Charity Commission forces council to drop Fairfield takeover

Croydon Council’s plans to take over the Fairfield Halls have collapsed, in yet another embarrassing and costly (for Council Tax-payers) reversal for the Conservative administration at the Town Hall.

And this at a time when the costs of the much-needed refurbishment of the 50-year-old concert hall, theatre and gallery – which Croydon’s Conservative-run council has also agreed to fund – have increased to £33 million.

Fairfield Halls: subjected to more botched council thinking

Fairfield Halls: more botched council thinking

The council, encouraged by Dudley Mead, the deputy leader of the ruling Tory group who just happens also to be the chairman of the board of the trust that runs the struggling arts complex, announced the scheme to take control of the Fairfield Halls and its resident orchestra, the London Mozart Players, last April.

But a six-month Charity Commission investigation into the status of the managing trust, arising from reports on Inside Croydon about the nexus of conflicting interests among senior council figures, has put a block on the council’s takeover proposal.

The Charity Commission revealed Croydon Council’s decision to abandon its takeover in a letter to an Inside Croydon reader this week. “During on going correspondence with the charity,” the commissioners said, referring to the charitable trust that manages the Halls, “the trustees were asked to provide information related to the status of the proposals, any legal advice they had received and the basis of their decision-making.

“The charity has now confirmed that the Council has decided not to pursue the proposals… However, the charity informed us that the council has made further proposals which would be likely to need the consent of the Charity Commission. These proposals are still being discussed and it may take some time for both parties to discuss and negotiate the proposals properly.”

In recent times, Croydon Council has provided more than £1 million per year out of our Council Tax to subsidise the running costs of the Fairfield Halls, an important regional arts centre.

Mead and his chums in charge of the council, despite cutting virtually all other arts funding in the borough, have also agreed to spend £27 million of public money to fund the Halls’ refurbishment. But Inside Croydon has seen documents which show that the costs of the modernisation work have now risen to at least £33 million.

After failing to access effectively the various funding streams from the Arts Council and National Lottery which might assist the Fairfield Halls refurbishment, Mead and his mates have come up with increasingly desperate – some have even called them “devious” – schemes to raise extra cash to put towards their multi-million pound (of our money) commitment to the Fairfield Halls.

A real comedian: Dudley Mead, in his celebrated role as Roy "Chubby" Brown

True comedian: Dudley Mead, in his role as Roy “Chubby” Brown

When Croydon Council withdrew its modest annual grant from the Warehouse Theatre, prompting its closure, as Inside Croydon revealed, the council made a rapid grab for a £4 million grant offered by property developers Stanhope towards the building of a new studio theatre.

Meanwhile, the Mead-inspired flogging off of the borough’s Riesco Collection at auction in Hong Kong in November to pay towards the Fairfield Halls refurbishment failed to reach the £13 million target – with Croydon likely to collect little more than £6 million after the auctioneers’ commissions and costs are deducted.

The council may even have to cough up an estimated £3 million in tax liabilities arising from the Riesco sale.

It has been suggested that the reasons for the council appearing so desperate to wrest control of the Fairfield Halls from the charitable trust was to relieve the venue of the hefty pension liabilities with which it is saddled. The council may also want to protect the interests of property developers’ multi-million pound schemes for building “luxury apartments” as part of the “Fair Field Masterplan”.

And when last we checked, Dudley and Margaret Mead, the Terry and June of the Croydon Establishment, who in their retirement still receive around £90,000 in Town Hall allowances as part-time councillors, will continue, as members of the Fairfield Halls board, to get their free tickets for all the pro wrestling and tribute acts that they want.

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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
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4 Responses to Charity Commission forces council to drop Fairfield takeover

  1. derekthrower says:

    Thank you for your excellent journalism. I have not seen any well publicised report regarding how much was realised by the Riesco items sales. As with so many of this Administrations grand schemes it has come unstuck. Their speculations in Property, Service Provision and now ceramics display a lack of good governance and just plain incompetence.

  2. davidcallam says:

    The Fairfield is a liability we can no longer afford. The Tories are wedded to it. Will any other political party in the forthcoming election agree at least to commission independent market research before it spends millions of pounds of public money on it?

  3. Someone once suggested to me that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s power. I still dream of the day we have councillors who are in it because they love Croydon, not because of the power it gives them.

    By the way, the hoardings adjacent to East Croydon station still trumpet the arrival of a new Warehouse Theatre. If this is a commitment which has been abandoned, can Dud & Marge spare enough time to paint over all the promotional promises which are no longer (if they ever were) true?

    • Not sure that the commitment to a new Warehouse Theatre is the council’s. This may be another instance where the unfulfilled plans of land-banking developers and the local council have diverged.

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