The local Tories were desperate to jump on the bandwagon, trying to claim some credit for the announcement.
Tim “Nice But Dull” Pollard, the leader of Croydon Conservatives, stated publicly that the grant had been allocated by someone he called “Said David” (Craig David’s not so well-known brother perhaps?), with a bit-part played by Gavin Barwell, the local MP and junior minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government where the Secretary of State is someone called Sajid Javid. Someone might want to point that out to Dullard.
Thing is, the money was allocated to Croydon by Coast to Capital, out of a £66million pot of funding provided by Whitehall.
“Coast to Capital evaluates applications for funding and its board makes a recommendation to government under the government growth deal programme as to which projects should be funded,” a Coast to Capital spokesman told Inside Croydon.
“Government then makes a total award to Coast to Capital which the board then decides how much to allocate to what project.”
So Barwell’s role in the whole thing will have been less-than-minimal.
In fact, it was the Labour-run council which had submitted a bid for funding, for more than twice as much money, and more than a year ago – before the Halls were closed.
“We’ve got to keep asking, and asking for more,” one Katharine Street source said today. “Fairfield Halls deserves the investment. It was starved of serious money being spent on it for far too long.”
Indeed, under Pollard and the Tories, third-party funding for the Fairfield all but dried up for the eight years they were in power until 2014. A perfectly workable scheme for refurbishment which they inherited was shelved, leaving the venue to slowly rot for lack of investment.The Tories could not even manage to help the Halls get any decent Arts Council funding towards its music and drama programmes, and eventually their Philistinism resulted in Croydon being kicked out of the Museums Association after Pollard led the council to act unlawfully in the sale of the Riesco Collection of ceramics from the Museum of Croydon.
Pollard even made a pig’s ear of that auction, achieving barely half of the value of the artefacts than he had promised, losing the Croydon public millions of pounds in cash and squandering a public inheritance.
The Coast to Capital millions announced yesterday comes at no similar loss to the culture and heritage of Croydon.
“The new projects to be funded will help to improve the daily lives and prospects of local people and, working closely with partners, we will be able to unlock the region’s potential for long-term growth by kick starting schemes which will provide the stimulus to bring forward more homes and jobs,” said Jonathan Sharrock, the well-regarded chief executive of Coast to Capital.
What is less clear is where this chunky bundle of funding fits into the £30million budgeted scheme for Croydon College, College Green and hundreds of flats to be built around the site, and which has seen the Fairfield Halls closed last summer. Much of the funding for the scheme was understood to depend on the profits from the sale of homes, and therefore dependent on the sometimes volatile housing market maintaining premium prices.
Yesterday, the council described the Coast to Capital grant as “a huge vote of confidence” in the project.
With an accompanying video which appears to have been recorded in such a rush that council leader Tony Newman did not have time for a proper shave (perhaps he’d been out on the lash with his mates from Boozepark the night before?), the council press release said, “The project will see this under-used area reconnected to the rest of the town centre and transformed into a stunning new cultural quarter for Croydon and the south-east.”
The council statement did at least offer some timelines on the progress of the works, which were originally supposed to be completed in 24 months from the Halls’ closure.
“The first phase of the College Green regeneration – the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls – is already underway, with contractors preparing the site for the main structural works to start in May. The detailed planning application for the first phase is due to go before committee later this month (23 February),” the council press release said.
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