Hackney Council is planning to evict one of its tenants, a bookshop, community project and registered charity, but there could be more to the story than meets the eye.
The story of the proposed attempt to evict the Centerprise Trust from its high street premises has been reported by the Hackney Citizen, among others. On the face of it, this is fairly straightforward, but... Up until last November, Centerprise was leasing its premises for a peppercorn rent, which has now been increased to a commercial rate. A jump from £10 per week to £37,000 a year sounds unreasonable, even at a time when local councils and others are being told they must cut, cut, cut in order to feed the banking system.
According to its own website, Centerprise has been at the heart of the community for over forty years; it appears to have been nurtured by Hackney Council for much if not all of that time, but something does not quite add up.
According to the Charity Commission, an organisation called the Centerprise Trust was registered July 20, 1970 but ceased to exist thirty years later, being removed from the register on September 13, 2000.
A new charity was then registered, this time as the Centerprise Trust Limited; accounts were then submitted for the year ending March 31, 2007 and to date have been so filed up until last year, and probably this year given the time taken to update the Charity Commission's database.
This implies that Centerprise has not existed for forty years, not continuously as one organisation at any rate. There is also a little matter of its stocking some very uncharitable literature back in the 1990s at which time it was actually being funded by Hackney Council. You can find some background to this here.
After settling a libel action at considerable expense it was warned by the Charity Commission to desist from stocking hate literature, in particular Class War and Green Anarchist.
It remains to be see if this was in any way responsible for the winding up of the original Centerprise, but it is clear that the extant organisation has an entirely different relationship with Hackney Council from the previous one, and it may be that austerity has nothing to do with the massive rent hike the Council is imposing, and that Centerprise has simply outstayed its welcome, whatever its professed ideals.
A petition has been launched in it support, but this is unlikely to have any effect, nor is the court likely to have any sympathy with it on October 15.
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