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Harlow Council still prepared to negotiate with Carly Burd over allotments (as under-fire councillor takes legal advice)

News / Tue 9th Apr 2024 at 08:59am

HARLOW Council has said it is prepared to make one final attempt to work with local resident Carly Burd in leasing out an allotment to her.

But following a series of intense criticisms by a number of individuals on Ms Burd’s Facebook page “A Meal On Me With Love”, levelled at the councillor (Nicky Purse) who was trying to negotiate the lease, Harlow Council has issued a statement, stating it will not stand for “online abuse” and will “work with relevant authorities where we feel any laws have been broken.”

What seemed to start as a promising partnership between a local resident and a council seems to have ended with both sides communicating via their lawyers.

However, despite Ms Burd stating that she no longer wished to lease out the allotment near Fold Croft, the council have said they are still willing to negotiate.

A Harlow Council spokesperson said: “At the heart of this is a desire to support the most vulnerable in our society and as with any endeavour in this area this is both supported and welcomed by the council.

“Ms Burd has indicated she no longer wishes to work with the council, but a final invitation for appropriate engagement with the council to understand what her current requirements are will be extended”. 

To recap: In the summer of 2022, Ms Burd had turned her back garden into a kitchen garden. She was then offering the produce grown from the land to people struggling with the cost of living. She also negotiated with local stores to supply food she displayed at the front of her house.

The project was called A Meal On Me Wth Love

Thinking about expanding, Carly spotted the derelict allotment down the road in Cannons Gate.

A temporary understanding was negotiated between Ms Burd and the council with encouragement and help from the portfolio holder for the environment, Cllr Nicky Purse (Cons).

At this time, Ms Burd also set up a GoFundMe Page with the aim of securing funding in order to help.

In April 2023, Ms Burd went down to the allotment and believed that a large amount of salt had been spread on the ground, destroying the crops.

She posted a video on her TikTok channel where a tearful Ms Burd told her followers how upset she was. The video went viral and in just a few weeks, the Go Fund Me page ballooned to over £240,000 with contributions from Dragons Den star, Stephen Bartlett and former England football star, Gary Lineker.

A police investigation was started but they have yet to detect an offender.

Harlow Council stated: “During that time, the council conducted a soil sample to test for high levels of salt. The results showed that there were no harmful levels of salt, and the levels were within the range typically found in soil, posing no harm to wildlife or plants.

YH understands that the soil sample was taken in April 2023.

But between May 2023 and April 2024, the process of negotiating a lease on the allotment, which had started so well, seems to have descend into what can only be described as “development hell”.

So much so, that the situation has ended with Ms Burd working with local legal firm Whiskers and Harlow Council employing independent legal counsel.

By late March 2024, Ms Burd was not happy with the conditions of the lease, describing them as “unworkable”.

She told her thousands of Facebook followers: “The reason why I decided not to work with the council. It was because they gave me a 1 year contract with a clause to get out after two months”.

Ms Burd centred much of her criticism on the portfolio holder, councillor Nicky Purse.

Ms Burd stated on the Facebook page that “It seams (sic) Nicola Purse has her own agendas” and “I’d swap places with her to make a difference! Not for self benefit”

She also referred to Cllr Purse “making accusations against me”.

YH asked Ms Burd to expand on her comments, sending her several detailed questions. She replied that she had passed the questions onto her solicitor.

We sent the questions on Saturday lunchtime with a requested deadline of Sunday evening. We have yet to hear back (Tuesday morning) but we will publish a reply should one be forthcoming.

The criticism of councillor Purse on Ms Burd’s Facebook pages created something of (in modern parlance) a pile on.

This was accompanied by a long anonymous post on the Facebook page Spotted in Harlow which was also highly critical of Cllr Purse. In fact many consider that it went beyond critical into implying councillor Purse may have had some role to play in the alleged “salting” of the allotment.

It is at this point, we understand that councillor Purse took legal advice as to what action she could take to protect herself.

We understand that this not only involved discussions with lawyers but also with the police.

We did invite councillor Purse for an interview but she declined.

A Harlow Council spokesperson however, was prepared to comment. They said:

“The welfare of our councillors, as with our officers, is of vital importance to Harlow Council. The council provides access to effective support mechanisms for both councillors and employees, and councillors also have access to specialist training provided by the Local Government Association on how to handle online comments.

“Any criminal breaches in this regard would be a matter for the police. The council takes online abuse of its councillors and employees extremely seriously and will work with relevant authorities where we feel any laws have been broken.”

Ms Burd’s food delivery service which served over 3,000 meals has now ceased as, we understand, Ms Burd believes that increases in government support, should help Harlow residents coping with the cost of living crisis.

Her proposed schools allotment project is also still in development stage. A website has been set up. She did announce that she was going to start work with Tanys Dell Primary in May. However, in a short statement, a spokesperson for Tanys Dell said that would not be the case.

Finally, Ms Burd has sent off (for approval of the Community Interest Company regulator), the names of a number of organisations, she would like to give upwards of £100,000.

These include: Potter Street Health and Wellbeing Hub, Harlow Foodbank, Streets2Homes, the Butterfly Effect and Bridgets ASL to name just a few.

As you may recall, the GoFundMe Page, Ms Burd set up had a final total of £254,213.

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32 Comments for Harlow Council still prepared to negotiate with Carly Burd over allotments (as under-fire councillor takes legal advice):

David Forman
2024-04-09 09:45:06

I know from being present at the initial discussion in the Civic Centre regarding the allotment with council officer Michael Pitt and councillors Nicky Purse & David Carter did their utmost to facilitate Carly Burd's needs. I believe the criticisms levelled at Harlow Council and councillor Nicky Purse to be wholly unjustified. Councillor Purse showed a great deal of empathy and moral support towards Carly Burd. Should legal proceedings ensue, I would be more than happy to be a witness on behalf of Harlow Council and councillor Purse.

Ken Horlaw
2024-04-09 10:39:03

Pleased to see this article and some much needed truths. The behaviour on the facebook group is outrageous, aside from the regular libel from her fan army, Carly is constantly claiming that she is open and ready for any questions yet she deletes the slightest criticism and blocks the poster. Far from open and honest! Well done to the council for keeping trying despite the unfair onslaught of abuse. I don't understand the desperate and bizarre rush to give away 100k (it's NOT what the public gave the money for), but anyway look forward to seeing the remaining £154k being fully accounted for in due course. Thank you Your Harlow for keeping at this story.

peter
2024-04-09 10:39:22

"A police investigation was started but they have yet to detect an offender". Have they detected an offence? This is a sad situation for all concerned and has, perhaps, the potential to undermine future donations to GofundMe. Hopefully the situation will get resolved. I note Carly wants to give the money in her fund to other deserving organisations.

Betty
2024-04-09 11:47:30

I didn't know the CIC regulator works weekends.

Betty
2024-04-09 12:31:56

So the CIC regulator not only works weekends, there was no backlog needing to be cleared first. I'm putting in a FOI request.

Unspotted
2024-04-09 14:35:10

...."This was accompanied by a long anonymous post on the Facebook page Spotted in Harlow which was also highly critical of Cllr Purse."..... The spotted page has already started crying about all this, as if anyone takes that page seriously!😂

Narc Says What
2024-04-09 15:29:32

Ms Burd is deflecting. The pile on from her FB followers is also deflection. Burd keeps saying she WANTS to do something, then does nothing but attack others. Now the most important question: WHERE IS THE MONEY?!

Kizzy
2024-04-09 15:42:35

As a concerned member of the community, I express solidarity with Harlow Council and Councillor Nicky Purse in light of the outrageous claims against her from Ms Burd and her supporters. The defamatory and vitriolic remarks directed at a councillor who has actively backed Ms Burd and the allotment initiative are deplorable. Ms Burd’s claim that the allotment contract is unfeasible due to its one-year term, with a two-month break clause, lacks credibility and seems to be a diversion from addressing legitimate concerns. It is perplexing that she insists on such excuses when similar contractual terms are successfully utilised in other community allotments across Harlow. The lack of transparency surrounding the allocation of funds donated to Carly, despite the substantial sum exceeding £250,000, is alarming and raises serious questions about her accountability. It is unacceptable that Carly has failed to provide clear and detailed information regarding the management of these funds prior to their transfer to the C.I.C. Specifically, Carly's refusal to disclose the exact amount transferred into the Community Interest Company (the funds were in her sole control during the period from April to December 2023) is deeply concerning. Ms Burd’s dismissive attitude towards community concerns, evident through her selective deletion of dissenting voices on social media, is deeply troubling and indicative of her unwillingness to engage in meaningful dialogue with the community she claims to serve. Her exclusion of individuals and organisations who have previously supported her appears to reveal a self-serving agenda that prioritises personal interests over community welfare. Ms Burd’s unilateral decision to redirect any remaining funds to a school kitchen gardens project, without consulting the community, is a blatant disregard for the community involvement principle of a C.I.C.. The fact that Carly has deleted dissenting comments and ignored community input on social media further highlights her lack of genuine concern for the community's welfare. Additionally, Ms Burd’s assertion that she has donated £100,000 to local charities appears to be misleading. It's important to clarify that the funds in question were not exclusively hers to donate; rather, they were generously contributed by the public specifically for the community allotment project and food parcels, both of which Ms Burd has abandoned. What Ms Burd has effectively done is redistributed these funds, rather than making a personal donation. However, even this redistribution of funds does not appear to have been undertaken fairly. There was limited advertisement of the availability of the funds, merely on local gossip social media platform ‘Spotted in Harlow’ and her personal social media platforms. If this had been a genuine community-focused offer, one would expect extensive advertising utilising local press, among other channels, and the opportunity for the community to ‘vote’ on the applications made. Moreover, there seemed to be no formal application process, nor any evident due diligence of the organisations to which she redistributed the funds, aside from verifying their status as a CIC or registered charity. The community rightfully demands transparency and accountability from those entrusted with managing charitable donations and public projects. Carly's evasiveness and dismissive behaviour only serve to erode trust and exacerbate tensions. It is imperative for her to address these serious concerns and engage in honest and open dialogue with the community she claims to serve. This mismanagement and lack of accountability has the potential to undermine the public’s trust and deter future donations to GoFundMe projects.

What Salt
2024-04-09 16:24:24

The "Spotted In Harlow" page seems to be as unimpartial as the AMOMWL facebook group. Today they're ranting about "fake accounts" yet the Spotted In Harlow page itself is all completely anonymous, no transparency about who the page administrators are or what their agenda is. The post there claiming that Your Harlow edited a previous story is particularly unimpartial and aggressive (they don't seem to understand that their "screenshot proof" is of somebody's comment section, not the article text, but there we are). SiH is also suggesting in their replies that the £254k could be said to have been donated directly to Carly, well if that's the case then I hope she is ready for an enormous income tax bill from HMRC - doesn't matter if the money was donated by the public to a good cause, to HMRC income landing in an individual's pocket is income and if not very well explained, they will come for their large chunk, possibly years later. As for the £100k giveaway, Carly's post claims that the public voted for it, when was that? Yes people got to throw some names into the hat but there seems to have been very VERY little proper due diligence into the lucky winners. How can it be down to one person to decide in a matter of days to give that much money away and to whom, where are the trustees or other committee overseeing this process properly. The whole thing is extremely shady.

John
2024-04-09 16:47:25

If I recall correctly this woman received in excess of £200k in donations after her allotment was allegedly polluted with salt, again allegedly by some act of maliciousness or vandalism. Again, if I recall correctly, the soil on said allotment was independently tested at the request of Harlow Council, the results of which showed normal levels of salt/sodium in the soil. What has happened since then in regard to these findings and the donations that were received?

John
2024-04-09 19:50:58

Have the police looked into this? Claims of salt - no salt. Hundreds of thousands in donations. Where is the money?

Crazyhorse 74
2024-04-09 21:00:22

Keyboard warriors!!!

Donna Robinson
2024-04-09 23:03:48

If Carly wanted to prove she was anything other than a self-centred individual focussed on self promotion (who also needed total control over how money is ‘equitably’ distributed), she is achieving the opposite of that! Carly, these funds were raised to feed people in Harlow last year so do that extremely simple thing you pledged to. Either instigate a refund to all Go Fund Me donations asap (so donors can donate to a Harlow solution that feeds people NOW), OR, donate ALL the funds raised to organisations that do what you promised to do (you haven’t achieved an agreement about land to sufficiently feed a single adult let alone a family since your appeal) You are not capable of getting money to people who need it now, no matter how you try to wrap up your inadequacy with a nice ribbon bow. Park your ego because the money raised IS NOT and NEVER WAS donated to YOU so YOU could cosplay Santa Claus. If you genuinely cared about the Harlow community, you would not be hiding behind ‘red tape’ when we know that legally you could refund or donate without regulator intervention/ that’s just YOUR excuse

No smoke…….
2024-04-10 11:37:31

It's ridiculous how Carly promotes herself as open and honest and encouraging of questions, yet her actions on social media paint an entirely different picture. Polite questions are met with either silence or a swift block. True openness means engaging with questions, not avoiding or shutting them down altogether. Spotted in Harlow seems to have taken a leaf out of Carly’s book and does the same. They say that they will not be part of what they consider to be a hate campaign (how the community can be accused of a hate campaign just for asking polite questions is beyond me). Yet, they are more than happy to post defamatory comments about Nicola Purse. Make it make sense Spotted! If Carly were to have given direct answers to the questions that have been asked of her this would never have snowballed like it has. Stop shutting the community down Carly. After all, the C.I.C. is here to serve the needs of the community! I take my hat off to the organisations who refused the offer of funds on the basis that they felt the funds should be directed towards relieving food poverty in Harlow. After all, that and the community allotment is why the public donated!

.... without fire
2024-04-10 12:01:10

And now she is asking on facebook for the organisations to contact her with their bank details! Asking on facebook! Surely she has at least had a chat with each of them and properly verified them and established a named contact at each organisation? Total mad headlong shambles, the money is going to end up with fraudsters in another continent at this rate. Surprised the well known firm of Harlow solicitors are going along with this unchecked frenzy unless they've also washed their hands now.

Thin ice
2024-04-10 12:43:41

How can Carly claim that the organisations she has redistributed the funds to were voted for by the community? Basically what she did was put a post on her own social media, which has a limited number of community members, asking for suggestions of local charities or CICs that she could distribute funds to. There is one particular organisation that was only suggested by one person and they have been successful. Another organisation provides meals on wheels, which they charge for. How can she possibly claim that there has been a public vote for these organisations? More importantly, how does this deal with the urgent issue of food poverty in Harlow?

John
2024-04-10 13:23:06

Once lawyers get involved it'll get dragged out for months and even years. Abraham Lincoln said, "In a small town one lawyer would starve - but two would get fat."

Deborah Corella
2024-04-10 14:34:40

It's really sad to see how Carly Burd’s project went from being something I fully supported to a complete mess. At first, I was all for her idea of helping out with food and community allotments. I thought it could make a real difference to Harlow. But over the past year, I've watched things go downhill and end up being a series of blunders and mis management. Instead of addressing concerns and working with people, Carly and her supporters have been nasty to anyone who questions what's going on.The worst part is how Carly turned against the very community she was supposedly trying to help. It's like she forgot why she started this in the first place! And then there's the way she handled things with the local council – refusing their help and throwing away a potential contract for the land without even trying to negotiate with them. It just doesn't make sense! This whole situation is a real shame and a waste of people’s donations because it could have done so much good if things had been handled differently

Betty
2024-04-10 15:18:16

Presenting a comedy size cheque is not proof of the money being transferred or received. If the organisations on her list don't confirm receipt of the funds by next Wednesday at the latest, this is becoming a police matter. Fraud is a serious offence, as is intimidation of elected officials. It's gone too far.

Turkey
2024-04-10 16:57:54

To Harlow Council. Don't bother.

Veggie Patch
2024-04-10 19:22:32

Just waiting for the news of an unauthorised Spa building going up and that would top it all.

Rosie
2024-04-11 07:15:10

I have never seen such an unprofessional way of running an organisation. Asking for recipients of grant money to contact her via Facebook messenger to provide their details is absurd and displays shocking naivety. There is nothing stopping anyone setting up a Facebook profile in the names of these organisations and committing significant fraud. Surely if Carly had done proper due diligence on these organisations she would have a named contact there, and have their email and phone number? Carl's refusal to answer questions as to the whereabouts of the remaining £140,000 is disturbing and leaves a gap that people are fully entitled to fill in with their own thoughts and opinions.

Marge
2024-04-11 12:49:23

Where's the money? As in where is all the money that was donated, not just the £100K she's reportedly passing on to others?

Gazza
2024-04-12 00:20:23

Hmmmm . I’m trying to be scrupulously fair here but the nagging doubts keep coming back. Where is the money Carly Burd? Why have The Police and HMRC not started an investigation? If C Burd has committed a scam fraud she surely will end up doing a bit of ‘ Bird’ for her salty vandalism fairy story..! That’s if she is found guilty in Crown Court .. but then she might label a Criminal charge as a Hate Campaign against her…

Gazza
2024-04-12 00:38:52

Ms Burd has bungled the whole thing, despite her best intentions. Best if she rapidly returns all the money and makes a public apology to all concerned. God help us if she put the 250k on a Post Office account under Horizon .. it could be anywhere by now!

Sophie S
2024-04-12 15:35:18

Carly could so easily deal with a lot of the concerns by telling us (the community she serves) how much of the original quarter of a millions £’s is left and what the rest has been spent on. As a ‘professional’ organisation (as she describes her C.I.C.) she should very easily be able to tell us that. A quick look at the bank account balance will tell her how much is left. Why, oh why, isn’t she just doing that? Even her solicitor, when asked a direct question by Your Harlow, skirted around the edges of the question for some reason. The national news will eventually pick up on this story and she won’t be able to avoid it then - a Google search of Carly brings up all of these articles and I have no doubt they will want to investigate further. Before it gets to that point, Carly really needs to deal with people’s concerns. This is not going to go away until she does.

Colin
2024-04-12 16:43:33

Although the Potter Street and Church Langley Community Garden has been listed as a recipient of funds the Board of Trustees has decided against accepting any funding

Sophie S
2024-04-12 21:40:58

Good decision Colin. I know that must have been a difficult decision for you all to make, as I am sure the money would have been useful. But, there are so many unanswered questions and concerns around the management and distribution of the money the public donated that it has the potential to be more trouble than it’s worth. You are a man of integrity.

Ken Horlaw
2024-04-12 22:05:58

Sensible decision. It says it all that you are properly structured and actually have a Board of Trustees, not one individual making all the decisions in between their facebook blocking and deleting sessions.

Butterfly Effect WELLbeing
2024-04-13 07:42:38

Our board has decided to decline the offer in light of recent events.

Sophie S
2024-04-13 10:46:03

A very sensible decision Butterfly Effect WELLbeing - you have your wonderful reputation to protect. I agree with Ken, this clearly demonstrates the importance of a organisations having Board’s of Trustees/Directors. If A Meal on Me had been set up with board of experienced Directors, rather than one totally inexperienced and unqualified person, I am sure the situation wouldn’t be the mess it is now.

Kizzy
2024-04-14 12:56:21

It would appear that at least two respected charitable organisations in Harlow, aiding those facing food poverty and managing a community allotment, have opted not to accept Ms Burd’s offer. Considering the credibility of these organisations, she should pause and reconsider her actions and approach. Ms. Burd has remained silent on the questions presented by Your Harlow for over a week. She seems to have passed them on to her solicitors for handling, yet there has been no response. Despite this, she repeatedly states that Your Harlow does not give her the opportunity to provide input to their articles. What course of action does she intend to pursue now? Perhaps she might finally consider now the right time to engage with the community she professes to serve.

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