CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Community centres appeal to the Town Hall for rent break extension

Charities thankful for help but say they need more

05 June, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Foyezur Miah at QCCA

COMMUNITY centres and charities say they are concerned for their future as a rent holiday from the Town Hall during the coronavirus lockdown comes to end and organisations are expected to restart paying the bills.

Queen’s Crescent Community Association (QCCA) was one of dozens of voluntary and community sector groups operating out of council-owned buildings given a break from paying.

The council waived rent owed for the first three months of the year and provided extra funding and support.

Some hoped the waiver would extend beyond the first quarter as distancing laws mean organisations still cannot generate any income.

Foyezur Miah, chief executive at the QCCA, said they will owe £11,250 for the next three months, adding: “I’m hoping the council will look into this and continue giving a rent break to organisations like ours who have been working every day to help people in the community.”

The QCCA has been providing food parcels and meals to over 400 vulnerable, isolated and disadvantaged residents throughout the pandemic.

“It puts us in a tricky situation because to pay rent we will have to furlough our remaining staff and close down the food bank, or choose to keep the food bank open and refuse to pay,” said Mr Miah.

“60 per cent of our income comes from hiring out our facilities but we have not been able to do that since the lockdown and I can’t see us being able to again before Christmas.”

He added: “Camden Council have been very supportive but we’re in this together and we won’t be able to help residents when we have our hands and legs tied.”

The QCCA receives some grants and other funding but it is linked to specific services. A grant they receive from the council each year is currently going towards paying their staff.

Rachel Schwartz, director of Kentish Town City Farm also partly owned by the council, said: “I know Camden has done everything they can to help us and if they need to make decisions to support some partners such as QCCA, who have been open during the lockdown supporting the most vulnerable people, instead of ones like us who have closed, then I support it.”

She added: “After years and years of government cuts there’s just not enough to go around and they have to prioritise.”

But Gus Alston, who represents Camden Community Centres’ Consortium, a group of 20 charities with a total of 30 premises between them, said he was disappointed the council had not extended the rent waiver.  “I believe it’s going to be next summer before centres can get their income streams up to full strength again,” he said.

Camden’s culture and communities chief Councillor Jonathan Simpson said the council’s focus during the “recovery phase” of the crisis was now on supporting “in the most sustainable way”.

He added: “We ensured that all voluntary organisations in Camden properties received rental waivers for the first quarter of this financial year. This allowed them to rightly focus on providing crucial community support.”

The council said they are “working to understand the financial impact on organisations, identifying those most in need and tailoring our support accordingly”.

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