Brick by Brick, the council-owned housing developer which, according to Croydon Labour’s deputy leader Alison Butler, is building “local homes for local people”, is heading off to the south of France next month to take part in MIPIM, the world’s largest gathering of international property speculators.
The move can only be interpreted as the latest effort by the Blairites in power at Croydon Town Hall to flog off even more of the council’s public land and assets.
MIPIM, which takes place in Cannes every March, has been described as a “booze and hookerfest”.
Indeed, one local government politician described MIPIM as “… a junket on the taxpayers and people don’t want to see highly paid council officials swanning around the French Riviera”.
That was Tony Newman, now the leader of Croydon’s Labour-run council. But in a couple of weeks’ time, Newman’s council will be sending a delegation to the Cote d’Azur to soak up some Mediterranean sun and speculator-funded booze.
Indeed, since Newman has been leader of the council, Croydon has sent a delegation to the MIPIM junket on the French Riviera in four consecutive years, all at considerable public expense but with little tangible return or benefits for the public.
In the past, heading Croydon’s “team” has been the council’s arch-self-publicist, Jo Negrini, the £185,000 per year chief executive.
How the council’s attendance at MIPIM squares with Newman and Negrini’s “principles” must be up for serious questioning.
There’s good a reason MIPIM is known as a “booze and hookerfest”.
One consultant who has worked on some of the largest development projects in Croydon has this year made sure that they have found something more useful to do from March 13 to 15.
“I haven’t been for 10 years,” they told Inside Croydon.
“It’s awful. Full of braying pissed posh boys, and hookers propositioning you on every street corner.
“Maybe that’s why Croydon Council is such a big supporter.”
Several London boroughs, and other Labour-run local authorities, have recently boycotted MIPIM, out of disgust at the untrammeled toadying to the multi-billion-pound interests of developers.
But not Croydon under Newman.
Croydon Council has so far failed to respond to questions about the costs incurred in attending MIPIM this year. In 2014 and 2015, the council admitted to spending around £8,000 each year to attend the three-day conference.
Last year, those costs were hiked to £12,500, as Croydon laid on free beer and food on the beach as a special reception, all paid for out of your Council Tax.
This year, Croydon and Brick by Brick have jointly hired an exhibition stand, which will also have a presence from consultants Grey Label, 3Fox International and a firm called 31Ten, all of whom will be drawing juicy fees from either the local authority, or the house-builders, or – most likely – both.
And the BBC is reporting today how the MIPIM conference organisers have issued denials to reports that they allow sex workers to register as delegates at their event, giving them access to the many after-hours parties that take place there. Last year, some prostitutes used the conference’s own hashtag to advertise their services, and it is alleged that some were present at the event’s opening cocktail reception.
The MIPIM conference is billed as “The world’s leading property market”, but the male-dominated event has been the subject of several complaints by women who have attended and say they have been the victims of sexist abuse, drunken antics and discrimination.
Criticism of sexism at business events has grown following the Financial Times’ report into the President’s Club ball last month.
One UK-based construction industry event has been forced to revise its exhibition standards guide, after one stand featured scantily dressed Las Vegas-style showgirls selling … roof tiles.
On Stand C15 at the MIPIM exhibition centre in Cannes next month, the only pimping that will be going on, Inside Croydon has been assured, will be of the public-owned land and property which the council wants to flog off to investors from around the world.
So that’s alright then. Trebles all-round!
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