Changing the rents policy would aid community centres in the borough
24 September, 2020
• YOUR September 17 Comment on community centres (Community centres shouldn’t be businesses, they’re lifelines) is never better illustrated, during the past six months they have been the vital hub of provision, funding and distribution of hot meals and food parcels to many hundreds of vulnerable people.
One in Gospel Oak distributed almost 1,200 free hot meals alone in one week, and the demand is still there. The underlying problem which community centres face is the council policy of charging them rent.
The supposed “reason”, I am informed, is that some community centres remained unused for long periods and to “encourage” usage they were forced to pay rent to the council and thus to hire out their premises.
Some centres are not suitable for hirings because of the structure of their buildings and all have self-repairing leases.
Camden states that it invests £5million in the sector but fails to add that, I understand, over 30 per cent of this stays with the council in rents and “administration”.
While there was a rent holiday for the first three months of the financial year, half-rent has been reinstated.
Readers may recall that a year ago a small voluntary project working with young people in Gospel Oak was evicted from council premises because it could not afford the £10,000 per year rent.
Unless this rent policy, a virtual tax on services to the vulnerable, is revised Kingsgate will be one of a growing number of community centres to go into liquidation and unable to feed the vulnerable, if and when the next wave of Covid-19 arrives.
Camden’s new cabinet member has an opportunity to solve this travesty of a policy on rents left to her.