May 20 2013 Latest news:
Monday, January 21, 2013
A group that helps struggling children learn is pleading with Islington Council to let them use an old school building – but the town hall wants to flog it to developers.
Minority Matters, a voluntary organisation that puts on free extra lessons for some of the poorest kids in the borough, want to take over the former Kokayi building, in Woodfall Road, Finsbury Park.
They say the four-storey school building could help them expand and help more children – but at a meeting on Monday the council’s ruling executive voted to sell the building, potentially making millions of pounds in the process.
Sadia Ali, managing director of the group, said: “We are very happy with our current building, but we thought we could expand and help more children, so we made an offer of £20,000 a year, with the possibility of then buying it after a couple of years. We thought it was a good offer, but we never even received a reply. Then when I tried to speak at the meeting I was ignored.
‘‘They clearly made up their mind to sell it a long time ago – all they could see was the money. We never had a chance.
“I wasted a lot of time and money putting this proposal together and I have been totally mislead and steamrollered by the council.”
Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of the opposition Lib Dem group, said: “To sell the site off to private developers is strange. We are desperate for affordable housing. I don’t think the council is being very open about this.
“It’s disappointing and a bit shabby if the council hasn’t taken this expression of interest from a community group seriously.”
The building’s former occupant, Kokayi, were also a supplementary school for African and Caribbean children, which closed after three decades last year.
Desmond Riley, whose children attended Kokayi for many years, said: “To close such a valuable service and sell the building for private housing doesn’t seem right. I don’t think the closure was handled very well.”
A spokesman for the council said the building was worth around £2million and they received a bid for £20,000 per year, but thought the applicant’s needs could be accommodated in a nearby buildings.
Cllr Richard Watts, executive member for children and families said: “Given the massive Government cuts to Islington’s budget we cannot afford to leave buildings empty and unused – taxpayers would expect us to ensure that all council buildings are well used.”