KEN LEE reports on a raft of housing award nominations for a council-owned house-builder which has so far built the grand total of zero homes
Council leader Tony Newman, his deputy Alison Butler, council chief exec Jo Negrini and loads of their mates from Fisher’s Folly will be placing orders to hire their dinner jackets from Moss Bros, or getting out their party frocks, for another night on the lash likely at Council Tax-payers’ expense at one of London’s poshest private members’ clubs.
Because Brick by Brick, the council-owned housing developer, is up for no fewer than five awards at some self-congratulatory beanfeast being staged by the trade website, Inside Housing.
Not a bad achievement for a housing developer which has yet to build a single house.
Yes, it is the same Brick by Brick which Inside Housing has short-listed in their Best Development Team category as the Brick by Brick company which got planning permission from a committee chaired by Butler’s husband, Paul Scott, for a controversial in-fill building scheme on a social housing estate in South Norwood, without having had any equalities consultation carried out, as is required by law.
And the Brick by Brick which has been named as a finalist in Inside Housing’s Best Architectural Design category is the same Brick by Brick which has so far failed to submit any of its flat-building plans for scrutiny to the council’s own Place Review Panel for the frank opinions of top designers and architects.
Indeed, Inside Housing has included Brick by Brick among the top developers in the Best Affordable Housing Development category; yes, the same Brick by Brick who, according to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is failing to deliver a single home for social rent – a council home – using his £3billion house-building fund.
In fact, Scott has been forced to admit publicly that Brick by Brick is even failing to hit its target of 50 per cent of its 1,000 new-builds being “affordable” homes, as at least 560 units from the company will go for sale on the open market.
Undaunted, Scott, Butler and their mates will be stepping out to the black-tie dinner, on November 23, at the exclusive Hurlingham Club beside the Thames in Fulham (close to Craven Cottage, which no doubt will cheer Newman).
Tables for 10 at the event cost up to £3,600 each – and that’s with the early booking discount. Even the “cheap” seats are not that cheap, with individual tickets at £270 each.
But hey, when you look at what they could be getting as part of the top “network and hospitality” package, it looks worth every penny of other people’s money:
- Reception drinks upon arrival;
- Access to the exclusive VIP drinks reception;
- Logo branded sign on table;
- Copy of guest list and seating plan three days prior to plan your networking activity (Negrini will just love that);
- A magnum of chilled champagne on your dinner table on arrival; three-course dinner (Trebles all-round!);
- Red & white wine from our premium selection; and …
- Premium chocolate gifts in individual presentation boxes on each place setting.
In previous examples of egregious no-expense-spared snout-in-the-troughing awards events, Croydon Council always tended to book at least two tables. But that was in the bad old days when Nathan Elvery ruled the roost and the council was under Tory control.
Newman’s New Labour lot surely won’t be using public money to pay for their Big Night Out, will they?
Of course, it could be that Brick by Brick makes the table bookings. In which case, none of the expense of the night will be subject to any nasty, nosey Freedom of Information requests, and instead of the payment coming out of Council Tax receipts, the night’s expense will come out of the company “profits”, which Butler and Negrini had said would be ploughed back into other building projects (though probably not wasted on building anything quite as low-rent as, well… council homes).
Either that, or Negrini might turn to some of her architect and developer mates to stump up for the big night out by sponsoring the celebratory Croydon table(s). And all done without the expectation of any favours from the council planning department in return, naturally.
Whoever gets the golden ticket to be invited on the Croydon Council/Brick by Brick table(s), they’re sure of a good night at the polo- and croquet-playing Hurlingham, which describes itself as “a green oasis of tradition and international renown”.
The Hurlingham says that it is, “Recognised throughout the world as one of Britain’s greatest private members’ clubs, it retains its quintessentially English traditions and heritage, while providing modern facilities and services for its members.” A bit like the Waddon Leisure Centre then?
Butler, for one, is already getting over-excited. “It is fantastic news that Brick by Brick has been shortlisted for these awards,” said the council’s cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning, who has always denied even the possibility that there is a potential conflict of interest in having her husband chairing the planning committee.
Doubtless Negrini will use these empty plaudits from her mates in the industry to try to block out what she doubtless considers to be the petty complaints about her handling of the borough’s planning system from the residents which she is supposed to serve.
And Butler must be hoping that the petitions out there, gathering hundreds of signatures from residents angry at how she and the council are bulldozing their way through existing communities with Brick by Brick developments, don’t manage to throw a bloody great spanner in the works before she gets to have her Big Night Out.
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