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Are we heading down the road to ‘Company Town’?

15 February, 2019

Simon Pitkeathley (centre), chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited (CTU), with security officers Jimi, left, and Charles

IS Camden Town becoming a Company Town?

Up until around 100 years ago it was not unusual, particularly in the United States, for entire towns to be founded, owned and run by private corporations.

They were known as Company Towns and, at their peak, thousands were spread across America. They, ostensibly, championed an ethos that became known as welfare capitalism, with corporate leaders sponsoring services for the benefit of employees and consumers alike. At the same time they maintained a firm grip on a community’s infrastructure.

Camden Town Unlimited’s security team – six men patrolling the high street day and night – have been brought in as a deterrent to thieves and drug dealers.

They do not have any power to make arrests, but can be seen talking sternly to the homeless, rushing around on the widened pavements and generally getting stuck-in to the hurly-burly disputes of Camden Town.

There is a dilution of powers here. The police force exists because it has been circumscribed by laws, created after public debate. Company Town security militia do not have this legitimacy.

Some businesses, frustrated by cuts to police officers in Camden Town, will no doubt feel crime has got out of control – and something had to be done.

But Camden Town Unlimited’s long-serving chief executive, Simon Pitkeathley, appears uneasy with the set-up. He says the process of raking businesses to fund security teams “sort of undermines our legitimacy”, and suggests that business owners might, as a result, consider their position on the Business Improvement District (BID).

Could the new orders have come from way up high? Terry Sagi, the founder of the gambling software company Playtech and owner of Camden Market, is soon to unveil his giant new mall at Hawley Wharf.

And what has Camden Council got to say about it all?

Cllr Abdul Hai – wearing two hats as both a cabinet councillor and director of community engagement at the management company running Camden Market – says he “recognises the challenges”.

Corbyn bashing

TRADUCED, lampooned, mocked, dismissed as a dullard – will the assault on Jeremy Corbyn boomerang on his opponents? There is nothing the British admire more than the underdog.

This week the barrage blazed over the weekend – though it seemed to fizzle out as the week progressed.

Certainly, Corbyn is a compassionate man – witness the fact that he put aside his parliamentary duties on Tuesday and spent several hours at a memorial meeting in honour of a most remarkable working-class intellectual Harry Leslie Smith who wrote a best-seller at 90. Corbyn had got to know him and shared his memories at the gathering streamed on social media.

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