong pressure to maintain and probably increase current rents and charges.
As part of the preparation for the political discussion on self-management, Mr Russell believes that there is much to be gained from working closely with groups such as ourselves to identify the issues that will need to be resolved and the kinds of solution which will bring benefits to both “sides”. “Joint Working for Mutual Benefit” was a suggested slogan.
At the meeting the Steering Group undertook to provide an initial paper for the Council, listing the key issues (essentially a list of “who, where, when, how, what” type questions) from the plot-holders’ viewpoint. A joint meeting of the Steering Group and the Committee was then held on the 11th January which developed and agreed a suitable document. This was e-mailed to Mr Russell on 12th January. Once we have some answers to these questions we will be better able to inform plot-holders and engage them in developing the Society’s approach. If you’d like to know more in the meantime, please ask a Committee or Steering Group member.
The Steering Group has assembled documentation from the AGC and NSALG relating to self-management, and is now seeking further advice and assistance from appropriate bodies and to that end has contacted the Allotment Regeneration Initiative’s Mentoring Service and the AGC’s Regional Liaison Officer. We are also making contact with other sites in Bolton known to be interested in the self-management option.
We now await the Council’s response to our document.
We’ll keep everyone informed as best we can
Margaret Jackson (Secretary) – 14.1.2011

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