London Friend, the UK’s oldest LGBT charity, is challenging a decision by Islington Council to sell the building it leases from them. This challenge comes as they fear a new commercial landlord could dramatically increase their rent in the future, making it even more difficult for them to be able to afford to carry on their services.
The charity, which went through a similar battle with its landlords earlier this year regarding a 25% rent increase, is angry that they have been given just three weeks notice before the property goes to auction.
Matthew Halliday, Chief Executive of London Friend said “as worrying and disappointing as this news is we were more shocked to be told that in no uncertain terms would London Friend be given any preferential treatment in relation to the sale or time to consider buying the premises from the Council”.
The charity have been tenants of Islington Council for over thirty-five years and are angry that the sale is taking place without proper consultation with themselves, or the wider community. Mr Halliday is also challenging the Council’s decision not to carry out a full equality impact assessment on the decision to sell the property.
In an open letter to John Foster, Islington Council’s Chief Executive, Mr Halliday wrote “I want to express my deep sadness at how this process has been handled. I have received no formal letter as to the reasoning or justification of this decision and am upset that no one felt the need to consult with London Friend, or our service users, about the potential consequences of this decision. The lack of formal or informal consultation, no consideration of legal requirement for an equality impact assessment and giving us three week’s notice before our property goes to auction completely undermines our 35 year relationship with Islington Council. This appears to be in direct contradiction with the Coalition Government’s focus on developing and strengthening the voluntary and community sector”.
Mr Halliday went on to say “Obviously, no-one is suggesting that Islington should let its properties at unrealistically subsidised rents. But one of the main and obvious advantages of holding property is so the Council can assist certain types of businesses or charities which are of benefit to the community. I would hope you feel that London Friend is of value and benefit to Islington and its many LGBT residents?”.
The news comes as London Friend recently announced it is in the process of taking over Antidote, the LGBT drug and alcohol service that closed earlier this month do to funding cuts.
London Friend have requested that the Council review their decision, with a consideration as to the possible impact on Islington’s and London’s LGBT communities. If it is found that the only way forward is to sell the property then London Friend would like to look into buying the property as a continuing resource and asset for London’s LGBT community.
Mr Foster, or a Council representative are yet to respond.