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.
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.
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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