£140 million: the cost of our council’s secrecy and vanity

Tony NewmanIn an exclusive column for Inside Croydon, TONY NEWMAN, right, local councillor for Woodside ward and leader of the Labour opposition group at the Town Hall, counts the high costs of a council vanity project

As we move into 2013, one story that has haunted Croydon for the last five years will become reality. The disgraceful waste of hundreds of millions of pounds of our money on a monument to vanity – the shining new council offices that will be opened this year.

At the same time, further drastic cuts are being made to youth services, libraries, schools, support services for the vulnerable and elderly, will all hit the people of Croydon.

This ought to haunt those who took the decision to build these luxury offices forever. Sadly, I am not sure it will.

In which case, we will have to wait until 2014 and the local elections to send Croydon’s out-of-touch Tories the clearest message: that their arrogance in proceeding with their luxury council HQ at a time when the global economy was heading deeper into recession and council services were already coming under greater financial pressure than at any time in history was obviously wrong. For the Tory council to make this scheme their priority over all other public services shows how completely out of touch they are.

By their own recent admission, the building has cost us at least £140 million. That’s approximately £1,000 for every household in Croydon.

Even these figures can be only estimates, as five years into this “project” under Mike Fisher’s Conservative-run council, much of the financial detail is still being hidden from both the public and those of us who are elected as local politicians to represent you.

Croydon Council's new headquarters building, built at a cost of at least £140m, is due to open this year

Croydon Council’s new headquarters building, built at a cost of at least £140m, is due to open this year

The amount being spent on these unnecessary and unwanted council offices, £140 million, could have provided a brand new school, stopped our libraries being privatised, installed new street lighting, provided numerous play areas for children, invested in the crumbling Fairfield Halls, and much more.

Yes, even in these tough times we could be going into 2013 with a council on the side of local people and offering much-needed investment in our town. Instead, we have got a glass monument on what Inside Croydon has called CostUsAMint Walk, to the folly of Mike Fisher and his friends.

This is not an accident, but it is the result of clear choices made by the current Conservative Council, with decisions often made in meetings that you, the public, were banned from attending.

So later this year, when you see the pictures of a grinning Councillor Fisher at the opening ceremony of his new offices, probably with a glass of Council Tax-funded champagne in hand and possibly still trying to tell us the luxury Council HQ has not really cost us any money, remember those cuts to your local services, remember those cuts to the services to care for our old and vulnerable.

And never again let anyone ever say that voting in the local elections does not make a difference – it does, and it has.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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3 Responses to £140 million: the cost of our council’s secrecy and vanity

  1. I fully agree the CostUsAMint Walk is a pure vanity project.

    The excuse given was that there are major problems with Taberner House that are expensive to fix. I very much doubt that it would cost £140 million to correct those faults, after all the former Nestle Building was built around the same time and that is being refurbished rather than rebuilt. However, even if the building is about to fall down, it is not as if there is a massive shortage of empty large office space in Croydon town centre. Surely there was a cheaper solution to housing Croydon Council staff?

    I do not remember being asked whether I would prefer to pay £1,000 towards the project or have the £1,000 to spend as I wish.

    I find it ironic that due to cuts in grants imposed by the, mostly, Conservative Government the council are having to reduce their spending; I thought that Conservative councillors were renowned for cutting spending without the need to be forced into it by their superiors. However, why are they cutting spending on essential frontline services such as the libraries etc but are intent on spending money on yet another large and unnecessary office block in Croydon town centre?

  2. Here we go! The campaign for the 2014 local government elections starts today.
    And if Labour can’t win Croydon this time it may as well give up. By the time we reach the ballot box, below inflation benefit and wage caps recently imposed by central government will have made their presence felt in family budgets.
    Croydon Tories will have that electoral millstone hung around their necks, just as Croydon Labour had to grapple with Gordon Brown’s charisma bypass last time.
    Hence no doubt, Tony Newman’s decision to highlight Fisher’s Folly at this stage. But the £140m splurge on a vanity HQ could pale into insignificance compared with the total cost of Tory property speculation.
    At the moment, we are told that the full details of the council’s ‘investment vehicle’ with John Laing are commercially sensitive and must therefore remain confidential.
    In reality, I suspect Mr Fisher and Mr Rouse – the Laurel and Hardy of Croydon Council – are too embarrassed to tell us how easily they have been duped.
    So, may I ask Mr Newman two questions?
    In the short-term, will you and your colleagues decline any invitations you may receive to the opening of the new municipal headquarters?
    And will you agree, if your party is elected next year, to reveal the exact amount of Croydon Council tax-payers’ indebtedness that results from the present administration’s reckless real estate gamble?

  3. Gordon Ross says:

    From the start this vanity project has been an insult to Croydon residents by a council that would rather spend money on flash new offices for themselves, rather than on services for hard-working council tax paying residents.
    Telling us the project will not cost the tax-payer anything is laughable. The council is hiding the real cost from us by claiming the need for “commercial confidentiality”.
    I just hope people will think about which political party is really representing their interests when the come to vote in the Council elections next year.
    If you don’t like what the Tory led council is doing, then vote them out.

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