The Spivocracy strikes again: Croydon Conservatives’ attempt to flog off a £500,000 public building to their mates for a knock-down £85,000 on the eve of the local elections have seen the old Ashburton Library left vulnerable to the worst of the winter weather and to vandals, Inside Croydon has learned.
Croydon Tories lost control of the Town Hall in May. But just the day before the public went to vote, they were still trying to rush through the contracts for the bargain-basement sale of the Victorian building, set in Ashburton Park, and which had been independently valued as being worth at least half a million.
You can read the contract by clicking here: Ashburton Library1
You can see the leasehold agreement by clicking here: Ashburton Library 2
The flogging off of a cherished public asset at the bargain-basement price was blocked by Labour shortly after they took control of the council, with local Tories feigning much outrage on behalf of the Thornton Heath-based His Grace Community Outreach Church.
Sara Bashford, the new deputy leader of Croydon Conservatives, even tried to insinuate that the decision to block the sale by Labour was in some way racist.
But the documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, clearly show that the secretive sale was not with the church at all, as the Tories have tried to claim, nor with a trust established on behalf of the church. The Tory-run council was flogging the former convent building to two named individuals, Bola and Kayode Thomas, apparently for their own personal use.
The plans submitted for refurbishing the building indicate that while the ground floor would have been used for some public activities, the first floor would be converted into a private residence.
“You can’t buy a bedsit in Croydon for less than £200,000 these days,” one councillor told Inside Croydon.
Five months before the elections, the council – acting on whose authority has not yet been discovered – had handed over the keys to the old Library to the Thomases, who removed the protective hoardings around the vacant building and entered the premises, starting some construction work before any contracts had been signed or a penny had been paid for the sale.
The Thomases stopped all work on the building in the summer, but the hoardings – intended to keep out the worst of the weather from damaging the old brickwork and to secure the property from squatters and rough-sleepers – have never been replaced.
The property has been broken into on several occasions recently, with people staying inside overnight, presenting the risk of fire damage, too, as occurred with the old Sea Cadets building by Duppas Park. Council officials have been tasked with re-securing the building after its abandonment by the Thomases, a cost which undoubtedly will have to be paid by Council Tax-payers, rather than the Thornton Heath church.
Some councillors have asked for the district auditor to be called in to conduct an independent investigation of the whole transaction, and for those responsible – whether senior council staff who managed the “sale” or the Tory councillors who provided the policy leadership on the
scamscheme – to face disciplinary action, or even to be surcharged.
But Croydon Labour’s leader, “Inaction Man” Tony Newman, has proven to be elusive on this issue over the past two months, since the scandal of the asset-stripping sale was exposed.
“It seems really strange,” one activist told Inside Croydon this week. “There is a nasty whiff of wrong-doing about this deal, and someone should be made accountable. Politically, such an investigation would stifle the Tories’ mock outrage, too. And yet Newman’s opted to do nothing. Again. Who is he covering up for?”
Councillors in Ashburton, who in May won the ward for Labour for the first time and so helping to secure control of the council for Newman, want the building restored and put to community use, with a range of plans involving local groups. They are to stage a meeting in the next week for residents from the neighbouring wards to help establish the Friends of Ashburton Park group which was formed last year.
- Calls for auditor to investigate old Ashburton Library sale
- Secrecy surrounds council’s sale of old Ashburton Library
- Ashburton residents firmly oppose sale of old library
Coming to Croydon
- Cloth Nappy Network celebration, Beanies, Nov 24
- David Lean Cinema, Wakolda, Nov 27
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- St Peter’s Primary School Christmas Fair, Nov 29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- St Andrew’s churchyard gardening session, 10am, Dec 6
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Croydon Philharmonic Handel’s Messiah, Fairfield Halls, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- Mayor of Croydon’s charity Christmas dinner, Dec 12
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- Concert of Christmas music, St Luke’s, Woodside, Dec 13
- Friends of the Earth Green Beanfeast, Dec 15 (book by Dec 1)
- Croydon Philharmonic Christmas concert, St Matthew’s, Dec 16
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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