Croydon’s Labour-run council, which is laying off around 600 workers in the latest round of cost-cutting, has nevertheless managed to scrape together around £70,000 – possibly more – to hire a firm of consultants to try to improve the place’s image.
And the chairman of Croydon’s chosen image consultants has recently been appointed to head up a tax-payer-funded body whose job it is to encourage foreign investors to move into areas undergoing regeneration.
So it all amounts to a bit of a win-win at the expense of Croydon’s residents for Tony Danaher, the aforementioned chairman of ING agency. Some might suggest that it is taking a ****ING liberty with public money.
The juicy fees being paid by Croydon Council are based on industry estimates, and relate to the typical consultancy charges from central London-based agencies.
Whatever the actual sum being forked out for this expensive makeover will be on top of the £500,000-plus annual budget for the council’s six-strong media staff in Fisher’s Folly, plus the various amounts it pays for local agencies such as the deeply unimpressive Grey Label and The Campaign Company, which has been overseeing the £200,000 spend on the Fairness Commission.
The Shoreditch-based ING agency “is working with the borough’s inward investment team to attract new occupiers to Croydon and to raise the profile of its business district as an essential part of London’s economy”.
This suggests that the arrangement was instigated by council officials working for the increasingly influential head of planning and regeneration at the council, Jo Negrini. Sources in Katherine Street say that the initiative may well have been suggested by Westfield, one of the partners behind the £1 billion supermall planned for the town centre.
“If Westfield’s John Burton says ‘jump’,” the Town Hall source said, “Jo’s usual response is ‘how high?’ The use of ING by the council is just another sign of Westfield’s control, but it might also suggest that they are less than bowled-over with Croydon’s down-at-heel reputation.”
And benefiting from this public largesse is ING and therefore the company’s chairman, Tony Danaher.
In May, the government’s UK Trade and Investment department’s Regeneration Investment Organisation appointed Danaher as its chief executive. According to an ING press release, Danaher will carry out those duties “alongside his commitments with ING”, which in the case of his company’s Croydon contract, might seem to amount to receiving money from two public bodies to do one job.
As the ING statement said: “RIO is the arm of UKTI that helps find and assess UK regeneration projects and encourage foreign investors to come to the UK.” RIO was set up under the ConDem coalition when St Vincent Cable was business secretary, and has “facilitated investment” in various high-profile schemes including Battersea Power Station and New Covent Garden Market.
“I’m delighted to be working with the RIO team and I look forward to helping my colleagues at UKTI and in government to champion investment in the built environment,” Danaher said. “Regeneration is powering the growth of the UK economy and job creation and we have a compelling case to take to those investors from overseas who are interested in creating great places and spaces in our cities and new opportunities in our economy.”
He might have added, “… such as in Croydon”, but he didn’t. Because that might have been seen as taking the ****ING piss.
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