Council leader steps up campaign against inflation busting rise in commons conservators levy

Published: Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Council leader Simon Hogg has stepped up his campaign against an inflation-busting rise in the levy charged by the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators that’s paid by more than 28,000 Wandsworth households.

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Council leader Simon Hogg has issued a joint statement with Merton's leader Ross Garrod condemning the plans

Councillor Hogg has branded the conservators plans as “wholly unacceptable” in a letter to the Government, which has the power to block the increase and whose specific consent is required for the Conservators’ plan to proceed.

In his letter to Defra minister Therese Coffey Councillor Hogg says: “I am writing to confirm that Wandsworth Council does not support WPCC’s proposed uprating of the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Special Levy by 25%. I understand that this increase would be in addition to the inflationary increase that the WPCC apply at the maximum level every year already, so residents’ bills could rise by almost a third under their proposals.

“We have offered to work with the WPCC to find efficiencies given the council itself maintains a number of its own open spaces, but this offer has not been taken up.
“With high inflation and the cost-of-living crisis affecting everyone in Wandsworth, it is more important than ever that residents’ bills are kept as low as possible. That is why Wandsworth Council froze the main rate of council tax in 2023-24.
“I hope you can reassure the Council and residents in Wandsworth that you intend to reject this request which is wholly unacceptable.”

These points have also been made in a letter to Diane Neil Mills who chairs the commons conservators. Councillor Hogg points out: “Wandsworth Council opposed the 12.6% rise that you imposed in your levy last year. There are no circumstances in which increasing your levy by a further 25%, in addition to future rises at the rate of inflation, can be justified. It certainly is not justified now during the cost-of-living crisis.
“Many of the parks, commons and green spaces that the Council maintains are award-winning, with six open spaces being awarded a Green Flag this year.  We have managed and funded them throughout many years of public sector austerity.

“Despite these financial challenges, public sector organisations have had to innovate and create efficiencies into our ways of working that don’t negatively impact on residents. I reiterate my previous offer of cooperative assistance to you so that you can manage the commons effectively instead of issuing ever-rising bills to Wandsworth residents.”

The conservators charge residents in three boroughs – Wandsworth, Merton and Kingston - an annual levy to pay for the upkeep of Wimbledon Common, Putney Common and Putney Heath.

The charge is payable by households that lie within three quarters of a mile of Wimbledon Common, or within the old Parish of Putney as it was in 1871, which includes much of Roehampton.

The conservators have launched a public consultation on their plans which concludes on October 29. Residents subject to the levy are being urged to take part and have their say on the proposals.

•    Earlier this week Councillor Hogg issued a joint statement with the leader of neighbouring Merton Council Councillor Ross Garrod condemning the conservators plans. Find out more here.