Westminster City Council must publish secret report

Posted: 27/08/09

Westminster City Council has a policy of charging full market rents for all properties let to charities and voluntary organisations. As a result: organisations like Westminster Children’s Society have to find tens of thousands of pounds to pay rent to the Council- and this means childcare fees have to go up, even in the recession. (Earlier this year I revealed how the rent on one St John’s Wood nursery alone exceeded £50,000 a year) small groups are struggling to pay their rent and have to cut back on services and jobs as a result money awarded to these groups to enable them to provide services to pensioners, families and young people is re-cycled back to the Council, making a mockery of the Council’s grants programmes Charitable Trusts and Central Government grants are substantially subsidising the Council, not the voluntary activities they were intended for. After two years of campaigning on this issue, Westminster Council commissioned consultants to carry out a report on it (at what cost?). The report is considered to be confidential. Why won’t the Council let taxpayers and local charities see for themselves what the consultants said so we can have a proper debate about : how much rental income Westminster Council gains from charities, voluntary groups and not-for-profit organisations what proportion of grants and donations ends up being recycled back into Council coffers what impact this is having on those small organisations how well the management of Council, property is tied in with other service priorities. There is no case for keeping this sort of document secret. We need more openness and we need swift action before high rents cripple more local voluntary organisations.