Croydon Council’s desperation to suck-up to multi-billion-pound property speculators in order to pimp out large swathes of the borough sees them offering free beer to anyone and everyone at next month’s “booze and hooker fest” that is the annual MIPIM conference staged in Cannes.
The invitations to the Croydon event on March 15, organised by Develop Croydon (of which the council is a key stakeholder), all thoughtfully arranged for a venue on the beach beside the Mediterranean, has this morning dropped into the email inboxes of delegates for the four-day MIPIM event – the organisers reckon they have more than 20,000 registered to attend.
So that could be an awful lot of bottled beer being driven down to the South of France by Croydon chief executive Jo Negrini and her staff to quench the thirsts of her cohort of admirers, plus the expensive architects, builders, consultants and other assorted hangers-on who depend upon her to dole out development contracts from the council.
It is not known what the council’s political leadership think of Croydon’s Cannes Beer on the Beach stunt, because the 2017 involvement in MIPIM has never been discussed in an open Town Hall session.
Just as in the past couple of years, the decision to attend has been left to the “delegated authority” of Negrini. Which means pushed through on the QT in the hope that no one will notice. Though we’re sure that council leader Tony “MIPIM is a junket” Newman will do his best to make it down to the Cote d’Azur for a couple of days, since he’s usually available for photo-calls with Negrini whenever there’s some free booze or grub to be had…
No one at Croydon Council is saying, yet, what the cost to Council Tax-payers might be of the council delegation to Cannes in 2017. Two years ago, it was £8,000. This year, as many as five other senior council executives could be spending a few days in the South of France with accomplished self-publicist Negrini.
Judging by the way Sutton has put together its foray into the speculators’ den, Croydon’s attendance seems likely to be described – initially at least – as “cost neutral”, meaning that much of the council’s activity at the event could be funded by sponsorship.
But there could well be “costs” to the people of Croydon down the line, after the borough’s officials try to haggle over high-powered property deals with the sharks that wash up along this part of the French coastline each March, always hungry to get their teeth into juicy portions of public property.
And no sponsor ever parts with their cash without the expectation of something in return.
Judging by the Beer on the Beach invite sent out by Grey Label, the council hangover after this gig could last a very long time, since there’s plenty of sponsors involved who’ll be expecting some sort of pay-back.
Alongside Croydon Council listed under “supprted by” (which suggests that it may involve some council support), there’s the usual suspects, such as Kier – who have made such a great job (not) of the DisConnected Croydon roadworks around the borough, and yet somehow keep being re-engaged to do more. There’s the Croydon Partnership, which really means Westfield, who might have a functioning £1.4billion supermall in the town centre some time in the middle of the next decade.
Then there’s Stiles Harold Williams, the estate managers for the land-owning Whitgift Foundation, who perhaps have most at stake over the Hammersfield development. Plus there’s builders Wilmott Dixon, Rick Mather Architects, who were handed the Fairfield Halls project, a couple of firms of consultants, and the seemingly ubiquitous Rise Gallery, ‘cos Croydon’s so hip these days, it has graffiti everywhere.
Perhaps the most interesting line in the invitation, though, is this: “This is a public event, no RSVP necessary”.
“They must be desperate then,” according to one industry expert who understands how events like MIPIM usually work.
“The guest lists for these sort of things are carefully chosen and the doors well-guarded against free-loaders. This makes it look like they’ll take anyone. Anyone at all.
“It makes Croydon look like Johnny-no-mates.”
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