Commons Conservators Refuse to Budge over Levy Charge

Continuing with maximum increase despite pleas from councils and residents

Putney Common
Putney Common. Picture: Andrew Wilson

March 31, 2023

The Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators (WPCC) have confirmed that they will not be reconsidering the planned rise in their Levy for 2023/2024.

They say this ‘difficult decision’ to increase the charge by 12.6% in line with the rise in the RPI and the maximum allowable under the 1990 levy regulations was unavoidable.

This was despite demands from both Wandsworth and Merton Councils to reconsider the level of the rise in light of the rising cost of living for residents.

The decision reflected the what was described as the growing cost of meeting the Conservators’ constitutional duties to preserve and protect the Commons given inflationary pressures on the operating budget and essential capital works.

A statement from the Conservators says, “In deliberating the matter, consideration was given to the current rise in the cost of living and the potential impact of the increase on levy-payers. The Board also noted the reassurance that they had received from the three local authorities that collect the levy on behalf of WPCC that any benefits and reductions to which residents were entitled for council tax purposes would also apply to the levy.

“Subsequent to the meeting, the Conservators received confirmation from the three local authorities of the total number of households in the levy-area of 41,449 Band D equivalent properties. As a result, WPCC determined that the 2023/24 levy for a Band D property would be £35.96, which represented an increase of £3.82 per household per annum from the previous year (or 32 pence per month) and notified the three local authorities accordingly.

“In response to the notifications, the Conservators received representations from the leaders of both Wandsworth Council and Merton Council, urging the Conservators to reconsider the decision to increase the levy by RPI. Although the Conservators understood the concerns of the councils to keep taxes low, the Conservators equally had to consider their duties to protect the assets of the charity that owns and manages the Commons. Under charity law, the Conservators have a duty to act in the best interests of the charity.”

In response to the Leader of Wandsworth Council, the Chairman commented, “Councillor Hogg’s letter reaffirms Wandsworth Council’s commitment to delivering high quality services at low prices, a principle that both the Conservators and staff fully endorse. There is no doubt in our belief that the average levy for a Band D property of £3 per month represents outstanding value for levy-payers.”

The Conservators point a consultation report recently published which showed strong support for the projects they had outlined in their Masterplan and that many Levy Payers were happy with the increase and willing to pay more.

Of those who disagreed with the increasing the levy, the most common response was that they thought this is not how the Commons should be funded, rather than the amount proposed, for example increasing the levy area to cover the population of all three local authorities rather than those living close to the Commons.

The consultation generated over 600 responses, roughly two-thirds of which were through on-site face to face engagements and one-third through on-line surveys. Most of the users who responded to the consultation lived within a 2.0 to 2.5 mile radius of the Windmill; two thirds of the respondents were levy payers.

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