As Gavin Barwell once said, Croydon has an image problem.
Our photograph, taken in Cannes yesterday morning, of the White Label-managed stand at the MIPIM commercial property trade exhibition, shows that our south London borough is proving less of a hot ticket than the organisers hoped.
Having the borough’s own head of planning suggesting that Croydon is basically only second division when it comes to locations for office space has clearly been a remark well beyond White Label’s limited capabilities as PR spin doctors.
In an interview with a local paper, Mike Kiely, the senior Croydon Council officer attending Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier, the week-long property developers’ piss-up in the south of France, actually said something which displayed that he has a grasp on reality.
“We are not in the Premiership. We are not on a par with the Canary Wharfs of this world.
“We are in the Championship so we have to work very hard to create a quality product,” Kiely told the Croydon Guardian. So more Crystal Palace than Manchester United then?
The comments represent a refreshing departure from all the council’s Ministry of Truth bollocks about Croydon being some sort of “new Manhattan”. Remember, Kiely works for an organisation that until about 12 months ago was squandering public money on a futile bid to get city status for Croydon, rather than dealing with the real issues confronting an outer London borough.
In his interview with the local paper, Kiely made much of how attending the MIPIM conference is an essential expense to promote Croydon as a location for business – possibly more so than ever, now that leading employers Nestle, Bank of America and Allders have all departed or closed.
Kiely says that he and his colleagues flew to the south of France by a low-cost airline and were staying in a modest B&B – Croydon Council has been very sensitive to charges of attending the extravagant, champagne-swilling bun-fight since getting turned over for spending £165,000 to send a delegation to the same conference three years ago.
By 2011, the council’s bill for attending the week-long conference was down to £12,500. There remains, however, a sneaking suspicion that the reason the bulk of the operation is now run by Develop Croydon – managed by the ubiquitous and deeply unimpressive White Label PR agency – is so that it is impossible to discover by Freedom of Information the exact amount of public money being spent on this jolly (Develop Croydon’s own website shows that Croydon Council and CCURV – 50 per cent owned by our council – are among its exhibition sponsors).
“If you are not here then you are not in with a chance,” was Kiely’s rationale for attending MIPIM, one that is at least honest in its assessment of how these things work.
“Property in the UK is not about London,” he said with unusual frankness for a senior Croydon Council executive.
“It is about Zone One.
“It is about the West End and the City. Somewhere like Croydon, which has a fantastic offer, has to work hard,” Kiely said.
Maybe, just maybe, in Croydon’s post-Rouse era, a chink of the light of honesty can be seen.
- White Label’s “no Cannes do” with conference publicity
- Croydon: connected, capable and confident. Unrecognisable?
- Latest Cannes trip gets Rouse his moment in The Sun
- Councillors plan £12,500 junket to South of France
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon – 253,473 page views Sep 2012-Feb 2013
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- Whoops… Council setting the agenda for blunders (insidecroydon.com)