CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

City Farm board turns down extraordinary £100k rescue donation

Businessman said gift came with condition that the board at crisis-hit farm resigned

20 June, 2019 — By Tom Foot

A BUSINESSMAN offered to donate £100,000 to save Kentish Town City Farm – as long as its under-fire board resigned.

The mega-rich donor, who has asked to remain anonymous, made the formal offer of a donation after reading in the New Journal about a ruthless cost-saving plan to lay off most of the staff at the farm in Cressfield Close.

The extraordinary offer, which would have cleared the charity’s projected deficit, was made on the condition that the three remaining board members and its interim director stepped down and staff redundancies stopped.

But yesterday (Wednesday) the board said they “had been left with no choice” to reject the offer because the ultimatum could breach “charity commission guidance”.

The donor told the New Journal: “In the eyes of the public, the current board failed in their job and need to step down. I don’t see a point in making a donation in the environment where the board appear hell-bent on destroying the charity. I had no intention of affecting the governance of the charity beyond allowing it a clean start with a new board. I also had no intention of being on this board.”

The donor – who is one of the richest men in the country – had visited the farm several times with his son who had seen animals “bigger than a dog for the first time”.

In the last fortnight he has held meetings with ward councillors, Town Hall officials, MP Keir Starmer’s office and the board of trustees since the offer was made on June 7.

It came a day after the New Journal ran a front-page story about Hollywood actress Rosamund Pike supporting the farm workers on the day they were being called in for redundancy meetings.

The donor said “I saw the story and immediately called them up.”

His official offer also raised concerns about the board’s decision to close the farm’s membership applications shortly after a mystery bloc of patrons from outside London.

The move – part of an internal voting rights power struggle – happened shortly before a plan to slash the wage bill almost in half was unveiled.

The changes would leave just one full-time adult member of staff working there. Services for under-5s and children with learning disabilities are to be back as a result while the three horses are expected to be removed from the farm.

The board of trustees have said that they are making cutbacks following three years of losses and because they cannot rely on funding from the council in 2022.

The council has said it is reviewing funding levels to the farm after years of spending around £75,000 a year on the community project. Staff were due to receive final redundancy letters last week but it is believed the process has been temporarily paused during the surprise intervention.

Nicole Furre, chairwoman of Camden Community Centres’ Consortium, a group of charities running community venues in the borough that the farm is a part of, said: “This offer made to KTCF can’t be viewed as a donation but rather a contract with terms and conditions, or possibly an offer of purchase. Donations are always welcome by all charities, but offers of money with strings attached do have to be considered carefully.”

The farm’s statement added: “The offer was to donate £100,000 (inclusive of Gift Aid) to Kentish Town City Farm. This offer was conditional upon substantial and significant changes to the management and governance of the charity.  The board has informed [the donor] that whilst naturally, it welcomes the offer of this sizeable donation, it would be contrary to Charity Commission guidance to accept a donation which was subject to the donor imposing changes to the management and governance of the Charity.”

It added:  “In such circumstances, the board had no choice but to decline the offer. It has been made clear that, should he wish to make a donation without such or similar conditions attached, then the board will be very keen to consider his offer again.”

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