CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Kentish Town City Farm cuts u-turn to save jobs and animals

Breakthrough in battle to save services

27 June, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Shirley the cow is staying!

KENTISH Town City Farm chiefs have told staff they have scrapped a redundancy programme and cutbacks. T

he board running the farm in Cressfield Close say they are prepared to accept an alternative plan put forward by staff and the farm’s former director last month.

The breakthrough, following weeks of scrutiny in the New Journal, will mean none of the farm’s workers lose their jobs. Services will be saved and animals, including popular cow Shirley, will not be removed.

The deal, however, comes with a series of conditions that would see some staff accepting new contracts with reduced pay scales and it is understood several workers remain cautious over some of the detail.

The package could mean staff are asked to agree to a new code of conduct which would prevent them from talking to the press and also being asked to officially call off their campaign against the board – which put all 11 staff “at risk” of redundancy and caused outrage across NW5.

Last week, the New Journal revealed an extraordinary offer from a mystery donor who offered £100,000 to clear the farm’s deficit on condition the board resigned.

That donation was rejected by the board but the intervention piled fresh pressure on new talks and the most drastic cuts plans are now considered dead in the water.

The board have, however, been hit this week with an official demand from a group of the farm’s Camden-based members for an emergency meeting about the their “failure” to bring in funds since 2016.

A letter sent to the board yesterday (Wednesday) called for the three remaining members to step down and for former director Rachel Schwartz, who ran the farm between 2014-16, to be installed alongside Alison Read.

Ms Read, who is a volunteer and a member of the farm that she has gone to since it was set up in the 1970s, said: “The trustees have made no attempt to talk to the members, or the kids that come to use the place. They have seemed so hostile. We have tried to meet with them and been stone-walled all along. Because they have been an absolute failure in communication – no meetings, dialogue – and yet they are making all the decisions. We want local people involved who will come and be around, and be part of this farm.”

She added: “The staff have been so amazing on this level, on keeping on the services and the children there.”

The interim director of the farm, Mick Denton, is also being replaced after deciding not to renew his contract.

He told staff this week: “We accept the staff structure proposed in your email sent on behalf of staff on 11 June 2010.”

A new board member has also been appointed – a woman who the board of trustees say lives locally and is a regular visitor at the farm.

The council, which has given £800,000 in grants to the farm in the past six years, is reviewing how it will support the farm after 2022.

The farm’s board declined to comment.

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