Croydon’s £450m Hub scheme needs another cash bail-out

Where's the council taxpayers' money going? Croydon's controlling group are reluctant to let anyone know

Croydon Council has had to launch a second financial bailout of its £450 million joint venture in the building of Town Hall offices and other possible speculative developments around Croydon.

At the end of 2009 when the credit crunch struck and City money ran away as fast as it could from private equity deals, Laing, the developers building the office block that is supposed to replace Taberner House, persuaded their friends on Croydon Council to take out a £145 million overdraft to fund the scheme.

This week, the councillors in charge of Croydon were forced to recognise the financial disaster facing them following that speculation in the private development market that has put millions of pounds of Croydon council-taxpayers’ money at risk.

Although the housing market was already struggling in 2007 and 2008, this week an official council report “notes a decline in residential markets during 2010, stabilising in 2011 and prediction of future growth between 2013 and 2015″.

Talking about the council’s Hub and other related CCURV schemes – regarded by many outside the Town Hall as nothing more than a Vanity Project – the report says that they now expect “a delay in the delivery of schemes until 2013 onwards, when markets are expected to improve”. That is not a view shared by many finance commentators in The City.

So the speculation in the property market has not worked and now Croydon Council is to permit Laing, their development partner, to stop paying some of the interest on the money lent to them. The interest being charged is already a heavily subsidised rate, costing hard-pressed Croydon council-taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

With the economic crisis deepening, another bailout of its scheme will need to be sanctioned at the Council’s cabinet meeting next Monday.

Most of the papers relating to a decision likely to cost Croydon millions of pounds are being kept strictly private. On past form, they are likely to be denied to all Croydon’s elected councillors, with the exception of a handful among the ruling Conservative group’s cabinet – the very people that created this multi-million pound mess in the first place.

The lack of transparency on the deal can only further worry taxpayers that they are being roundly ripped-off.

To further bail out the scheme, the Council is having to put more publicly owned properties into the commercial joint venture.

Derelict council property at Cheriton House in Thornton Heath, now a makeweight to add value to Croydonl's £450m punt on the property market

Rees House, Morland Lodge, Brigstock Manor, the derelict Cheriton House, Coleby Court and Stroud Green Lodge are all to be thrown into the joint venture in a desperate attempt to keep the project going.

The Council has also announced in the paper that it will demolish Taberner House.

Tony Newman, leader of the opposition Labour group on the council, said, “We have always warned against playing high-stakes roulette with the council tax-payers’ money.

“The lack of transparency and hidden cash flows makes it hard to comment in any great detail. But the scheme seems too much like the type of so-called ‘financial wizardry’ that led to the fall of Lehman Brothers. It’s too risky a business for the council to be involved in.”

  • Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough – free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
Advertisements

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
This entry was posted in Business, Croydon Council, Planning, Property, URV. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Croydon’s £450m Hub scheme needs another cash bail-out

  1. God bless the credit crunch. Who is controlling who access to the papers? How can they stop the elected councillors from seeing them?

  2. Arfur Towcrate says:

    The only good that could come from this is that come 2014, the rubbish behind this nonsense will be thrown out on their ears.

  3. Completely disgraceful. This shows that it would have been cheaper to procure the new build direct. Cut out the intermediary company – co owned by Croydon Council and Laing – and employ a builder directly.

    Since every company has to make a profit to survive, and a bigger profit to pay individual lawyer fees, accountants and management etc. This development is at least 10% (and probably more like 15 – 20% more expensive) than employing a builder direct.

    Very sad to see the Croydon Tories so committed to such a dire finanical scheme.

    Time to simply get rid of the CCURV and return to a more traditional relationship between builder and client.

  4. More Croydon residents should attend Council meetings and read the written questions from Council members. It beggars belief.
    The Brave Leader of the Council wants us to believe that pigs can fly.

  5. ndavies144 says:

    Councils have always been the same. Labour councils after the war were dreadful for building the vast Stalinist concrete structures that still dominate many towns.

    In this day and age there is no the slightest reason why everything should be concentrated in a single building. E-mail goes just as fast across town as it does to the next floor. It would be far better for departments to be spread around the borough. Put housing in New Addington, social services in Thornton Heath, environment in Coulsdon. Get people out of their ivory tower and closer to the communities they serve.

    Moving a couple of hundred fairly well paid jobs into an area is good for struggling local shops and business and keeps other service providers (including other parts of the council) on their toes.

Leave a Reply