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.
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.
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.
- Council’s Mr & Mrs act that defies proper declarations
- Failing Fairfield Halls is limping along on borrowed time
- Croydon arts policy: no librarians, but £1.5m for Fairfield Halls
Coming to Croydon
- STDLCC Screening: Museum Hours, Jan 13
- “Croydon Communities Consortium” meeting, Jan 14
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Jan 16
- Croydon Ramblers, Chelsham walk, Jan 19
- STDLCC Screening: The East, Jan 20
- STDLCC Screening: Winter Nomads, Jan 27
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Feb 3
- Babylon at the Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 4-6
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Purley Swimathon: Feb 8 and 13
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
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