London gay charity may have to cut services over rent increase

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

One of London’s oldest LGBT charities may have to cut its services after being hit with a 21 per cent rent increase.

London Friend, founded in 1972, offers counselling and support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people and receives little state support.

Chief executive Matthew Halliday said he expected some services would have to be cut over the rise and that he was “preparing for the worst”.

London Friend is based on Caledonian Road, near Kings Cross station. The company rents the property from Islington council.

Last week, the country’s only gay bookshop, Gay’s The Word, revealed it had been hit by a 25 per cent rent increase from Camden council.

Mr Halliday, who began his job last month, said that although his charity had a “contingency plan”, it was “highly likely” it would have to “reduce, suspend or close” some current services.

He told “We have a deficit in our budget of almost £50,000. . . The reality is, it’s going to be a tough year.”

He argued that London Friend saves money for Islington council by offering services such as counselling and is not given any council funding.

Mr Halliday said that apart from a £35,000 Department of Health donation for a volunteering manager, the charity survives on individual donations, fundraising and funds donated in wills.

He added that London Friend also faces a 56 per cent rise in its business rates, although these are set by government, not local councils.

The property is managed by a third-party company and Mr Halliday said that when he questioned the increase, he was told that other properties had been given similar rises.

He said the organisation did not have the time nor money to fight the case.

A council spokesman said: “We’ve not put the rent up for three years. This property has been held by the present tenant on a commercial lease for 20 years subject to a three-year rent review.

“Rent negotiations are well in hand.

“Islington council values the contribution equalities groups make in helping us achieve our goal as one of the most gay friendly boroughs in the UK. Just last month Stonewall congratulated us on being one of the most supportive councils in the country.”