Niall Bolger, Sutton Council’s chief executive, yesterday signed off on including himself in a £30,000 junket to the South of France.
Bolger and two senior Sutton colleagues will be attending MIPIM, the property speculators’ four-day champagne-swilling annual piss-up in Cannes, seeking “investment partners” for the council’s proposed cancer research hub, which they want to develop around the Royal Marsden Hospital at Belmont. The decision to attend MIPIM was agreed by the FibDem council leader, Ruth Dombey in September, but she and Bolger forgot to mention it until yesterday.
The London Cancer Hub has backing from the Royal Marsden and Cancer Research for its plans to develop a research campus that would eventually accommodate 10,000 scientists, plus support staff. But Dombey and Bolger’s earnest plan as yet lacks any commercial development backers for the multi-million-pound project.
Which is why Bolger, accompanied by Mary Morrissey, Sutton’s director of environment and neighbourhoods, and Mandy Cherrington, the borough’s “head of economic renewal and the business environment”, will be flourishing their passports and off to the Cote d’Azur for the March 14 conference start date.
The decision was taken by Bolger under delegated authority “in consultation with the leader” (meaning Dombey), and it is supposed to be “cost neutral” for the council, with the costs being met by commercial sponsors – whose identities are not revealed in the council report.
The council report fails to provide any detail of the cost breakdown – £30,000 seems a bit steep for a spring break for just three people, even to the South of France.
Admittedly, it’s a long way short of the £165,000 which the then Tory-run Croydon Council lavished on sending a platoon of PR flunkies to Cannes with the borough’s CEO, Jon Rouse, in 2010. But this year, Sutton is spending more than three times as much as Croydon paid last year when the current council CEO, Jo Negrini, fancied a quick Mediterranean break in the sun.
The Sutton report does tell us, however, that, “MIPIM has become a place where cities, regions and sub-regions present themselves to the development and investment community as good investment destinations. London has had a significant presence at MIPIM for 20 years and the Mayor of London has been a regular attendee as it is recognised as an exceptional opportunity to fly the flag for the city in the global competition for investment.” Translation: Boris has always enjoyed quaffing champagne ever since his Bullingdon Club days, especially when someone else is footing the bill, and when he was Mayor he never turned down any opportunity to piss off from City Hall to be with his billionaire property developer mates.
Having crafted their intro, the author of the Sutton report quickly delves for The South London Blaggers’ Big Book of Hackneyed Cliches when offering reasons why Bolger and his colleagues so need to be part of this property speculators’ carve-up.
“Putting Sutton on the map”, they offer, somewhat feebly. Sutton’s been on maps since the Domesday Book.
Being at MIPIM would raise “the profile of Sutton and its development opportunities as a place in which to live, work and invest”. And it would, “Showcase Sutton’s ambition”. The Ambition word – that’s just sooo 2014…
The report also states, “The London Cancer Hub is at a point in its development where commercial investment is critical”. Translation: we ain’t got any money for this, and even less commercial interest. “Attendance at MIPIM will provide the targeted, intense and focused opportunity to jump start investment for the benefit of the scheme, and the borough as a whole.” Translation: see previous translation.
And it then goes into full-on bullshit mode: “In close association the other major schemes would be closely aligned to a compelling vision and offer to investors that the time to invest in Sutton is now.” Translation: Our land is cheaper for building profitable flats on than Croydon, even if we don’t have a Tramlink extension.
Suddenly remembering his civic duty, Bolger – or whoever it was the CEO instructed to write the report – then states: “It is essential that attendance at MIPIM delivers value for money for Sutton. Therefore Sutton has ensured that attendance at MIPIM is cost neutral to the council through sponsorship.”
Although the MIPIM adventure has never been mentioned at any council meetings, the report also reveals that Dombey approved the junketing trip last September.
Odd that. Is there anything else Dombey’s forgotten to tell Sutton council meetings?
- Click here to read in full Niall Bolger’s report on why he should spend four days in the South of France
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