The Croydon Flyover. The Croydon Facelift.
Now we have the Croydon Takeover.
Or #CroydonTakeover, as the council’s favouritest PR bunglers, Grey Label, managed to hashtag it when they were off on the jolly to the South of France for the MIPIM developers’ “junket” earlier this month.
They’ve all tried to deny it – “they” being the Tory MP for the Whitgift Foundation, or the council’s Australian-born executive director in charge of “regeneration”, or the Labour council cabinet member for development who refuses to resign from the Whitgift Foundation.
But the £1 billion scheme by Australian-based shopping mall developers Westfield is a takeover of Croydon town centre, all backed by leading land-owners the Whitgift Foundation. And even the developers are admitting it now.
“#CroydonTakeover: How leading developers and businesses are transforming Croydon”, it promises as the theme for the session. This was all to be staged by Develop Croydon, the business organisation which is chaired by Richard Plant, a partner at Stiles Harold Williams, the commercial estate agents of choice for the Whitgift Foundation.
Develop Croydon’s committee includes representatives from Barratt Homes and Berkeley, Hammerson and Westfield, as well as Croydon Council’s Jo Negrini, and it is all managed by Katharine Glass and Jo-Ann Gumb, a couple of former local newspaper staff who now run the council’s favourite PR company, White Label. Or as we prefer it, Grey Label, to better reflect the grubby trade.
Grey Label is understood to receive a retainer of more than £2,500 per month for their “PR skills” from at least one member organisation within Develop Croydon. They may receive similar retainers from Develop Croydon itself, or from its other member businesses.
Such a retainer is regarded by some businesses as an “entry fee” for getting on to the top table, to access and influence Croydon’s decision makers. And with Grey Label also getting plenty of work directly from Croydon Council, too, that surely makes things just that little bit easier.
So Grey Label must be very good at what they do?
Or not, if #CroydonTakeover is an example of their handiwork. What sort of message does that send out? There’s no chance that such a thing was intended ironically: good PRs don’t do irony, there’s too big a risk of it back-firing.
We asked an experienced public relations operator, who is familiar with some of the development schemes in Croydon, for their view of Grey Label’s handiwork in general, and the #CroydonTakeover tag in particular: “They’re fuckwits, obviously,” they said.
The thing this PR disaster shows, alongside the multi-million-pound Compulsory Purchase Order of the town centre run by the council on behalf of Hammersfield and the £87 million urban motorway proposed to be built through a public park towards the supermall, is that this is exactly what it has always appeared to be: a takeover, with Croydon Council an over-eager “player”, rather than a bulwark to represent the interests of borough.
- Time for a thorough ethical review of Croydon’s governance
- This is what £8,000 of public money buys at MIPIM (part 3)
- This is what £8,000 of public money buys at MIPIM (part 2)
- This is what £8,000 of public money buys at MIPIM
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