The Golf Course Allotments site is managed by Haringey Council. There is a nominated allotments officer who carries out inspections and makes decisions on letting plots and termination of tenancies. However, the majority of day-to-day management tasks are carried out by the Golf Course Allotments Association (GCAA).
Applications to be allocated a plot come to the Site Secretary, who determines their eligibility and places new applicants on the waiting list. Every person on the waiting list has to renew their interest every 3 months. As plots become available the site secretary contacts the next few people on the waiting list and makes appointments for them to view the plots. Plots usually become available because they have not been properly cultivated, so they require a lot of work to bring them up to standard. If someone wants a plot it will be allocated on a probationary basis: the new plotholder has 3 months to find out if allotmenting is for them. They must work on the plot and make significant progress towards a fully cultivated plot. If all goes well they will be recommended for a tenancy at the end of this period. While Haringey Council is responsible for issuing the tenancy agreement, one will only be issued to those who are recommended by the GCAA.
Although Haringey have ultimate responsibility for enforcing the terms of the tenancy agreement, the GCAA carries out regular inspections and issue reports to Haringey, guiding them to problems. The GCAA also keeps in close communication with the plotholders so there are no surprises when Haringey gets involved. In addition, the GCAA is responsible for some maintenance on the site and has a small maintenance budget from the council in order to carry out this work. Some tasks are for Haringey alone, for example tree maintenance.
The GCAA has a committee made up of ordinary plotholders elected each year at the Annual General Meeting. The committee meets regularly to discuss all allotment matters, to resolve any issues arising, and to plan and implement improvements to the site. A number of fund raising events (cafés and one off events) are organised throughout the year, the major one being the Annual Show in September.
Haringey is one of a number of councils throughout the UK investigating the possibility of devolving more responsibility (and power) to local Allotment Associations. A decision was made in 2017 to put this on hold for the foreseeable future.
The GCAA is fully involved (in partnership with all other Haringey allotment associations) in discussions relating to allotments in Haringey through the Forum.
Presentation to Golf Course Allotments AGM - May 2015
At the Annual General Meeting on 27th May 2015 a presentation was made on the status of devolved allotment powers. Here is the text of the presentation preserved for information only. Some of it may be out of date.
By our late chair, Jeff Cloke.
The 1998 Parliamentary Select Committee - The Future of Allotments recommended “that all local authorities examine the potential for self-management”.
The 2001 DEFRA/GLA/LGA Good Practice Guide for the Management of Allotments states “all local authorities should consider the transition to a self-management model to promote greater involvement with local communities and to reduce the burden of administration and management”.
The DCLG booklet ‘Growing in the Community’ provides evidence that devolved management can bring a more responsive management on a day to day basis, a sense of pride in any improvements to the site and opportunities for volunteers to bring their skills and expertise to a new challenge. The National Allotment Society also promotes devolved management.
The Haringey 3-year Corporate Plan published in December 2014 includes “the transition to a self-management model for allotments, empowering local people and building community resilience”.
Haringey needs to save a further £70 million of savings in the next 3 years including £60,000 currently spent on managing allotments.
Advantages for tenants & site associations
Pride in achievements - a greater sense of community and ownership. Increase in morale on site. Prompt decision making. Maintenance can be carried out quicker and cheaper. Grant funding can be obtained. Complete control over rents and expenditure.
Disadvantages for tenants & site associations
It is dependent on the commitment and capabilities of volunteers. The association will have to enforce the terms of the tenancy agreement, which may make some of them unpopular. The site association will take on legal liabilities for health & safety and insurance. The site association may have to take on responsibility for major repairs of roads & water supplies. The site association may take on responsibility for collecting rents.
NOTHING HAS YET BEEN DECIDED - WE ARE BEGINNING A PROCESS WITH THE COUNCIL TO INVESTIGATE THE POSSIBLE EXTENT OF DEVOLVED MANAGEMENT AND THE POSSIBLE TIMESCALE. IT MAY NOT HAPPEN. CABINET APPROVAL WILL NOT BE SOUGHT BEFORE DECEMBER 2016.
Moving towards devolved management
Devolved management is the practice of devolving a share of the responsibility for managing allotments to individual sites themselves or to an umbrella type body such as a Federation of allotment associations. There will be some sites who could switch to devolved management within a short space of time, while others would need a much greater period of transition. For devolved management to be a success there must be sustained commitment from all parties involved. The capacity must be there to allow site associations to carry out a wide range of duties. They must also be accountable, and therefore be open and honest in management procedures and have audit mechanisms in place to ensure support form tenants and the council.
It is essential that a lease is drawn up and agreed between both parties that clearly sets out the responsibilities of each party. There may be some functions that remain the responsibility of the council, such as rent collection and the issuing of tenancy agreements. The council would retain a percentage of rent to cover the management of these functions.
Investment will be required to bring sites up to an acceptable condition. Outstanding repairs improvement works should be completed prior to devolving management.
It is also essential that a rescue strategy is in place if things go wrong. This may involve the council taking back responsibility for certain functions until problems can be resolved, or a return of all duties to the council.
Models for Delegated Management
The extent to which plotholders can be involved in the management of their site can be broadly categorised as follows:
Dependence - neither plotholders nor site associations play any pratical part in site management beyond exchange of information.
Participation - plotholders or site associations accept responsibility for waiting lists, letting vacant plots and minor maintenance works. The views of site representatives may be expressed through an allotment forum on the terms and conditions of a tenancy agreement, capital expenditure and repairs, rent increases and other borough-wide issues.
Delegation - a properly constituted allotment association accepts formal responsibility for a range of duties under licence from the council, under financial arrangements which release a proportion of rental income for this purpose. For example the site association may arrange tenancies (and terminations), collect rents and carry out regular maintenance duties but the council will carry out repairs, pay for overheads such as water and undertake legal formalities.
Semi-autonomy - the allotment association leases the site from the council, arranges tenancy agreements, collects rents and re-invests revenue on repair, maintenance and capital works.
Devolved Management in the London Area
There are 3 basic forms of delegated management of council allotment sites in the London area:
1. Management of individual sites, or groups of small sites, by individual allotment associations that take responsibility for all aspects of the management of their sites., including major infrastructure changes, with minimal council backup e.g. Barnet
2. Management of all council owned sites in a borough by a single allotment association that takes responsibility for all aspects of site management on all council sites with minimal council backup e.g. Guildford
3. Management of individual sites, or groups of small sites, by individual allotment associations that take responsibility for all aspects of the management of their sites, apart from major infrastructure changes which remain the sole responsibility of the council e.g. Kingston
Conditions for Successful Devolved Management
1. A majority of plotholders should have a positive attitude to whatever form of devolved management is agreed. An arrangement which is opposed by a significant minority of individual plotholders is unlikely to work, since volunteer managers are easy targets for persistent abuse from dissatisfied plotholders.
2. A majority of plotholders should have a positive attitude to the site as a whole and an interest in cultivating their plots and keeping the surrounding areas presentable. Willing to engage with the social life of the allotment site and attend fundraising events.
3. A number of plotholders must be willing to carry out minor maintenance tasks as part of an occasional working group.
4. A small number of volunteers must be willing to carry out the essential management tasks including plot inspections, waiting lists, plot allocation & termination, rent collection, management of maintenance tasks, organising fund raising events, trading shed, accounting, obtaining grants, developing the long-term plan, etc.
5. Transparent and robust management and auditing procedures must be in place, with mechanisms enabling plotholders to appeal decisions that affect them.
6. There must be an agreed, written definition of the division of responsibilities between the association and the council.
The Barnet Experience
This short summary of points directly relevant to Golf Course Allotments is taken from “Allotment Self-Management - The Barnet Process” which describes the 7-year process that resulted in the present situation of full self-management. This process was protracted, acrimonious and unsatisfactory: both Haringey and ourselves have learnt lessons from this and so far the process is much more satisfactory.
Barnet council has leased each allotment site to the allotment society occupying it at a peppercorn rent for 38 years. The societies have full management responsibility for all aspects of their site including maintenance of fences, gates, roads, plumbing and trees. Each society collects and retains its rent, and sets the level of rent. The council undertook a great deal of work on the infrastructure, especially trees, as part of the deal.
The major lessons for us are as follows:
1. Check everything - errors of law and fact must be researched and identified by us
2. Outstanding infrastructure works must be carried out before handover
3. Communication - formal and informal channels between us and the council must be developed, and communication between the allotment association and the plotholders is vital if a successful outcome is to be achieved
4. Cash - with delegated management the cash held by allotment societies is crucial to their ability to survive crises and to fund improvements to their site. The first call on cash is the money to pay for the basics like water, insurance and minor repairs. Next is an emergency reserve to cope with unplanned expenditure in response to major water leaks, fallen trees, etc. The Barnet experience has shown that larger societies such as ours (more than a hundred tenants) need an emergency financial reserve of around £15,000.
Greater plotholder involvement in site management is inevitable. What needs to be discussed and agreed is the form, extent and timing of the devolved management model. Lessons from other allotment sites are being taken on-board by both sides in the process to move towards a successful outcome.
1998 Parliamentary Select Committee - The Future of Allotments: “There is little doubt that, when successfully implemented, self-management schemes ensure greater control of a site by allotment holders and tend to work for the benefit of the site. If plotholders are not prepared to take on some responsibilities they may eventually see the decline of their site ... (and) must be prepared for the site’s demise”.