Residents call for Brent Council to halt search for cafe boss

Eatery was previously managed by benefit fraudster

Petitioners are calling for Brent Council to postpone the search for a leaseholder for a community caf� in Harlesden.

Controversy has surrounded Roundwood Lodge Caf�, in Roundwood Park, ever since its previous manager, Marianne Jonson, also known as Countess Mariaska Romanov, was jailed for four-and-a-half-years for swindling hundreds of thousands of pounds in benefits.

The transsexual, of Rawlings Crescent, Wembley, was found guilty of 22 counts of fraud at Harrow Crown Court in March last year.

Jonson, who was born a man and had previously been known by 10 other names, worked in the caf� despite claiming she was paraplegic.

The council now wants to put the contract out to tender to find a leaseholder.

But residents want to hold off the process until the completion of a consultation into how to improve the whole park.

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Groundwork London, an organisation which aims to help communities improve their neighbourhoods, is behind the consultation.

The online petition was started by Kate Greening, of the Roundwood Park Trust, which has been set up to help improve the Grade II listed park.

It reads: “There is concern that in the current climate, without the decision about the caf� being made within an overall strategy for the park, the leasing process will be driven by purely financial considerations, disadvantaging the current community management committee and therefore risking a devaluation of the considerable social capital that the caf� clearly represents.

“More generally, there is consensus that any consultation about the park and any proposals arising from such a consultation would be seriously incomplete if they did not include the caf� and its grounds, which could possibly benefit from the plans, to the good of the park as a whole.”

The petitioners believe a final decision about the lease of the caf� should not be taken until the consultation is complete and Groundwork’s plans, including those for the caf�, are considered by the group and local residents.

More than 70 people have signed the petition, which runs until August 6.

n The petition can be found on Brent Council’s website