Published: 3 December, 2010
by PETER GRUNER
ONE of the capital’s best-known gay and lesbian advice centres – King’s Cross-based London Friend – is under threat in the current round of spending cuts.
The organisation, whose patron is Lord Smith of Finsbury, the UK’s first openly gay MP, has been in existence for 40 years.
Now it will have to raise at least £100,000 to buy its rented offices from Islington Council at auction next year – or face eviction.
The council, which owns the two-storey building in Caledonian Road, had planned to put it up for sale to the highest bidder at auction in three weeks time.
But following a local and national outcry, the council has agreed to give the charity another year to raise funds to buy the premises.
Charity chief executive Matthew Halliday has welcomed the chance to save London Friend.
“We give an invaluable service to the gay and lesbian community,” he said. “We are launching an immediate appeal to buy the building and are hoping the thousands of our supporters will put their hands in their pockets.
“If we had gone to auction in three weeks time a private developer would have been allowed to purchase the property and our rents would have spiralled. We wouldn’t have been able to afford to stay. At least we have time to launch this appeal.”
The charity, which employs four full-time staff and a part-timer, costs £100,000 a year to run. The £11,500 annual rent went up by 25 per cent in March.
Islington Lib Dem opposition leader Councillor Terry Stacy said he could not understand why the controlling Labour group were selling the building in the first place.
He added: “Labour’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. Just a few months ago when they were in opposition they were saying a rent increase for London Friend would be totally unfair.
“Now they have their feet under the Town Hall table they are planning to sell the whole building off.”
He added: “The council should be supporting them, not threatening to turf them out of the building and make them homeless.”