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TOO clucking hip to fail: ChickenTown, the Haringey Council-funded restaurant

FINGER-lickin’ tasty transition …

As front-line services across a broad front face cuts and closures, one Council-funded entity is immune from austerity: a licensed restaurant, adjacent to the Tottenham Town Hall.

In the beginning, the local government-favoured restaurant (specialising in chicken meals) was given a £90,000 grant and a £210,000 loan. This kind of loan is sometimes referred to as a soft loan. It was repayable over eight years. 

The loan terms were 5% and repayments based upon thresholds reached in profits. No repayments were to be made until £50,000 distributable profits after tax are achieved in any one year and then repayments were to be made of 25% of remaining distributable profits after tax.

ChickenTown has been a Cllr. Joe D. Goldberg production (Chicken Town and [at]ChickenT0wn )

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Any given start-up restaurant has the odds of success stacked against it. However, many existing, regular restaurants in Haringey are thriving and employing people in real jobs. They are genuine businesses that—not only haven't received backing from the New-Labour-run Council, but—even pay taxes.

Tuesday's Cabinet papers revealed—if one looked hard enough—that another £40,000 of your money winged its way to the ChickenTown backers, Create London, in order to create a new business model and find a new restaurant operator. It's to cover a transitional period, through to December.

We're told that the delegated decision would, continue the delivery of the Social and Economic outputs for Tottenham during this transition period (sic).

After waiting an hour and a half to ask a question at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting the Leader, Cllr. Kober, declined to take my question about this item, saying this item (14) was merely "for noting". The last 35 seconds clip of the webcast meeting that I've titled "Just for Noting", may be seen on YouTube.

The papers relating to the item are exempt, meaning that details of the particular experience that has been ChickenTown, are concealed from the public.

Just so you know.

Tags: ChickenTown, Create London, EXEMPT, disaster, new business model, new restaurant operator, soft loan, £340,000, £40,000

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Why does Chicken Town want a new business model? They never open before noon, they get the weekends off, it appears there are not really enough customers to trouble them, and Haringey keep giving them money. There was a time when I'd have settled for that.

Chicken Town had an appetising website with a tasty video.

But their experiment seems to have failed. "Seems to" because we aren't allowed to know. In the secret darkness of Koberville it's "exempt". Despite over a third of a million public cash being poured in, we must: pay no attention to the people behind the curtain.

Have they paid back any of the loan? It seems unlikely. Though I assume they had to pay their rent promptly. (To CONEL). Did they pay for the local ads?
Clucking & Chucking away public cash

Chicken Town also made claims as a health project. For a start, it is pampered chicken

"So, how will your chicken be different?"
"It’s from Swaledale. They’re herb fed. They are basically the happiest chickens in the world.”
"They’re free-range?"
“They’re literally pampered. They have Jacuzzis and stuff like that."


Has anyone done an independent evaluation of the experiment? You'd think that at least Public Health in Haringey would be slightly curious to know about this. So where is the evaluation? Or is that another secret? Maybe locked away under the Thirty Year rule? An experiment without an evaluation is next to useless.

I'll be frank and tell you what irritated me about this place even before it opened. Guardian journalist Carol Cadwalladr interviewed Ben Rymer from Chicken Town. He took her to a nearby Chicken shop. He could have gone to one he thought was half way decent. He could have said something about the very long hours, hard work and low wages. With the need to keep down costs. He might have gone to a place where he'd met the staff or owners and found them friendly and helpful - as a lot of people living and working in Tottenham are.
He could then have made his pitch for Chicken Town as higher quality and healthier. Fair enough.
Instead he took Carol Cadwalladr to somewhere serving chicken which : "I wouldn't even feed it to my dog.”

Carol Cadwalladr sets the scene.  "The formica tables are chipped and the floor is greasy but, for just £2, we get a huge platter containing seven spicy chicken wings and a great mound of chips.

“Look at that,” says Rymer when I bring it to the table. “I can’t even bear the smell of it. That chicken will be the cheapest of cheap. It’ll be this nasty, frozen stuff which is imported from Brazil. It’s pumped full of hormones. Ugh. It’s revolting.”
Did he know that? Is every Tottenham chicken shop serving frozen Brazilian chicken pumped with hormones?

Below are The Seven Principles of Public Life (also known as the "Nolan principles) which all councils and councillors are required to follow.

  • Selflessness – Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
  • Integrity – Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties.
  • Objectivity – In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit and facts not on personal judgements
  • Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
  • Openness – Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
  • Honesty – Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
  • Leadership – Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

Plainly the requirement for Openness is fundamental to the others. For example, without knowing what's going on behind the curtain there's little or no chance of accountability. In this case, a realistic opportunity for Haringey residents to make informed judgements about whether or not this funding decision is objective and based on "merit and facts". It may be. But we just don't know and have no way to find out.

Just as clearly, Claire Kober gave an example of her "leadership" last night by dismissing Clive Carter's questions. It showed not only her lack of understanding of the Nolan principles, but of the events which led to setting-up the Nolan Committee. She could easily have asked him to email his questions and then sent the answers to all councillors.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/the-committee-on-standa...

THE questions I would have asked, had I been allowed to, were:

  1. Has there been any rent "holiday"?
  2. What is the status of the £210,000 loan?
  3. What repayments have been made on the loan?
  4. Was Create London prepared to continue with ChickenTown without a further public subsidy?
  5. Will the new business model and the new restaurant operator, continue to trade on the current ChickenTown site?
  6. Does the Council remain confident that (any) commerce on this site can prosper, without sustained public subsidy?
  7. For how long is the Council prepared to continue funding a restaurant on this site?
  8. Will any study on the public health benefits be published (i.e. the claimed health benefits as a result of the different food preparation methods employed)?

I will now ask these questions by way of a written Member's Enquiry.

Chicken Town has made it to the Daily Mail.  To quote from the article

"Taxpayers' Alliance chief executive John O'Connell told MailOnline: 'Haringey hasn't exactly covered itself in glory in recent years and residents will be furious at this latest, absurd waste of money.

'What's more, dishing out loans on extremely favourable terms to hipsters is grossly unfair on other restaurant owners in the area who have gone to the bank to get their businesses off the ground.' "

Ben Rymer, 45, opened Chicken Town in a former fire station in Tottenham, North London, two years ago and it was labelled Britain's healthiest fried chicken shop. By his own account Mr Rymer  'lives in the Philippines where he spends most of his time surfing


The Sun also has covered the Chicketown scandal here: WHAT THE CLUCK?.

Cllr. Joe Goldberg—whose pet project it was—has so far not commented, however the earlier promotion went well beyond the efforts of Cllr.Joe Goldberg. The Council pulled every media string it could and achieved wide coverage in the press. Also, in the Labour-run Council's in-house magazine and network, where the claimed-for health-benefits were puffed-up:

Good to know!

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