Meeting of the Association of Bolton Allotment Societies
12th March 2018 at Astley Bridge Cricket Club
The meeting began at 8.00 p.m.There were 26 members from 14 sites.
Apologies were received from Dorothy Kay (Tonge Fold)
The Chair welcomed members and asked them to remember our blogsite at http://abas2014.blogspot.co.uk
Minutes of the 2017 AGM
The Minutes having been posted on the Association Blog-site for an appropriate period and no comments or objections having been received the meeting accepted the minutes as correct.
The Committee will in 2018 seek to actively promote membership of ABAS. In particular we shall seek to contact and recruit some of our non-OMA sites
Since the November meeting Mr Phil Warren had indicated that he no longer wished to serve on the ABAS Committee. The Committee would like to thank Phil for all his support since ABAS was first mooted and express our regrets that he feels he can no longer be on the Committee.
THE ABAS VISION STATEMENT
Abas exists to achieve fair treatment for all plot-holders on allotments sites within the Bolton Borough boundaries. It seeks to achieve this through effective representation of plot-holders and societies to the Council and the provision of support to individuals and societies.
In the light of subsequent discussion we would like to remind members that one of abas’ primary functions is to act as a channel of communication between the Council (essentially the Allotments section) and Site Secretaries / Societies. Communication is two-way – Council to Society and Society to Council. Quite a lot of what we do at meetings is to broadcast information on Council policy, budgets etc. and its implications for Societies and their members.
A number of societies have still not yet paid their annual subscriptions to the Association.
Current membership stands at 399 plot-holders, although the total number of plots covered by member societies exceeds this number.
The Secretary stated that it is vital that, if we are to retain credibility as a negotiating / liaison body on behalf of the allotment community with Bolton Council, we keep membership in excess of 500.
We urge all societies who have not yet re-joined to do so.
KEY PROBLEM AREAS
Outstanding Issues can be divided into two areas#1 those relating to the provision of services and facilities at sites
#2 those relating to the management / administration systems shared between society officers and the Allotments Team
Whilst Issues in #1 can be addressed by societies through fundraising initiatives and grants, issues in #2 require a decision by the authority to increase expenditure (budget) since they deal with internal staffing, systems etc.
Members were reminded of the suggestion in November that an increase in the “allotment budget” might be funded by discontinuing the “Over-60s” rent rebates which was not favourably received by the Association’s membership. The meeting again repeated its suspicions that the funds created by such a move would not actually be spent on allotment administration and/or have any major impact on the poor performance of the Council with respect to administration (as referred to in abas questionnaire results).
PROGRESS MEETING(S) WITH BOLTON MBC
The latest meeting was held on Thursday 15th February 2018An initial report from that meeting was circulated to Society Secretaries on 17th February 2018.
The principal subject of the meeting was the revised OMA Agreement intended to be applied from 01/04/2018. The key changes to the draft etc. were spelled out in the abas circular of 17/02/2018
Following the Progress meeting an amended text of the OMA was received from MR on 5/3/2018 and circulated to Society Secretaries for consideration. There were no major objections raised at the12.03 meeting to the amended text.
Other matters included
Effects of new Data Protection Regulations (GDPR Data Protection Regulation which comes into force on May 2018) on Waiting List information (society secretaries who are provided with this information may be required to sign to say they will safeguard that information and not pass it to any other body).
Request for Secretaries to supply updated information on new tenants, probationers, those leaving sites etc.
It had been suggested that societies conduct informal Site Inspections during March 2018 – to be followed up where needed by formal inspections in April leading to possible issue of BoT2s (and subsequent BoT3s)
The Council had suggested that where applicants repeatedly refuse offers of plots – that after 3 offers they should be excluded from the waiting list. Secretaries should always note any refusals on the Monthly Report.
When making contact with persons on the waiting list to make a plot offer, it was suggested that Societies if, following an initial email or letter and a follow-up phone call (if possible) and then a final email, receive no response from the applicant then this should be noted on the Monthly report and the secretary should move to the next name on the list.
Keys and Locks – there is a Council proposal that responsibility for buying new locks and keys should pass from the Council to the Society. The Council will provide an initial supply of standard locks and keys and a list of sources for replacements. Societies could then move to a system whereby on the issue of a key to a tenant that tenant pays a charge and/or deposit. The level of such charges should be set so that the provision of locks and keys is not a drain on the society’s funds.
The Committee reported on a proposal for a joint push to replace the portable chemical toilets, which are available on some sites for 26 weeks each year, with permanent composting toilets.
Such a project would be ‘grant-based’ – some ‘central’ base to create standard bids with Council support over planning matters might be a solution and the Committee will follow up Cllr Peel’s suggestion that we work with a Bolton Council Grants Advisor to set this up. Other initiatives relating to water saving etc. will be investigated during 2018
Following further discussions within the Committee, we will be requesting a copy of the 2018/2019 Allotments Budget – suitably itemised
Bolton Allotments Competition 2018The Fairhurst, Greenhalgh, New Tenant and Rosebowl Competitions will again be run by ABAS in 2018
Judging will take place in June and July
Judging Criteria, entry forms etc. will be available at the next meeting
ABAS ONION, LEEK AND VEGETABLE SHOW
The Annual Vegetable Show will be held on Saturday 4th August at Trinity Church, Tonge FoldThere will be 25 Vegetable Classes and lists and schedules will be available. Copies of the list of classes were distributed at the meeting.
Terry Farrell has offered to visit any society to show plot-holders what standards etc. are required to show veg etc. Terry can be contacted on 0786 3933064. Members were again reminded that this is a ‘closed’ show (Abas members only) and that judging is to “table quality”.
The NWCAA AGM will now be held on 8th April at Greenhall Sports and Social Club, Alder Hey Rd., St Helens, WA10 4DN– Jeff and Terry will attend for ABAS if possible
Please note the new NWCAA email address: firstname.lastname@example.orgThe NWCAA website is www.northwestallotments.btck.co.uk
Members should visit the website to sign up for NWCAA Newsletters
NAS INSURANCE SCHEMEOn page 7 of Allotment and Leisure Gardener, Issue 1 2018, the NAS proposed to establish an insurance scheme to cover all members. More details of this scheme are being announced (via the NAS website www.nsalg.org.uk and in issues of A&LG)
There was much discussion of this initiative and it was felt that:· as individual members we all need to know more of the benefits
· as Secretaries and Treasurers we will also wish to examine to how this scheme affects their current insurance arrangements e.g. with respect to Public Liability etc.
A member from Rawlyn Road with insurance expertise / knowledge is to conduct a preliminary look at the proposals.
As part of the scheme mentioned above the NAS stated that “Each Association will need to provide details of all their plot holders…. By filling in a template provided by NAS”. They also stated that this action complies with the May2018 GDPR Data Protection Legislation.We assume that when they use the term ‘plot-holder ‘, they mean ‘a plot-holder who is also a member of the NAS’.
A plot-holder on a site is always a tenant of the Council and Council restrictions on sharing data supplied by them for the purposes of waiting list management would have to be applied (see earlier note)
A plot-holder may be a member of the site society in which case it may be politic to have them sign something to the effect of allowing the society to hold contact details (e.g. for use in a case of emergency) and share them in certain specified circumstances (e.g. if the society’s insurers require a list of society members being covered)
A plot-holder may (through their society) also be a member of the NAS – if so it may be politic to have them sign that their details may be supplied to e.g. the NAS using the template provided for the insurance scheme)
GM SPATIAL PLAN
Little to report save that the Council anticipate Peel Holdings setting out their intention to reclaim possession of the allotment site currently leased by them to the Council.This site has been the subject of a successful planning application for housebuilding.
So far as we know no other sites are in jeopardy.
We understand that Bolton at Home may have sold some former ‘allotment land’ to tenants as ‘garden extensions’ (3 small patches of land used as allotments which lay within the boundaries of “council estates” were transferred to Bolton at Home by the Council some time ago).
We also understand that Bolton MBC may be considering “selling off” some areas of “surplus” woodland and also that maintenance of woodland areas has been severely curtailed
WHAT’S ON IN 2018?We will continue to maintain the section of the blog site that highlights events being organised at or by allotment groups within Bolton (and possibly further afield).
So far we have the Annual Veg Show on August 4th and we understand that Harpers Lane Allotments will be having a Spring Event / Plant Sale on May 6th.
Please note that National Allotment Week is 13th to 19th August – the theme is “Living and Growing”
GRANTS ETC.To improve facilities etc. allotment sites need a financial input
Whilst fundraising events remain vital, significant sums are most likely to come through successfully bidding for and securing grant funding for projects
We shall be investigating whether we can work with the Council’s “Grant Funding Navigators” to establish some central mechanism for helping societies / sites identify funders, make bids and carry out projects
So far as we know the principal outstanding issues from 2017 have been raised with the Council and/or covered in previous sections
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
There was suggestion that we ask the Council to set up a system whereby there are monthly meetings with Society representatives to iron out face to face the issues raised in each Monthly Report. Whether this should be on an individual society basis and where such meetings should be held was discussed.
The Secretary reported that the Head of Neighbourhood Services had on more than one occasion resisted making any commitment to (regular) meetings with individual sites. The Secretary referred to the former practice of Joint Consultative Meetings which had been discontinued by the Council on grounds of lack of staff resources.
It was also suggested that abas could collate the monthly reports before they went to the Council. Abas’ ability to resource this must be questioned.
There was a discussion as to the strategy of ‘constructive engagement’ currently adopted by abas with respect to dealings with the Council.
It was suggested that the Association should return to the topic of a ‘subsidy’ for allotments and consider bringing in someone with legal expertise (preferably on voluntary basis) to reconsider the legality of Bolton’s zero budget stance.
The Committee pointed out that this matter had previously been addressed and advice had been sought from the NAS some years ago. The opinion had been that our chances of a satisfactory outcome were slim.
It was further suggested that Societies should take a more aggressive stance on untended plots and consider simply re-letting an unused plot to “some guy who’ll try to make a go of it”
The Secretary pointed out that Societies are not landlords, we have no powers to issue tenancy agreements and that any person who took on a plot in those circumstances would effectively be a squatter and would (almost certainly) be evicted by the Council and replaced by someone from the waiting list under normal procedures (probably after another long delay).
The matter rests for now….
The following meetings are plannedMonday 9th April
Monday 14th May
Monday 11th June
Monday 9th July
Monday 13th August
Monday 10th September
Monday 8th October
Monday 12th November (THE AGM)