Green-fingered pensioners could be asked to prove they need a half-price discount for their allotments as Edinburgh City Council attempts to scythe through an almost 3,000-strong waiting list for a plot.
Proposals set to be put out to a public consultation include means testing pensioners to ensure they need to keep a 50 per cent discount. Other measures that could be introduced feature half plots increased from 50 per cent to 60 per cent of the full price, while some students and unemployed people could also lose discounts. The council will also investigate whether it can prioritise people referred for gardening activities by GPs for a discounted allotment plot.
There are currently 2,965 people waiting for an allotment in Edinburgh, of which, 1,535 applicants have been on the list for more than five years. The proposals to ask pensioners for proof of receiving pension credits before offering a discount, has received criticism from councillors.
SNP Councillor Cathy Fullerton said: “There are many pensioners who don’t receive pension credit but are far from wealthy.
“I’m not sure that means testing pensioners is the way forward at all. It could be perceived that pensioners are getting targeted.”
Culture and communities convener, Cllr Donald Wilson, added: “A solution to me is that we look at the prioritisation of allocation of allotments. If the legal position is that we can prioritise, I think we should look at how we could do that.”
Conservative Cllr Max Mitchell, labelled an update report issued to councillors on the allotments as a “proclamation of failure”.
He added: “We have got a proposal to hit those who are less well-off financially. Is this the best way forward?”
Scottish Government legislation puts a duty on local councils to provide allotment sites and to “take reasonable steps to ensure that individuals do not remain on a waiting list for over five years, and to ensure that the waiting list does not exceed half the number of plots available”.
David Jamieson, from the council’s parks green space and cemeteries team, said: “In a few years, we may struggle to find evidence that we have made progress.
“We are asking people if they still want to be on the waiting list. Our hope is that may identify people who are no longer interested and we may be able to partially bring the waiting list down.”
He added: “A lot of allotmenteers have been willing to pay more, who are currently in receipt of a discount – because they feel that they can pay more as relatively well-off pensioners.”
Officials believe that making changes to discounts could raise an additional £15,000 to £25,000 a year to “support allotment provision” while raising the half plot fee to 60 per cent could rake in another £5,000 a year.
The council has earmarked 37 sites that could be developed for new allotments, but a £4m business case was rejected in budget discussions due to the financial pressures at the City Chambers.