Ealing Allotments Partnership
February 18th 2015.
Polygon, St Mary's Church, Ealing W5.
Approximately sixty members attended the Ealing Allotment Partnership AGM.
1. Apologies for absence.
Dominique van Dooren had sent her apologies for absence.
2. Minutes of previous AGM.
The minutes of the meeting held on the 5th March, 2014 were approved.
3. Matters arising.
There were no matters arising.
4. Chair's report.
As chair Patrick Williams gave a report for the last year's activities – a copy of which accompanies these minutes.
He reported that as a consequence of above inflation rent increases in recent years the Ealing Allotment Service was now operating with a balanced budget that should protect the service from the worst of any budgetary cuts though how this would continue in the future remained uncertain.
There have been further moves towards self-management especially Northfields (Ealing Dean) and Haslemere (both Pathways sites); Ascott, the three Horsenden sites and High Lane. Signs are that this has prompted greater involvement by plot holders in the improvement of their sites.
The EAP committee has reviewed its objectives to focus on its most useful activities i.e. the exchange of advice and information and the maintenance of communication with Council Officers. Constitutional amendments to reflect this and to introduce time limited tenures of office would be tabled to the AGM later.
Thanks were expressed to Helen de Jimenez and Dominique van Dooren, who were retiring from the committee, for their work with EAP over many years. These thanks were endorsed by those attending. Thanks were also extended to the evening's principal speaker Mr Richard Wiltshire.
5. Annual Accounts.
Preliminary accounts were presented for the year Oct. 2013-Oct. 2014 showing a balance of £642.76. Patrick Williams on behalf of Dominique van Dooren advised that the accounts were preliminary pending reimbursement by LBE for 2014's AGM costs (£136). With this proviso the accounts were accepted nem. con. A copy of the Accounts accompanies these minutes.
6. Allotment manager's report.
The written annual report by Stephen Cole, LBE Allotment Manager was included in the papers for the meeting and accompanies these minutes.
7. Election of Officers and Executive Committee Members.
The following were elected by the meeting nem. con.: Patrick Williams (chairman, Brentham); John Bradley (secretary, Blondin); Joseph Mangor (treasurer, Horsenden) and as committee members: Andy Doyle (Braund Avenue); Christina Fox (Northfields); Tony Donegan (Brentham); Simon Higginson (High Lane) and John Kenton (Ascott).
Patrick Williams advised the meeting that he would not be standing for the committee next year, consequently a new chairman would be needed in due course.
8. Updates to the Constitution
As agreed at the 2014 AGM, the Executive Committee had drafted a new set of Objectives (previously referred to as Objects – item C of the Constitution) that they felt better reflected the aims and activities of EAP.:
The proposed revised versions were:
(i) to develop and encourage local community involvement in the management and promotion of allotments.
(ii) to promote the wellbeing of the Ealing allotment community by the exchange of information on matters related to allotment activities and to encourage and support the formation of local allotment associations.
(iii) to work with Ealing Council in the promotion of the above objectives.
The Executive Committee had also looked into the question of limiting tenure on the Executive Committee and proposed that the existing item H (iii) of the Constitution should be modified to read as:
All the members of the Executive Committee shall retire from office together at the end of the annual general meeting next after the date on which they came into office. They may stand for re-election but may not serve on the Committee for more than five years in succession. The length of tenure of the three elected offices (Chair, Treasurer and Secretary) by any individual is limited to a maximum of three consecutive years.
These updates were accepted nem. com.
9. Any other business.
Roger Davies (Pitshanger) informed the meeting of the recent demise of Judy Harris. He reminded the meeting of the report on the use of allotment land that she wrote for Ealing Council in the late nineties and the key role that this report played in underpinning the supportive policy towards allotments pursued by the Council.
At this point the Annual General Meeting was formally closed. It was followed by a presentation on the current state of allotments nationwide by Richard Wiltshire. After a break for refreshment the evening finished with a question time on site development and funding chaired by John Bradley. The panel comprised: Hilary James, Christina Fox and Richard Wiltshire all of whom were thanked by the meeting in the usual manner.
In the light of the large cuts in Government grants to Local Authorities, the old certainties that little changes in the allotment world are fast disappearing. The fact that since the rent increases of the past few years, Ealing Allotment Service is operating under a balanced budget with expenditure reflecting rent income has probably protected it from the worst of the cuts but how long this will continue is anybody’s guess.
The most obvious changes occurring in the past year are the moves towards self-management of allotments. The two Pathway sites Northfields and Haslemere have both moved to self-management and Ascott, the three Horsenden sites and most recently High Lane, have come to Local Management agreements with Ealing Council. Early signs indicate that this has released an encouraging increase in the willingness of tenants to get involved in the development and improvement of their sites.
As far as the EAP Executive Committee is concerned, the past year has been a time of change and preparing for change It has looked closely at its objectives and refocused its interests on what it considers its most useful activities; namely the provision of advice and information on matters of site management and development; and the maintenance of clear channels of communication with Council Officers, It has widened its membership, recruiting new members - particularly from sites embarking on Local Management. It is also seeking, as will be discussed later in this meeting, to introduce a system of limited tenure on the Committee to encourage turnover and the airing of new ideas.
Finally, I would like to express heartfelt thanks to Helen de Jimenez and Dominique van Dooren, who are both retiring from the Executive Committee, for all the time and effort they have put into the running of EAP over the years. I would also like to express my appreciation to Richard Wiltshire for agreeing to be our speaker tonight.
|Surplus / Deficit||£680.76||£642.76|
In September 2013 three of our allotment sites became locally managed, meaning that a locally-elected group took charge of the operation of their sites, managing rent collection, tenancies, and minor maintenance and repairs. Local management agreements have since been arranged with other sites, including the borough’s largest, and by and large those involved seem to be enjoying what they are doing and the sites are showing benefits. If you include Pitshanger, which has had a full management lease for over a decade, then roughly a third of our allotments (by numbers of tenants) are now run by local groups. Several more are actively considering the pros and cons, and it is likely we’ll reach the half-way point by the end of this year.
2014 (basically the October 2013 rent collection) was the year in which the allotments service was expected to break even, balancing income and expenditure. Once a few accounting anomalies are excluded, income and expenditure were almost identical. Whilst no one wants to pay more for the same thing, this balanced budget is good news, as observers can’t say their council taxes are subsidising allotment-holders.
We do, however, occupy around 100 acres of prime development land. There are bound to be people with different priorities who can see benefits from selling off this land, so we should take nothing for granted. If we want the support of our local communities and their elected representatives, we need to demonstrate the value that allotments provide to the wider community: educational resource; community developer; wildlife sanctuary; social centre; there are a lot of benefits that allotments can and do bring to the community. It is to our advantage to make sure people know that there’s more to allotments than growing a few vegetables, and we should welcome these activities on our land – otherwise it might not remain ours.
A balanced budget isn’t simply about increasing rents to cover costs. We reduced the budget by 10% two years ago, to avoid higher rents. But even with a reduced budget, we continue to tackle areas where money (sometimes literally) flows away. As I write we have just finished replacing the water supply on a site in Hanwell, and are in the process of doing the same on a large site in Northolt. All in all this involves over a kilometre of pipework (and associated trenches), around 30 new tanks and lots of plumbing fittings. The old systems both suffered from frequent leaks, and neither site had automatically-filled tanks, so as well as replacing leaky pipes there is a real benefit to the gardeners.
In 2014 we also reduced the amount spent on plot clearance and rubbish disposal. I appreciate that this wouldn’t be a success if it simply meant that plots were left overgrown and rubbish continued to pile up, but this isn’t so – apart from a few localised exceptions. The improvements have come about largely because local groups have taken responsibility for ensuring that abandoned plots are not left to get overgrown, and by these same groups exhorting tenants not to use plots as stores for rubbish they no longer want to keep at home, and not least by people volunteering to take rubbish to the council’s waste and recycling centres. No one wants to see their allotment rent being used to clear up after others when it might do something useful instead, so it is in everyone’s interest to support better local management and good use of our allotments.
This report is essentially about the year we’ve just enjoyed but, given the situation that local authorities find themselves in, it is inevitable that the topics above focus on what we’ve been doing to safeguard ourselves and what we should be doing to ensure that there are allotments for generations to come. Local authorities are likely to change very considerably over the next few years, and that’s likely to mean that allotment management will do the same.
The more control you have of your own plot, your site and, collectively, all the allotments in the borough, the better the chance that change will work positively. And if you’re in doubt about what can be achieved, do take the time to read the Partnership’s newsletters and website, where you’ll see reports on the many diverse activities going on at our allotments – from theatre to workdays to outdoor classrooms to novel composting experiments.