Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Camden Council backs Kentish Town City Farm - it isn't closing!

There is a petition circulating from 38Degrees started by someone called Tom Langton-Lockton (apparently a.k.a. erstwhile Mayoral candidate, Tom Ecologist a.k.a. the British Art Shamanasking people to "save" Kentish Town City Farm from Camden council.

This online petition has come out of the blue and no attempt has been made by the co-ordinator to contact the Town Hall to see what the situation actually is - scaring lots of local residents unnecessarily.

The petition has already attracted over 3000 signatures, it states:

"The Farm has already lost £40,000 in funding and is being pushed towards market led corporate events. Less time will be available to teach the children, heal the depressed and combat the ethos of greed. Those who see value only in money are trying to subvert that which is ours, nature, community, beauty and health. These things are given to us free of charge at birth."

There are other statements in the comments which are just not true - such as one by the co-ordinator that we are planning to sell the land "to build homes for the rich." 

The Farm emailed me today to distance itself from the petition - and we exchanged further emails on taking things forward and developing new business plans: as we have an amicable relationship. 

We've been in discussions with the Farm about future funding, I visited the Farm last month to talk through what was needed.  The Farm asked me for a financial concession to help them out, which I delivered for them.  

Obviously we've asked the Farm to draw up a plan to get external funding in - it previously received almost 100% its money from the state - but we are committed to continuing its funding (as per our decision on 24th July) and helping it diversify its funding sources - charities with animals working in deprived areas should have no problem doing this.   

The council faces another £50m of cuts from 2015 but we are taking special steps to help the Farm and a number of other special organisations (Coram's Fields).

Our statement released today reads:

"As a Gospel Oak ward councillor and Cabinet member for Finance I understand peoples' love for the City Farm and their desire to see it succeed, if Kentish Town City Farm were ever under threat of closure Camden would be at one with everyone preventing this. 

Camden Council is a hugely supportive of the City Farm, the Trustees and the exceptional work they have undertaken within the local community for many years.  
I can categorically deny that the farm is under threat due to funding withdrawal.  In addition,  I should protest against the statement made by the co-ordinator of the petition that the land will be sold "to build homes for the rich."  This is utterly untrue and is scaremongering at a low order.

The City Farm has written to us about the petition, saying:
"...please be assured that this is no way an official policy or action of the Farm's trustees, nor is it the doing or position of the Farm's staff."  
As I hope you will appreciate, I and the Farm's trustees and staff remain committed to constructive engagement with Camden Council, charitable trusts and the private sector to ensure the Farm's long term viability."  
Historically, the Farm cost the taxpayer, roughly the same as a neighbourhood library to run.  In 2011 the Farm was granted £260,000 of funding from the council's special Camden People’s Fund as we rightly gave them support to diversify their income stream and become more financially resilient in a time when Camden Council is suffering £130m funding cuts over 6 years from central government.  That year, unlike the Farm, many other community groups lost all of their council funding.  

Following a meeting with me last month, we agreed to re-phase the money so it could be brought forward to help with current finances. 

Kentish Town City Farm is likely to be a beneficiary of Town Hall planning gain money from a nearby regeneration project to help it invest in needed infrastructure and improvements.  This not the sign of the Council backing away from Farm now and in the future.

In addition to providing advice to the farm on improving the way in which they operate, the Council is exploring further future support from the £300,000 Open Spaces for Young People fund created by Camden’s Cabinet on 24 July. We hope that this offer will not only provide further financial support to landmark open spaces such as Kentish Town City Farm, but will enable to us to be a more engaged investor in our community-managed local open spaces and design a bespoke programme of support for them.

In the meantime the City Farm should benefit from everyone's goodwill expressed so far - so I'd urge everyone who cares to personally donate to the City Farm via its website, and encourage their friends to do so or ask them what other help they need https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/kentishtowncityfarmltd - if we could covert the local and online community's support into pounds and pence it would help invest in the future of the Farm even more.  

I trust this clarifies the matter - we of course are always willing to talk the Farm, its users and people concerned about its future in any forum, as we always have been.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the update/ addition info.

    Do you know if the farm is on the local register of 'assets of community value'? If not, it really ought to be.

    Anyone wanting to nominate to be on the local register should have a read through the helpful info here:
    http://mycommunityrights.org.uk/community-right-to-bid/

    ReplyDelete
  2. PS https://believe.in/ is a nicer platform than that BT one for collecting donations (and doesn't have any transaction fees)

    ReplyDelete