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Wisbech Town Council votes against providing financial support to 50 Backpacks amid concerns over it not being properly registered and potentially closing

Wisbech Town Council will not be providing financial support to an organisation that helps homeless people because of concerns that it is not properly registered.

The decision was made almost unanimously at last Monday's full council meeting when members discussed a motion put by independent Councillor Dave Patrick calling for an "urgent £1,000" donation to 50 Backpacks.

The motion, which was seconded by Councillor Michael Hill, also called for the council to publicly express regrets over a social media post, which Coun Patrick said seemed to "disparage" 50 Backpacks.

Wisbech Town council voted against providing cash support to 50 Backpacks at its recent meeting. (44314289)
Wisbech Town council voted against providing cash support to 50 Backpacks at its recent meeting. (44314289)

He argued the organisation run by Simon Crowson known as Spike had done a lot of good work in the community and pointing to the fact it had distributed 5,000 food parcels during the first lockdown.

It was also pointed out that the council had previously supported 50 Backpacks with a one-off £1,000 grant for its work to help the vulnerable during lockdown.

However, Councillor Sam Hoy, the council's leader, said the social media post could not be regretted as it was simply correcting a "false claim" by 50 Backpacks that the town council referred people to them.

Coun Hoy said the town council has never referred people to 50 Backpacks and therefore it was only right that the claims were corrected.

She said she had suffered sleepless nights about what she would say in response to Coun Patrick's motion and went on to give a lengthy explanation of all her dealings with Mr Crowson and 50 Backpacks.

Among her main concerns was that 50 Backpacks is not registered as a charity, or as a community interest company, and therefore, she said, it would be wrong to give taxpayers money to such as organisation.

Another big issue was the lack of information sharing from Mr Crowson with Fenland District Council. Information which she said was vital if people in need were to get the relevant help.

The previous £1,000 had been given as an emergency payment to ensure people did not starve during the first lockdown when Coun Hoy said the situation had been "dire".

Coun Hoy also said that over the last few months she had been contacted by constituents raising concerns over Mr Crowson.

Mr Crowson has announced he plans to close 50 Backpacks once the critical winter months are over stating there was no one qualified to take it on, but Coun Hoy said YMCA had offered to run it, which she said would have been the best thing to happen.

It was the closure statement which concerned other councillors who pointed out it would be wrong to give money to an organisation when its future seemed uncertain.

Coun Nick Meekins said: "There's been no withdrawal of that comment to say that they are still open.

"Unfortuantely I couldn't support giving any of this town council's, ie taxpayers' money, to the sort of organisation that doesn't seem to know whether they are open forbusiness or not."

Coun Patrick argued the money would help the organisation keep going "until it closed".

Coun Steve Tierney then highlightedan incident last summer in which Mr Crowson had posted a series of false allegations against him - which he describedas the "most awful set of absolute lies".

He added he had nothing against 50 Backpacks as an organisation butsaid: "I will never support giving any money while that man is in charge."

Coun Susan Wallwork pointed out that 50 Backpacks had not requested the money and said there were procedures that needed to be followed if an organisation wanted town council funding.

The motion was eventually lost by 15 votes to two.

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