Council Leader Blasts Commons Conservators Over Levy Rise

Simon Hogg says double digit increase 'wholly unacceptable'

Putney Common
Putney Common. Picture: Andrew Wilson

February 3, 2023

The leader of Wandsworth Council, Simon Hogg, has written to the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators (WPCC) to protest at a double digit increase in their annual levy.

Cllr Hogg described the 12.6 per cent rise they charge for maintaining their open spaces as “wholly unacceptable” and urged the organisation to reconsider.

The conservators levy an annual charge from around 28,000 Wandsworth households as well as homes in Merton and Kingston. Last year this levy ranged from £21 for Band A households to £64 for those in Band H homes after being increased by 4.6%.

Those living within three-quarters of a mile of Wimbledon Common (including Putney Heath) or within the Parish of Putney as it existed in 1871 pay this extra levy which pays for their upkeep.

The levy appears as a separate charge on the annual council tax statements of the relevant properties. Secondary legislation that was introduced when these arrangements were put in place in 1990 established a limit for the aggregate levy, adjusted annually to reflect inflation as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI) in the previous September.

In his letter he said, “Wandsworth Council hopes to continue our long history of cooperation. We are happy to work closely with the Wimbledon & Putney Commons Conservators to find ways of joint working that identify efficiencies to maintain and improve our commons.

“I was pleased to meet with you and your Chief Executive recently to discuss the concerns of Wandsworth Council about a potential increase in the council tax levy we collect on your behalf from tens of thousands of residents in the west of our borough.

“I understand that you plan to increase the levy by the maximum amount, 12.6 per cent. We believe that this increase during a cost-of-living crisis is wholly unacceptable.

“We cannot support such a large increase in your levy. I would ask that Conservators reconsider the decision and follow Wandsworth Council’s example by providing improved services for the same low council tax.”

On their web site the Conservators state, “At its 12 December 2022 meeting, the Board concluded that it would be neither prudent nor in the best interests of the charity to propose an increase in the levy that was below the maximum permitted under the 1990 Regulations. The Board therefore set the aggregate levy for 2023/24 at £1,490,566, an increase of 12.64% reflecting RPI for the year to September 2022 and generating an additional £167,238 to support the work of the charity.”

Stephen Bound, Chief Executive of WPCC confirmed that The Conservators have received Councillor Hogg’s letter and are currently considering it.

He said, "The Conservators emphasise that the decision to raise the 2023/24 levy by RPI was taken in the knowledge that:

1. The local authorities that collect the levy on behalf of WPCC apply to the levy any benefits and reductions to which residents are entitled.
2. Under charity law, the Conservators have a duty to act only in the best interests of the charity and the Commons. This includes ensuring that WPCC has the resources to protect and maintain this valuable open space for the community.

"In terms of the impact on households, the RPI increase for 2023/24 represents an additional payment of 32 pence per month for a ‘Band D' property."

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