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.
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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