That’s how much Croydon Council raised from the auction in Hong Kong this morning of 24 pieces of the borough’s priceless Riesco Collection of Chinese porcelain.
Unfortunately for the likes of florid-faced Mike Fisher and his cronies Dudley Mead and Tim Pollard who cooked up a scheme worthy of pay-day loan sharks, to flog off the borough’s cultural assets, the 102.4million figure is in Hong Kong dollars.
In pounds sterling, the sale realised £8.1million at today’s exchange rate.
After auctioneers Christie’s take their costs and commissions – at least 15 per cent – that will leave barely half of the £13 million estimate that Fisher and his mates greedily thought they were going to get from their pawn shop financing deal.
So what we have now is a bad scheme – unlawful, according to the council’s own lawyers – which has seen Croydon kicked out of the Museums Association for breaking its code of ethics, leaving the borough’s galleries and collections unable to access grant funding or loan items from other museums, and all done for only half the dosh than the wide boys in charge of Croydon’s Conservative-run council promised it would deliver.
Sounds very much like Fisher and his chums have lost their shirts by backing a three-legged horse at Hong Kong’s Happy Valley racetrack.
“It’s awful, just awful,” was the reaction today of Timothy Godfrey, the Labour spokesman on culture on the council.
Godfrey clearly does not believe that the promise by the Conservatives to use the money raised to refurbish the Fairfield Halls will be fulfilled. “The Tories have broken election promises twice to refurbish Fairfield. They said that this sale would pay for it. It won’t.
“This sale has destroyed the trust that Raymond Riesco put in Croydon Council. The clear message is that no one can trust Croydon Tories with money, valuable possessions or culture. May 22 can’t come soon enough,” Godfrey said, referring to election day now less than six months away.
The item from the collection which raised the most money in the sale this morning was a Ming dynasty Moon flask, which went for £2.2 million.
The council’s asset-stripping exercise failed even to sell all of the items. Seven of the 24 items failed to achieve the reserve price placed on them by the auction house, and Christie’s is understood to be negotiating private deals with interested under-bidders.
The Riesco Collection was a gift to Croydon from local businessman Raymond Riesco half a century ago, on condition that the collection he had spent his lifetime curating should not be broken up, nor should it leave this country.
The council’s own legal advice to Fisher & Co was that to sell the items would break Croydon’s own policy on disposals, and that such a decision needed to be taken before a meeting of the full council. This was never done.
Charlotte Davies, the chair of the South Croydon Community Association, led a thwarted effort by residents to challenge the council in the courts. Today, she was more convinced than ever that the council had squandered some of the borough’s heritage. “So that’s £14 million-worth of Croydon assets sold to net £7 million – was it worth it?” Davies said.
“Surely it would be better to run Fairfield Halls and the arts in a professional manner? The council and the Fairfield Halls need to engage with the community, they need to structure pricing so that the building is busy and has some buzz, and they need to do some basic and effective marketing and communication – which includes checking their own mailing lists and taking off old names.”
Davies cited the example of her own mother who received a letter this week from the Fairfield Halls. Trouble is, Davies’s mother died 12 years ago.
“Without a management plan to improve the Fairfield Halls, I cannot see how they can make good and effective use of the funds,” Davies said.
Inside Croydon asked Croydon Council whether it is satisfied with the proceeds from the sale. At the time of publication, there had been no answer.
“It’s a tragedy that the sale went ahead,” was the view of Maurice Davies, the head of policy at the Museums Association. “The fault is Croydon Council’s… their decision-making appears to have been flawed and there was a good chance of judicial review.
“Is raising half what was hoped for a good or bad thing? The first reaction might be mild glee that Croydon bureaucrats and politicians will be seen as incompetent. But of course it’s not good news. If you’re going to asset strip, however unethically, you’d better get the best price for the public,” Maurice Davies said.
Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council, was available to air his views of the Riesco auction. “Not only has this incompetent Tory council sold off the treasured family crockery, but it has let it go at a bargain basement price,” Newman said.
“The money raised doesn’t even go anywhere near filling the financial black hole needed to repair the Fairfield Halls. So this scandal has left us without the borough’s treasured Riesco Collection and with a Fairfield Halls in a state of disrepair. Croydon Tories’ act of cultural vandalism is now complete.”
Coming to Croydon
- Sex in the Cronx, Nov 26-29
- Future Tech City: Nov 30
- Follow in the footsteps of Pirie: Dec 1
- Comedy in Music show: Dec 1
- Heathfield House Christmas Bazaar: Dec 1
- Croydon charity roller derby: Dec 1
- The Lives of Stanley Halls community entertainment: Dec 4
- Riot from Wrong screening: Dec 5
- Cinema Ruskin: Dec 21
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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