Council pimps out £144m offices in £7.5m 10-year deal

Croydon’s cash-strapped Labour-run council is today celebrating clawing back just £7.5million-worth of the costs of Fisher’s Folly, the borough’s vastly over-priced civic headquarters. Over a period of 10 years.

So only another £136 million to go.

£7.5m down. Only another £136m to go to pay off the cost of Fisher's Folly

£7.5m down. Only another £136m to go to pay off the full cost of Fisher’s Folly

At this rate, it will only take nearly 200 years to recoup the full £144million cost of the country’s most expensive council office, a building sometimes known as Bernard Weatherill House.

A 10-year lease agreement has been signed with Arcadis, the Dutch-based design and management consultants. They say that they will move 250 of their UK staff to Croydon, a move which of itself will be helpful to the local economy.

Council officials could not contain their excitement. “This is great news for Croydon and for our residents,” gushed Tony Newman, the council leader.

“We’ve always said that we’re absolutely committed to delivering value for money to local taxpayers,” Newman added. Newman appears, again, to have forgotten that he also said that he would hold a forensic investigation into the extravagant costs of Fisher’s Folly – which was built under a secret “partnership” with John Laing under local Tory leader Mike “WadGate” Fisher, and when the council’s current CEO, Nathan Elvery, was responsible for the borough’s finance and procurement.

The building is reckoned to have cost Council Tax-payers at least £100 million more than equivalent office blocks built in London in the past decade – making Croydon’s biggest folly more expensive to build per square foot of office space than The Shard.

Incognito: Tony Newman's council cabinet might not be recognisable after tonight's meeting

Tony Newman: once again dazzled by his own brilliance

Talking about the Arcadis lease agreement, Newman ploughed on, trying to make the best of a modest deal: “This is a great example of our promise to make sure we’re making the most of our assets, and getting the best deals for local people.”

Arcadis will be taking the top two floors of BWH, with 19,000 sq ft of office space, at what represents a very high rate of £39 per sq ft.

It is noteworthy that in Arcadis’s own version of reality, their press release, they speak of their other London offices, at King’s Cross, and 2,000 staff based across the two sites – suggesting that Croydon will be a “branch office”. Arcadis are due to move in to Fisher’s Foolly in “summer 2016”.

The council has not revealed what costs it might incur in terms of finding alternative accommodation for its own staff who currently occupy the floors it intends to rent out.

What’s also not been disclosed by Arcadis or Croydon Council is whether there are any quid pro quos for the firm in setting up a base in south London. “I reckon Arcadis are hoping for some council contracts,” one experienced Croydon source said.

“If the council can rent out 9.5 per cent of the building and save £7.5 million, I suggest that they seek to rent out the lot and save £78.9 million. In that way they will have paid for it in less than 10 years, which really would be a good deal for Croydon.

“There are plenty of other cheaper offices the council could use instead.”

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3 Responses to Council pimps out £144m offices in £7.5m 10-year deal

  1. Arcadia have obviously got more money than sense if they are happy to pay £39 per foot for a shoddily constructed building where the toilets are constantly getting blocked and the cheap (quality, not price) fixtures and fittings are showing their age after less than 3 years.

  2. Rod Davies says:

    I cannot but help being rather sympathetic towards the current Labour administration having inherited the responsibility for Bernard Wetherill House. Regardless of what one may feel about the circumstances of its creation, I can imagine that the council is relieved that at least some money is coming in to defray some of the debts.
    The project to find a replacement for the aged Taberner House was to my recollection wholly under the aegis of the former CEO Nathan Elvery, and there were other opportunities. The deal done with Laings occurred at a time when the market was in the depths of depression and the council officers should have been able to secure a better deal. The elected officials at the time should have undertaken far more scrutiny, and if they did it suggests that they p[ossess very poor business skills and acument.
    But we are where we are. What we need is a realistic plan to work our way out of the mess, and into a situation where the debts are reduced to the level of being manageable without diminishing public services further.

  3. The suggestion to move the Council completely out of BWH is excellent. After all they have a huge debt to address, and PLENTY of vacant office premises available in Croydon. Go for it I say!

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