CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Let’s have the facts on the city farm

13 June, 2019

Kentish Town City Farm

• THE major thing missing in your report about Kentish Town City Farm is facts, (Gone Girl star Rosamund Pike joins campaign to save City Farm, June 6).

Camden residents, who have poured some £800k into the farm over the last six years and continue to provide £75k per year (25 per cent of annual revenue), have a right to know what has been and is happening to their money. I understand there are now only three directors left.

The main questions for the immediate future of this valuable community asset are:

– What are the actual free financial, liquid reserves for the current year? The 2017/8 report gave a figure of £98k. This new figure will be in the management accounts for 2018/9. These should be made public.

– Is there a draft budget for 2019/20? This should be made public also. Trading while insolvent is an offence.

– Is there a three-year, costed, business plan/ rescue package drawn up by the trustees? This should also be made public.

– How does all of the above compare with the plan drawn up by the staff which is reported to be “unrealistic”?

– Does the composition of the present board of trustees comply with the council’s funding requirements, its own memorandum and articles, and are they judged competent to continue to manage the farm in the present crisis?

– Are there adequate systems in place (a) within the management of the farm itself (b) in the supposed oversight role of council officers and councillors to prevent a recurrence?

I understand this is the third such financial crisis so far this decade.

To an outsider, it appears that some councillors only see this situation as a spat between staff and “management” and “mediation” meetings as the solution. The spat is the consequence of financial mismanagement, not the cause.

What is even more surprising is the apparent failure of the council to see this crisis coming, as the resignation of the former CEO back at the end of 2018 and the publication of the audited accounts for 2017/8 at the same time should have set off alarms.

The local rumours are that some/all of the land (designated as a brownfield site) is to be sold off as part of the Kentish Town plan to help to bail out the financially ailing council Community Investment Programme.

The pervasive secrecy of the council on this and other issues does nothing to calm fears. I am glad I am not a member of the staff or one of the farm’s animals.

To be charitable, perhaps the reported lack of utterances by local councillors is because they are as much in the dark as residents, lacking the necessary officer advice; or are being treated to yet another cover-up.

These questions could all be addressed by an independent investigation recruiting members with relevant direct knowledge and experience of running voluntary sector organisations as well as by making the above information public.

MICK FARRANT
NW5

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