Croydon Council’s “innovative” £450 million urban regeneration vehicle will not be copied by any other local authority any time soon, as their partners in the scheme, John Laing, have announced that they will not be bidding for any more such joint ventures around the country.
The dire economic climate, with councils focusing on service cuts, was blamed by Laings for the decision to abandon involvement in this sector, a localised version of discredited PPI, in which development work is conducted while mortgaging Council Tax-payers for decades to come. There seemed to be something very fitting in Laing’s announcement coming in the same week when one of its biggest cheerleaders, Jon Rouse, resigned as chief executive of Croydon Council.
Building.co.uk reported an official Laing statement expressing concern about a lack of “social infrastructure opportunities in the foreseeable future”. Cynics might suggest that there are just not enough councils out there prepared to carry the risk at public expense for Laings’ potential private profit.
What Laing call the Local Asset Backed Vehicle (LABV) model (what in Croydon was called the CCURV) had “not gained sufficient traction”, Laing said. They are even withdrawing from some joint venture projects that they were already involved with.
According to Building, 16 Laing jobs could be at risk as a consequence of the decision. No figure was put on the number of Croydon Council jobs that have been axed in the past six years or so as Taberner House has juggled with the costs of the URV and its millions of borrowing to keep the Laing partnership afloat.
Building reported, earnestly, that, “John Laing said it remained ‘totally committed’,” for which you might read “can’t get out of”, “to its £450m Urban Regeneration Vehicle, in partnership with Croydon council, which was the UK’s first LABV”.
- One product of the URV, the Waddon Leisure Centre, is due to have its opening at the end of this month. Built with £15 million of council funding, the development includes gyms, pools, plus 119 affordable homes on the site of the old Propeller pub on the Purley Way. This publicly funded public facility will be charging a weekly membership fee of £11. Or £570 per year.
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