DrupalCon – the week-long conference being staged at Fairfield Hall for users and fans of an open-source content management system – gets underway today, with 1,800 delegates expected to give a much needed boost to Croydon hotels, bars and restaurants. Not to mention the £100,000 we understand is being paid in hire fees for the Fairfield Halls.
Our regular reader will recall that Croydon’s chief executive, Jon Rouse (annual salary in 2010-2011 £248,362, an increase of £1,552 on the previous year, according to today’s Daily Telegraph) and sometime director of Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd had personally authorised a dozen council staff to take time off from their regular work this week to act as “minders” for riot-wary Drupal delegates, all paid for by local Council Tax-payers.
Inside Croydon reported this, since it appeared at odds with Rouse’s usually ruthless approach to cutting back on “waste” and needless spending at the council. And also because Steven George, husband of Waddon’s publicity shy Conservative councillor Clare Hilley – yes, the one that appeared in a bikini on Castaway and who had pictures from her wedding published in the local press – had been bigging up the DrupalCon, of which he was reportedly “the organiser”.
Well what do you know? It turns out that George, who works at public relations firm Weber Shandwick and who claimed Drupal among his clients, is not, actually, the conference organiser after all. And Drupal is not, actually, one of his clients.
Jacob Redding, the executive director of the Drupal Association, the organisation that runs DrupalCon, wrote to Inside Croydon before flying out from America for this week’s conference to affirm quite definitely that, “Steven George-Hilley is not employed by our organization and has no role in our conference.”
He also added: “I have never met Steven George-Hilley,” and, “We have no relationship with Weber-Shandwick.”
Redding even proffered us the link to a list of those working on the Croydon conference’s organisation. You can see for yourself, there’s no sign of Steven George on the list of organisers.
Indeed, since our article was published last week, reference to Drupal being among “past and present clients” on George’s own personal Linked In profile has been removed. A coincidence?
We asked Redding for clarification on the issue of the “volunteers” provided by council staff and paid for by Croydon council tax-payers.
“We have been in contact with Croydon’s BID for nearly a year,” Redding told Inside Croydon. “After the riots last week we reached out to offer assistance to the city of Croydon and to ensure the city was ready to receive our 1,800 attendees. CBID has been of great assistance in working with us to host a great conference in Croydon.”
Croydon Business Improvement District – or BID – is the collection of various big businesses in the town centre which is supposedly separate from the council, and pays for extra road sweeping and policing (which some believe may have influenced some of the tactical decisions taken by the police on 8/8).
We asked Redding again: had Drupal’s conference organisers – you know, the real ones – made an approach to Croydon Council for any assistance?
“We have no formal ties to Croydon or have any idea what you are referencing. It is obvious that you are trying to make substantial ties between our conference and the Croydon city council but these simply don’t exist,” Redding wrote, under a misapprehension.
Having denied any “formal ties”, Redding then went on to contradict himself by stating that the organisers had worked with the borough council: “With all of our conferences we work with the local city to ensure that our attendees are safe and secure…
“The one thing I will say is the Croydon has been a great city to work with and we are excited to bring our conference to the town. I’m confident that our 1,800 attendees are going to have a safe and wonderful time,” Redding said.
It is only to be expected that conference organisers would liaise and work with a local council. What we were seeking was clarity on who was footing some of the bills – the conference organisers who are generating an estimated £500,000 in delegate fees, plus sponsorship, for an event being staged at a privately run venue? Or was Croydon Council providing yet another public-funded subsidy for the Fairfield Halls?
The answer, according to Redding, appears to be the latter.
All that leaves unanswered is the question of why did the husband of a Croydon Conservative councillor go to such lengths to claim credit for and promote a conference staged in the borough with which he has no connection?
- Hilley’s hubby has council pay for conference “volunteers” (insidecroydon.com)
- Rouse resigned as director of Fairfield after council’s £1.5m grant (insidecroydon.com)
- Free parking weekend? No signs of generosity from the council (insidecroydon.com)