Cash-strapped council finds thousands for real estate beano

Cash-strapped Croydon is spending up to £26,000 so that senior council officials can rub shoulders with developers and estate agents at an event next week called the London Real Estate Forum.

Jo Negrini: showcasing Croydon, or herself

Jo Negrini: showcasing Croydon, or herself?

Despite laying off hundreds of staff to save money, the borough which this week spent north of £100,000 on a bike race which was watched by sparse crowds, and which is defying its recruitment freeze to appoint a £80,000-a-year “culture czar”, has somehow also managed to find the entrance fee for another conference at which greedy developers discuss how they can carve up the capital.

Croydon is participating in the two-day event, which usually charges between £12,500 (plus VAT, naturally) and £22,000 (plus VAT) for the privilege of being among the sharp suits and well-monied speculators.

“The London Real Estate Forum is the premier event for the development sector,” the organisers boast, without any hint on modesty or self-doubt. “Hosted in the heart of Mayfair, Berkeley Square, bringing two days of debate, deals and networking.” Cushty.

Croydon is one of a the handful of London boroughs which are being “showcased”, basically given the chance to pimp the borough’s real estate to any developers who fancy moving in to make a quick profit. Croydon’s session is scheduled for Wednesday lunchtime.

The London Real Estate Forum's prices: council officials in Croydon have agreed to spend tens of thousands. Again

The London Real Estate Forum’s prices: council officials in Croydon have agreed to spend tens of thousands. Again

In all likelihood, the real showcasing will be for the career of Jo Negrini, recently installed as the borough’s “interim” CEO, and her chosen colleague in the development department at Fisher’s Folly, Colm Lacey.

So it’ll be public money very well spent, as far as the six-figure salaried public servants are concerned.

Doubtless Brick by Brick, the private housing company established by Negrini and Lacey at the council, but which is entirely unaccountable to the Council Tax-payers and which has no elected representatives appointed to the board although one of its directors has worked closely with Qatari developers, will be one of Negrini’s “innovations” to get a mention to the estate agents gathered in Mayfair.

Doubtless, Boxpark, which Negrini’s department authorised to receive a £3 million loan out of public money, but which is already months behind schedule, will be held up as a triumph of Croydon’s “ambitious” council.

And they will have to mention Hammersfield, the £1.4 billion development on which Croydon Council has staked the borough’s future, largely on behalf of the Whitgift Foundation.

Perhaps someone will be able to suggest when the Westfield and Hammerson supermall, which was originally supposed to be completed by 2017, really will be open for business? This year? Next year? Sometime? Never?

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5 Responses to Cash-strapped council finds thousands for real estate beano

  1. You clearly have no idea of the benefit that the home building boom is bringing to Croydon.
    Millions will be raised by any number of payments from developers. This before annual council taxes are paid, and then of course the money that these new residents put in to the local economy.
    £25k is a drop in the ocean. It seems unless money is spent on hand outs to the poor you consider everything else a waste. Its high time you engaged your brain and saw that these new developments are fantastic news for Croydon.

    • Let’s assume for a moment that the developments are entirely positive, and that developers are actually intending to pay millions – rather than simply seeking public handouts in secret meetings.

      They’ll still need to talk to officials and the public, on an official and accountable basis, in order to make their developments happen.

      Legally, at least.

      This being the case, there’s no need for council officials -or any other public sector employee required to engage with developers – to pay to meet them. Ever. Anywhere.

      All the council officials need to do in this situation is wait for developers to approach them with their proposals, and then to apply due process to considering them. With the £25 ooo saved in this particular instance they’d be able to hire (or keep) an employee to assist with a vital year’s work of effectively processing and investigating the proposals. The extra time the officials spent in the office could profitably be devoted to doing homework on the relevant legislation. Assuming those officials were honest and competent, that would mean millions gained in extra revenues from positive development plans getting completed ahead of schedule and without undue legal complications or bureaucratic delays resulting from council staff shortages.

      Alternatively, you could encourage your council officials to pay through the nose to attend a rushed meeting without legal advisors, planning officers or local community members. But that – even for the most fervent advocate of redevelopment – would be a daft waste of money.

      Or, to put it in your terms, what you’d do if you’d failed to engage your brain.

    • davidjl2014 says:

      Interesting comment. But I would ask the question, how many people living in Croydon at the moment can afford to buy the properties that are being built?
      What is desperately needed is social housing that people can afford. If you build a metropolis today, it will become the wasteland of tomorrow.

  2. arnorab says:

    Everyone should visit one, at least, of the new developments and listen to the sales talk and sales pitch. It becomes quickly evident that the new homes are not in any way aimed at people in the middle range of income but only at high earners. They, almost by definition, are not likely to be long term residents and will move quickly for career or investment reasons. Many of the new flats will end up, sooner or later, having to be flogged off in the second user market at bargain rates and the process leading to davidjl2014’s wasteland will begin.

  3. arnorab says:

    Oh, ah and yes, i forgot to comment on David Hamilton’s assertion that #24K is a drop in the ocean. For the people involved, high Council earners and Developers, he is 100% right. It is, incidentally, about how much one would have to pay in maintenance charges alone in one of the new developments over very few years indeed.

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