According to figures presented at last night’s Croydon Council cabinet meeting, Fisher’s Folly, the new council office building which some people insist on calling Bernard Weatherill House, will cost Council Tax-payers a scandalous £85 million more than even the gloomiest multi-million-pound estimates had suggested.
“Somehow, we will have to deal with this, and Croydon tax-payers will be paying for it over the next 25 years,” Labour councillor Simon Hall, the new administration’s spokesman on the borough’s finances, told the cabinet meeting.
The £85 million additional cost is from the interest to be paid on money borrowed to build the glass palace. This is in addition to what we now know to be the £133.7 million price tag for the vanity project that is Fisher’s Folly. It’s no wonder the out-going Tory council tried for so long to keep the cost of the building a secret.
At nearly £220 million in total, it must make Croydon’s new offices the most expensive council offices in the history of mankind.
It is just over a month since Labour won control of Croydon Town Hall at the local elections. Since then, bit by bit, ever more troubling evidence of crass mismanagement of the borough’s affairs over the previous eight years under Tory control are emerging. And while the council’s political leadership must take much responsibility, the executive officers on the council, including the long-time finance director Nathan Elvery, also need to have their conduct scrutinised more than ever before.
The “legacy” of the outgoing Conservative administration, which from 2006 was led by Shirley councillor Mike Fisher, with Jon Rouse, his choice as CEO, pulling the strings, is a mountain of debt which the Tories had budgeted would reach £1 billion by 2016-2017.
The £85 million revealed in Hall’s report to cabinet last night (the report can be read here, under July Financial Review) could be a significant part of what Fisher meant when he referred, darkly, to a “£100 million black hole of debt” in the days after his election defeat. It was not possible to confirm this with the erstwhile Tory leader. Fisher did not bother to attend last night’s cabinet meeting. But then, not much has been seen of Fisher and other senior Croydon Tories at council meetings since their election defeat.
The development of “BWH” is part of the CCURV – the controversial property speculation joint venture between developers John Laing and Croydon Council set up under Rouse and the Tories. The details of the CCURV agreement were always a closely guarded secret when Fisher had control of the Town Hall, but the new council leader, Labour’s Tony Newman, promised to “blow open the books” after the local elections.
Calls for such openness about the handling of public money and property will surely only grow louder after the discovery of this latest multi-million-pound scandal.
- Jon Rouse: an alchemist who turned property into debts
- Developers’ bulldozers ordered to get off Queen’s Gardens
- Council wants to build high-rise flats on Queen’s Gardens
- Budget-busting 25 quid bribe that ignores Croydon’s £1bn debt
- Council’s “sound investment” in Davis House costs £15m
- Is Croydon on the brink with £1 billion borough debt?
Coming to Croydon
- South Norwood Arts Festival, July 5-20
- Conan Doyle talks, South Norwood Library, July 16
- David Lean Cinema: Half of a Yellow Sun, July 17
- Love Norbury launch event, July 19
- Boom Band plays the Half Moon Putney, July 19
- Summer butterfly walk, Farthing Down, July 20
- Picnic in Grangewood Park, July 20
- David Lean Cinema: Pantani: Accidental Death of a Cyclist, July 21
- David Lean Cinema: Tracks, July 24
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- CODA’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wandle Park, Jul 30-Aug 2
- David Lean Cinema: Locke, July 31
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Warlingham rugby dinner with international Richard Hill, Sep 12
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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