Did Hilley’s hubby get council to pay for “volunteers”?

Take a look at this collection of facts, and decide for yourself whether any of them are related:

Steven George, husband of Croydon councillor Clare Hilley, in a picture of himself which he first posted on the internet. Look out for him at the conference parties next week

  • The Fairfield Halls in Croydon is not owned by the council, yet earlier this year, it received a £1.5 million grant from the council, at the same time that Croydon’s CEO, Jon Rouse, was a director of the company that manages the venue, Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd.
  • Steven George is the husband of Clare Hilley, a Conservative councillor for Waddon ward in Croydon.
  • According to his own online profile, George is employed as an account director at PR company Weber-Shandwick. “Tired of seeing your competitors getting all the ink? Get in touch,” says smooth operator George.
  • Weber-Shandwick is a multi-million dollar company, its shares quoted on the New York stock exchange, whose billionaire clients include Pfizer, the manufacturers of Viagra; General Motors; and they run Proctor & Gamble‘s PR in China.
  • According to George’s profile, his clients include Drupal, an open source content management platform. Weber Shandwick also act for Acquia, a company which is involved with a range of Drupal activities.
  • After staging its annual conferences in Barcelona, Copenhagen and Washington DC, next week, DrupalCon 2011 will be staged in… Croydon. At the Fairfield Halls.
  • Steven George has been described in press reports as  the “event organiser”. He has said publicly: “Drupal is already taking Europe by storm and with an action-packed agenda of high-profile speakers and thousands of attendees from across the globe, Fairfield Halls was the ideal location to host what we hope will be the best DrupalCon event to date.”
  • Presumably, this means that the Fairfield Halls will not be pretending to be the David Lean Cinema next week (not that they were kidding anyone on that score, anyway)
  • According to the DrupalCon event’s own website, “Some of the other things you can look forward to:… Parties, tours and other entertainment“.
  • There is even a pub crawl being organised for delegates. Not in Croydon (heaven forbid!), but in central London, near Tower Bridge.
  • The event’s own website claims that the conference has sold out its registrations, 1,800 delegates each paying at least £250. At that rate, that’s nearly £500,000 in ticket sales alone for the organisers.
  • On Monday, the Croydon Council intranet carried a message appealing for a dozen council employees to “volunteer” as “steward ambassadors”, “to provide maximum reassurance to these international visitors”.  The message further stated that: “Jon Rouse has agreed that time off will be granted in lieu for anyone who takes part…”

So a conference organised not at a Croydon Council venue, but run by a private company, is to receive the support of a dozen council employees – “volunteers” – for two mornings and two evenings, all paid for out of our Council Tax, on the say-so of the council’s £200,000 per year CEO.

    • Croydon Council: Proud to Serve the interests of some of its councillors, and their hubbies.

Updated Nov 9 2011:
“Steven George-Hilley has asked us to make it clear that neither he nor his wife, Councillor Clare George-Hilley, had anything to do with arranging for Croydon Council to provide volunteers for this event. We were informed by Drupal that the Council’s actions had nothing to do with either Mr George-Hilley or his wife, Councillor George-Hilley and, indeed, Inside Croydon published an article dated 22nd August 2011 stating this. Inside Croydon is informed that the Council’s offer was part of its policy to promote business in Croydon. Inside Croydon is pleased to make this clear”.

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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 Did Hilley’s hubby get council to pay for “volunteers”?

  1. mraemiller says:

    The Council had £300,000 worth of income last year from conference and other bookings going through the Braithwaite Hall. Apparently this is now not enough turnover to run any gigs there. The Council’s figures used to close the Clocktower were dubious in the extreme – close to implausible. That’s not to say the complex had no financial losses but I dont think anyone’s ever seen a breakdown ….what is to happen to all these rooms that used to be utilised…? Presumably the Braithwaite Hall and the David Lean Cinema are not going to just be left to gather dust…?

  2. As classy as ever I see.

    I don’t get how Council employees are relevant to this big private do. That seems to be the line they’ve crossed in my eyes. If it was private work advertised to council staff that might be ok, but the tax-payer paying for it is… iffy to say the least. And time-off being authorised to do it is…

    But then it’s an international conference in Croydon, and The Tories are desperate for that kind of thing so probably think it’s ok to lob a bit of council resource at it. Even in a time of cuts. I guess they’re hoping it’ll be the start of many. But it’s faaar too insider.

    No doubt they’ll claim to be ‘using their contacts’ to up Croydon’s profile, or some such PR.

    Why use council staff doing work outside of what they’re contracted to do? It’s not like the organisers will be short of cash to employ a few stewards.

    It’s the blatancy of how they abuse their positions that gets me.

  3. Does this now set a precedent that any conference organised at Fairfield can expect free “volunteer” resources from the council (which in reality are tax-payer funded given the time-off in-lieu agreement)

    It would make Fairfield a fairly attractive conference venue if so, as the conference organisers could pocket the money otherwise used to pay said stewards, increasing the profitability of Fairfield thanks to local taxpayers.

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