Eye! Eye! Council offices’ £144m cost is attracting attention

Fisher's Folly: Built at a cost of £144 million, plus £85m interest payments, the council's head offices seem likely to be a drag on borough finances for years to come

Fisher’s Folly: Built at a cost of £144 million, plus £85m interest payments, the council’s head offices seem likely to be a drag on borough finances for years to come

Not for the first time, a scandal involving Croydon Council has attracted the attention of the scurrilous satirical magazine, Private Eye, when the local mainstream media has kept well clear of the story.

Presumably, the Sadvertiser doesn’t think that an apparent overspend of £100 million of public money on new council offices will interest their ever-diminishing band of readers.

This week’s edition of the Eye has a report about how Croydon’s new council offices, Bernard Weatherill House, have somehow ended up costing more to build, per square metre of office space, than The Shard, Europe’s tallest building.

The total cost for Fisher’s Folly, on Cost A Mint Walk, came in at a staggering £144 million. To the Croydon residents who will be paying the bill for years to come, that is completely gross.

As Inside Croydon reported earlier this month, it worked out at £4,545 per sqm to build The Shard.

But Croydon Council, under a joint venture with developers John Laing set up by the previous Conservative administration, managed to deliver the shiny new offices at a gob-smacking £6,280 per sqm. And that’s not including in the calculation the additional £85 million interest on finance which the council took on to allow Laing to go ahead with the project.

Compared with the average cost of other office builds in London, which usually come in at less than £2,000 per sqm, it means that Croydon is spending around £100 million more than we might have done for the shiny new building, which was opened in October 2013.

It seems that a pattern is emerging about public projects being delivered at over-the-odds rates under the CCURV urban regeneration vehicle with John Laing. Waddon Leisure Centre’s £15 million price tag is about £10 million more than the “recommended retail price” for similar sports centres and swimming pools, according to quango Sport England.

Council leader Tony Newman: investigating an apparent overspend of £100m on the council offices is "a waste of money"

Council leader Tony Newman: investigating an apparent overspend of £100m on the council offices is “a waste of money”

The Eye’s “Rotten Boroughs” column also reports that with Fisher’s Folly providing less office space for council staff than the former offices at Taberner House, even after vicious cut-backs in staff the new “hot-desking” system operated in the new HQ often sees one-fifth of employees standing around without anywhere to conduct the borough’s business.

At next Monday’s full meeting of the council, the first of 2015, there will be debate of the #WadGate report into how the previous Tory council leader, Mike Fisher, managed to secretively trouser £13,000. The council’s vastly overpriced new offices were commissioned when Fisher and his Tory mates were in charge at the Town Hall, hence “Fisher’s Folly”.

The #WadGate report was commissioned by Labour’s Tony Newman, Fisher’s successor. You might think that, given the building’s £144 million price tag, Newman might want to investigate how Croydon Conservatives managed to saddle the borough with Britain’s most expensive council offices.

But no. According to a recent answer at public question time, Newman reckons that any investigation into the £144 million cost of Fisher’s Folly “would be a waste of money”.

“Trebles all-round!” as they might say at Private Eye.

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About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Bernard Weatherill House, Croydon Council, Mike Fisher, Nathan Elvery, Planning, Tony Newman, URV and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Eye! Eye! Council offices’ £144m cost is attracting attention

  1. whitgiftavenue says:

    What would it take to get the District Auditor/Audit Commission to investigate this?

  2. How dare these people?

    Croydon’s long-suffering Council Tax-payers will be paying for these multi-million pound overspends for decades to come, but the present administration doesn’t think it worth telling us how it happened or asking the previous administration for a proper explanation.

    Something stinks here! And we need a totally independent third party with a detailed knowledge of local government finance to investigate.

    I am long past worrying whose toes are trodden on, or who ends up being surcharged or prosecuted, if it comes to that.

    I am surprised and disappointed by the attitude of the present administration. I have little respect for Mr Newman. I have no idea why Croydon Labour allowed him to continue as leader.

    But there are some principled people in the party and I can’t understand why they are deliberately looking the other way.

  3. A Waste of Money to Investigate a Waste of Money?
    … there’s a poem in there somewhere but not one that is ever likely to be read out in public!

  4. marzia27 says:

    Probably a sizeable petition of Croydon residents.
    Is Inside Croydon willing to start it?
    I will sign it and tramp around Croydon to have it signed.

  5. It is mind numbing how wasteful this whole project is/will be.
    Remembering what the offices are used for, did they really think people looking for housing, benefits, council tax, planning (there’s a laugh!) etc etc need a shinny expensive building from which to claim/pay/ask?
    Im sure for say £30m they could’ve given Taberner House a very smart spruce up, and then sold the land that Bernard sits on to a property developer for a very tidy sum, that would probably have paid for the spruce.
    Stark raving mad.

  6. joeycan says:

    The Labour council has lost their way and are hypocritically trampling upon their promises of transparency, steered no doubt by the same very senior administrators who advised their predecessor council and who ” know where the bodies are buried”.

    I have already said, in other comments on this blog, that I think a major audit should be undertaken of the way the council administration conspires to frustrate the genuine concerns of the electorate WHO DID NOT VOTE FOR THEM! I would be quite happy to subscribe to ANY cause which can challenge such behavior and can bring to account those senior officers responsible for this outrage.

    I have just learned of the Council Solicitor’s gagging order on comments relating to the CPO raised regarding the Westfield saga. The mind boggles!

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