WALTER CRONXITE reports on the mystery surrounding more than £20,000-worth of council sponsorship cash for a conference delegation to the South of France, and the business that links Croydon with social cleansing schemes in other London boroughs
Niall Bolger, the chief executive of Sutton Council, may not have provided elected councillors or the Council Tax-payers in his borough with the budget details of the trip he and two senior officials will be taking to the South of France next month, but today, Inside Croydon can provide you with that information.
According to a source close to the arrangements for Sutton’s first visit to the”booze and hooker fest” conference for property developers staged in Cannes, the costs of sending Bolger, Amanda Cherrington and Mary Morrissey to the Cote d’Azure (“all economy class”, we are told), plus providing them with accommodation for the week-long event and buying their delegate passes will come in at…
But that’s more than £20,000 less than the total amount raised in sponsorship for the trip. What happens with the rest of the cash remains a closely guarded secret. Our most obliging source was unable, or unwilling, to explain what the additional sponsorship funding raised might be used for.
And the agency making the arrangements, 3Fox International, appears to be at odds with their clients at Sutton Council over exactly who it is that is paying for all this.
According to Toby Fox, the managing director at the agency, “Those expenses are covered by the companies listed here… “, providing a link to his company’s website which lists Barratt’s, developers Mizen and something called “Successful Sutton”.Yet a couple of days after Inside Croydon broke the news of Sutton’s attendance at MIPIM, alongside 16 other London boroughs, including Croydon, a press release was flushed out from Sutton council offices.
It stated: “Between March 14 – 17 council officers will be presenting opportunities for investment in the borough, as part of a London-wide delegation. Sutton Council’s attendance is supported by local Business Improvement District (BID) organisations KIPPA BID and Successful Sutton, and by sponsors Barratts London, Lambert Smith Hampton, Mizen Homes and Willmott Dixon”.
Neither Lambert Smith Hampton, a commercial property consultancy, nor builders Wilmott Dixon are listed by 3Fox International as “MIPIM Partners” for Sutton Council.
Perhaps they didn’t pony-up enough cash?
A question remains, however, on what the “spare” £20,000 sponsorship cash has been raised for, and where it might be spent during the four-day Cannes conference.
Toby Fox told Inside Croydon: “I couldn’t possibly say what a typical budget for a borough’s participation would be – I would imagine that there is a great deal of variation. My understanding is that Sutton Council isn’t paying any money at all to attend MIPIM. That is typical of the councils we work with.”
The breakdown of costs incurred by the council staff, according to Fox, is:
- Travel costs: £813.20 for three delegates (Niall Bolger travelling via train; Amanda Cherrington and Mary Morrissey by ‘plane, all economy class)
- Accommodation costs: £4,215.84 for two apartments (Amanda Cherrington and Mary Morrissey sharing)
- Delegate passes: £3,835 + VAT for three delegate passes to MIPIM
According to Bolger, “We don’t choose to go to Cannes.” Poor soul. Though it is odd that he has opted to go, nonetheless, and not to delegate the apparently onerous duties to one of the council’s other staff.
In the Sutton press release, Bolger is attributed with the following statement: “We don’t choose to go to Cannes. We choose to speak to the 4,800 investors and 1,280 developers that go there to find opportunities for investment, including the specialist life science investors that attend MIPIM. Almost every major city in Europe will be attending, as well as almost half of London’s boroughs. In a highly competitive market we must be proactive in seeking the best for Sutton.”
The press release also has Bolger claiming that by attending MIPIM, it “… will bring extra jobs to Sutton and result in the development of up to two extra anti-cancer drugs every five years”. Which would be nothing short of miraculous, were it ever to happen.Croydon-based agency 3Fox is organising the MIPIM venture for Sutton and three other boroughs, Harrow, Hounslow (which is being backed by, among others, the runway-hungry Heathrow Airport), and Lambeth.
“In each case, the delegation comprises developers and investors with established stakes in the borough or area, attending MIPIM to attract more investment into their projects and to the place more widely, so that the value and viability of their schemes improves,” Fox said.
“In this they share a mutual interest with the appropriate local authority or authorities, which is or are seeking growth and development to create homes and jobs, as well as income streams that can help fund public services for which central government grant is being cut.”
That central assumption, that local authorities in some way “share a mutual interest” with property developers, is one which is reguarly challenged by those who question the value of events such as MIPIM.
“Working in combination, the public and private sector make a stronger case for investment than one or the other alone, so many authorities are keen to participate,” Fox says, effectively justifying a large chunk of his company’s business model; his company is paid by local authorities for publishing promotional magazines, running websites and organising trips to junkets such as MIPIM.
“MIPIM is where the property industry gathers. Local authorities that attend do so to make sure they can present a solid case for investment to that industry, and to make sure their borough does not miss out on that investment and the homes and jobs that result.”Fox, who reminds us that MIPIM has being going for 25 years, does not manage to provide a single example of where that investment has provided any homes or jobs.
Nor does he appear to consider how inappropriate it might be for local authorities to cosy up financially with developers who might have to make planning applications to that very same local planning authority.
But he does make a case for the personal sacrifice from those local authority officials who are hawking public assets around some of the most affluent members of global capital: “Many take the view that, post-Brexit referendum, that it is more important than ever and are taking time out from their personal lives and family to spend two to three days (none of the delegations arranged by 3Fox is longer than that), attending up to 15 meetings a day to make this case on behalf of their boroughs.”
The reality, of course, is that events such as MIPIM serves the property speculators and PR agencies such as 3Fox International, which look upon sometimes gullible local authorities or their easily flattered senior executives as a ready source of business, picking up work which councils long ago outsourced to get off their ever-diminished budgets.
It is through 3Fox International that residents’ groups in Lambeth have discovered that their council – in the midst of clearing council estates of tenants to make way for development schemes, while turning public libraries into privately run gyms – will be attending MIPIM.
Critics regard Progress-led Lambeth as having a social-cleansing masterplan, and draw comparisons with some aspects of Labour-lite Croydon’s recent schemes.
And what connects Lambeth’s schemes to Croydon? Jo Negrini.
Negrini used to be head of planning in Lambeth. Now she’s chief executive of Croydon Council, who co-founded the Develop Croydon gentrification conference with 3Fox.
3Fox International was founded to handle the public relations of the biggest social cleansers of the lot, Southwark Council: “3Fox has been in business since 2004 when we started working with London Borough of Southwark, who remain a client to this day.”
The great thing about marketing companies is that they’re attention-seeking by nature and unlike duplicitous councils they don’t know when to keep their mouths shut.
- ‘Ballistic’ Bolger tries to gag criticism of MIPIM trip
- Negrini heads Croydon team to Cannes ‘booze and hooker fest’
- Sutton’s secret sponsors for £30,000 South of France trip
- 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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