Up till now rents have been paid for the year just gone. Ashford was the only borough in the country still to do this - everyone else had gone over to payment in advance.
In addition the council is changing the time of year the rents are due to the autumn.
These two changes have a number of benefits.
Plots change hands at the best time of year for new allotmenteers to take them on.
The council will no longer lose income from the many short-term tenants who default on rent.
New plotholders will have to pay when they take a plot on, thus deterring timewasters.
And a small change and inconvenience to us means a big improvement in the cashflow for the allotment service.
From the point of view of existing tenants, it means finding two lots of money in one year. To help with this the council are giving us 6 months free.
Of course, there is still a rent rise. This comes on top of a rise last year and the year before and means that rents are now considerably more than they were in 2010. This does not come as any great surprise, and many of us will be glad the rise is not more. The work done in the Working Group on reducing costs, the change in the timing of bills, and the recently publicised ban on watering with hosepipes will all, it is hoped, enable the council to hold the rents at this level now.
The question of whether or not allotment rents should cover the cost of running the allotments is one which has attracted a good deal of attention recently. Historically allotments were a replacement for common land enclosed by large landlords, say some, and should not be regarded as an amenity but a right. This is a matter of policy which has to be decided in another arena - the Environment department has to operate within the constraints placed on it by the elected councillors, and these in turn are affected by the funding decided at national level.
The Working Group will continue to meet monthly to discuss matters of importance concerning the allotments. If you would like to contribute, contact Julie Rogers, saying which site you're on at JULIER@ashford.gov.uk