50 Backpacks funding plea by councillor

Cllr Hoy is also leader of Wisbech Town Council that gave £1,000 to 50 Backpacks. With Cllr Steve Tierney they called in...

FDC portfolio holder for housing Cllr Sam Hoy (left) was one of many volunteers from Wisbech who rallied to support the elderly, homeless and vulnerable during the lockdown. Cllr Hoy is also leader of Wisbech Town Council that gave £1,000 to 50 Backpacks. With Cllr Steve Tierney they called in on Backpacks to drop off bread supplied by McColl's of Walton Road. Picture; 50 BACKPACKS - Credit: Archant - Credit: Archant

A councillor asked if some of the “vast amounts” of Government money coming into Fenland to support the homeless, could be given to a Wisbech enterprise.  

Cllr Will Sutton raised the question at this week’s meeting of Fenland District Council.  

"With vast amounts of money coming into council from central government, I would think it worth working with 50 Backpacks who seem to be able to re house rough sleepers where we as a council sometimes fail,” he said.  

Cllr Sutton said it was not a failing of council officers, simply a failure of the system. 

The lord lieutenant Julie Spence sent a congratulatory letter to 50 Backpacks for their work throughout the first lockdown. 

Julie Spence, the lord lieutenant, and Simon Crowson of 50 backpacks. Ms Spence sent 50 Backpacks a congratulatory letter - Credit: Archant

He asked the portfolio holder for housing, Cllr Sam Hoy, if she had “thought about working with councillor Boden (the council leader) to channel some of that money into that organisation”. 

He said 50 Backpacks “can help what we all want and that is to get rough sleepers off the street and into a settled home with appropriate back up”. 

Cllr Hoy said: “Of course, we are happy to work with any and all organisations that wants to work with us.  

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“But I am sure you can appreciate that as a council we have to have proper checks and balances in place.” 

She said that “as far as I am aware” 50 Backpacks is not a registered charity nor was it a registered not for profit organisation.  

“I haven’t found them registered anywhere,” she said.  

Cllr Hoy said she was not aware they were DBS checked, a system whereby employers can check on those involved with vulnerable groups, including children.  

She said the council would need to ensure the “proper checks and balances” were in place before dealing with any organisation.  

“It is vulnerable people we are dealing with,” she said. 

Fenland Council meeting

This week's meeting of Fenland Council - Credit: Archant

Cllr Sutton had earlier asked if Cllr Hoy had written a congratulatory letter to 50 Backpacks after the organisation received a commendation from Julie Spence, the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire.  

“Given that Julie Spence, the Queen’s representative, found it right and proper to send a congratulatory letter to 50 backpacks, I wonder if you sent letter of congratulations as well?” 

Cllr Hoy said she had not sent letters to any organisation. 

“There are number of organisations across the district such as the Ferry Project that supports homeless people- I haven’t sent any letters - that’s the answer.” 

In her role as leader of Wisbech Town Council, Cllr Hoy authorised £1,000 to 50 Backpacks earlier this year. 

A council statement said Ms Hoy “has warmly welcomed the decision from the town clerk, following liaison with the chairman of the policy and resources committee, to donate £1,000 to 50 Backpacks Vision (Wisbech)”. 

The money was to assist “in the local charity's efforts of food distribution to vulnerable residents across Wisbech and neighbouring villages”. 

Cllr Hoy said at the time: "When I messaged 50 Backpacks with details of people, we were unable to help, the volunteers were out with food parcels the very same day." 

Town clerk Terry Jordan said: “This donation will help bolster the group's finances and assist in providing even more help to the residents of Wisbech." 

Wisbech town council announce funding to 50 Backpacks of £1,000

Notice published earlier this year by Wisbech Town Council after they agreed to donate £1,000 to 50 Backpacks - Credit: Archant

In her letter to 50Backpacks leader Simon ‘Spike’ Crowson, the lord lieutenant wrote: “A special thank you for supporting the homeless and those down on their luck in Wisbech- I know you made a real difference”. 

“The innovation, collaboration courage and selflessness shown by so many across the country has been truly inspirational and uplifting 

“As her Majesty the Queen’s representative, I would like to thank you for the wonderful contribution you have made to the county during these extraordinary and challenging times.” 

Mr Crowson was delighted that the work and his team of volunteers both before, during and since the coronavirus lockdown had been recognised. 

Mr Crowson said this week that he had invited councillors to see the work of his organisation.  

“We have everything in place,” he said. “I have invited them all so many times to come and talk to me. 

“However, I have never had a response from anyone so how would they know what we have and what we don't?”