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Islington Council rent rise threatens valued charity, London Friend

March 2, 2010

London Friend is at 86 Caledonian Road

London Friend is a charity based at 86 Caledonian Road in the parade of shops just south of the junction with Killick Street. Islington Council is increasing its rent by 25% at a time when funding is getting quite difficult for an organisation that has never relied on the Council for support. Labour’s Councillors in Caledonian Ward have taken 3 actions to help the charity get through this financially tough time – and offset the effect of Islington Council’s rent increase.

Founded in 1972, London Friend is one of London’s oldest charities that provides counselling and support services for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. London Friend has accumulated a deficit from previous years and has found that as a result of the rent rise it has warned that it may have to “reduce, suspend or close” some current services. Newly appointed Chief executive Matthew Halliday has he expects some services would have to be cut over the rise and that he was “preparing for the worst”.

Islington Council has sold almost every single one of the shops that it once owned; many of the parades on Caledonian Road went in the last huge sell-off; nearly all went in a job lot to a property company which has been quietly hiking-up rents and winkling-out the distinctive shops and other small traders; remarkably, the London Friend building still remains in Council hands. But the Council’s agents are now behaving exactly like any other commercial operator and putting the squeeze on their tenants

Obviously, no-one is seriously suggesting that Islington should let its properties at unrealistically subsidised rents. But the whole point about holding property is the Council can assist certain types of businesses or charities which are of benefit to the community. Labour’s Caledonian team is committed to protecting valued voluntary organisations and local businesses that supply the sort of goods and services that residents actually want.

This increase in rentals on the lower part of Caledonian Road is a sharp reminder that the “Kings Cross effect” seems alive and well (at least in the minds of commercial property surveyors and valuers). This effect has been well documented and reported by businesses around Kings Cross. Rising rents threaten established “normal” shops and businesses, and without careful control, threaten to Covent Garden-ise the lower end of Caledonian Road.

Back to London Friend … Labour’s Councillors in Caledonian Ward have taken three immediate actions:

  • Established that London Friend is eligible for (and is currently not receiving) a 100% discount on its business rates – this is a discretionary rate relief available to charities that the Council can grant entirely at its own discretion ; we have written to the Council’s Director of Finance to request this relief is applied to London Friend
  • Written to the Lib Dem Leader of the Council and suggested that he intervene to prevent the rent rise being implemented
  • Asked the senior management of the Council to consider sources of modest financial grant aid for London Friend to help the organisation through its difficult financial spell.

Councillor Paul Convery says “For over 25 years, Islington has been a Borough at the forefront of support for London’s gay community. But the Council no longer funds any charities especially those like London Friend that provide valued counselling and advice services. It’s crazy that such a worthwhile charity should be pushed into financial difficulty because Islington Council is behaving like any other rapacious landlord”.

Councillor Rupert Perry adds: “The Liberal Democrats on Islington Council have recently complained about the effect in Islington of the latest reassessment of rateable values which have caused some business rates to increase. So, it’s pretty ironic that they put up the rent of one of their own properties and then charge the charity full rates.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Diana Shelley permalink
    March 2, 2010 1:33 pm

    Gay’s the Word bookshop in Marchmont Street is also facing a 25% rent hike from Camden (see, probably another victim of the ‘King’s Cross effect’. We can all point to shops which were a great asset to our community (Barnsbury Health Foods on the Cally, Day by Day pictureframers at the top of Gray’s Inn Road) which were forced out of the area by extortionate rent rises (tho Day by Day survives further down Gray’s Inn Road). As long as small traders’ rents are solely subject to market forces, with no evaluation of the community’s needs, real regeneration will be impossible.

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