“It’s a junket on the taxpayers and people don’t want to see highly paid council officials swanning around the French Riviera.”That’s what Tony Newman said six years ago, when the Croydon Labour leader was in opposition and was rightly aggrieved that the then Tory-run Town Hall was spending £165,000 on sending a delegation to Cannes in the swanky south of France for the annual MIPIM property developers’ conference.
Or a “Booze and Hookerfest”, as it was described by Private Eye magazine this week.
In 2016, and Newman is now the council leader. Yet for the second year in succession he is presiding over the spending of thousands of pounds of public money to pay for senior Croydon Council staff to attend the four-day developers’ conference.
The Eye says that, “the world’s richest property moguls and their investment advisers will attend” MIPIM and that they arrive on the Riviera for a bit of spring sunshine “in private jets and on luxury yachts”.
Doubtless, the vast quantities of champagne that will be quaffed and canapes that are to be scoffed aboard the aforementioned yachts are diarised by humble London council employees and their accompanying PR staffers, such as Croydon’s ever-present Grey Label, as being part of their “very busy schedule” of important “meetings” with the schmoozers and speculators.
The Eye advises that in Cannes at the time of MIPIM, “Infesting the hotel bars will be hundreds of eastern European blondes, drawn by the scent of money and sleaze.”
Money! And sleaze!
Several London boroughs, and other Labour-run local authorities, determined to boycott MIPIM, out of disgust at the untrammeled toadying to the multi-billion-pound interests of developers that goes on.
But not Croydon under Newman.
Our council continues to be enthusiastic participants. Last year, the council even abandoned its pretence that it is in any way governing the affairs of the borough on behalf of its residents and local businesses when it prostrated itself to the speculators under the banner of #CroydonTakeover.
Oh, how we laughed.
This year, Negrini, Croydon’s executive director in charge of the borough’s regeneration, will again be wafting off to Cannes, RayBans at the ready and accompanied by her appointed deputy, Colm Lacey.
Since Newman’s Labour came to power at the Town Hall in 2014, there’s been no debate about the spending on attending MIPIM. For each of the past two years, the council has spent around £8,000 to attend the conference, and last year the decision to spend that cash was taken under “delegated authority” of one of the increasingly powerful figures in the council offices, Jo Negrini.
On the afternoon of March 16, Croydon’s own Cagney and Lacey will be on a panel for “Making growth work now”, presented “in association with Develop Croydon”, the developers’ lobby group which is run by Grey Label and which also receives significant funding from the council.
There, they will get a warm reunion with Matthew McMillan, who this time last year was working for Croydon Council, but will be in Cannes this year as “development director” for Boxpark, the company he joined soon after writing a very positive report recommending that the council should make a £3 million loan to the retail operators.
Also on the panel will be Robin Dobson from Hammerson – the company which at least has the good faith to admit that the new supermall in the centre of Croydon won’t be ready to open until possibly as late as 2021 – plus Craig Marks, the CEO of builders Menta Redrow; Jason Margrave from Stanhope, the Ruskin Square developers; and Steve Yewman, from Westfield.
All very cosy. Maybe just a little too cosy, perhaps?
But it is just another sign that the #CroydonTakeover has already happened, and a strong indicator of who it is who is really running our council.
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