Union aid programme given Preston Council units rent-free to store aid for Ukraine

A trade union charity has been given two business units rent-free for six months by Preston Council to store and distribute aid to Ukraine.

By Brian Ellis
Monday, 11th April 2022, 12:30 pm

The CWU (Communications Workers Union) Humanitarian Aid programme will use the premises in Oakham Court, Avenham, to collect vital supplies for shipping to the war-torn country.

The Manchester-based charity asked the local authority for help in setting up a base in Preston and leader Coun Matthew Brown used his executive powers to authorise the use of the two empty units on a temporary basis free of charge.

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The Oakham Court units which the aid programme will use rent free.

CWU Humanitarian Aid was set up in 1995 in response to an appeal by trade unionists in Bosnia during the Balkans conflict.

Since then the charity has sent out aid convoys to the needy in places like Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Albania and Ukraine. Containers full of medical supplies have also been sent to Aleppo in Syria and winter clothing for children in Mongolia.

"The union has a determination to deliver aid direct to those who need it most, cutting out the risk of it falling into the hands of self-interest middlemen," says the union.

"Running aid convoys is part of the charity's core work and during 26 years we have organised over 50 missions to orphanages, children's/maternity hospitals, refugee camps, disabled centres, foster and adoption centres, homes for street children and to disadvantaged families."

The work is backed by communications companies including BT and Royal Mail who release employees, loan vehicles and supply fuel for the mercy missions.

Coun Brown acted when the union asked if there was any council accommodation it could use to store and distribute aid donated in the Preston area.

Because it would be rent-free, the authority would normally refer the matter to the cabinet for a decision. But because of the urgent need to set a depot up, the leader used his executive powers to make the decision immediately.

"A determination would usually be a determination to be made by cabinet because the proposal is to let the property at less than market rent," says a report to the council.

"However, given the urgent need to supply humanitarian aid to the Ukraine it is considered that the proposed letting, at nil rent, requires an urgent decision.”