Croydon uses four agencies to help on trip to South of France

Croydon will be plying beer to international property speculators in Cannes next week. Again

KEN LEE, our foreign travel on someone else’s budget correspondent, reports on the proliferation of consultants who are getting their expense accounts paid for out of Croydon Council Tax at MIPIM’s junket next week

Senior officials from Croydon Council and their wholly owned house-building company Brick by Brick will be heading off to the South of France next week for the “booze and hookerfest” that is MIPIM, where they will be  accompanied not by one firm of consultants… not by two sets of sharp suits… but with executives in tow from at least three agencies.

In fact, if you include the role played at the event by Develop Croydon, the business lobby group (membership fee: a cool £1,250 per year) which exerts undue, undemocratic influence over the running of the council, then you could say that there will be four agencies working with the council at the event in Cannes.

In effect, Croydon Council is using Council Tax-payers’ cash to help fund the expense accounts of an unspecified number of PR flunkies to spend two or three days at MIPIM, the world’s largest property speculator conference.

MIPIM is what Croydon Labour’s council leader Tony Newman once described as a “junket”. But that was in his time as opposition leader, so those sort of scruples don’t appear to apply to Big Tone any longer.

The council has refused to answer a series of detailed questions about its participation in MIPIM this year, although we do know that in 2017, when council chief exec Jo Negrini took a couple of days out of her busy schedule of self-promotion to sip cocktails by the Med on your behalf, the council admitted to spending £12,500. Then, they worked under the slogan “Urban Edge”. Indeed…

This is what £12,500 bought Croydon at MIPIM last year: Jo Negrini on a plastic chair. ‘Urban edge’ enough for you?

A couple of the firms involved in Croydon’s participation at this year’s MIPIM bunfight will already be familiar to Inside Croydon’s loyal reader, while the very well-paid third agency has proved extremely reluctant to answer any questions about its work for Croydon or Brick by Brick.

The first agency to be tripping off to the South of France for some early spring sunshine is Grey Label, the Croydon-based agency formed by former ad sales executives from a local newspaper.

Grey Label’s job for Croydon at MIPIM will be to make sure that the stand is assembled and posters plastered to the walls the right way up.

Talking of getting plastered, Grey Label’s main task will be to export crates of Croydon beer to France to provide free booze for various delegates at “The Cronx Beer on The Beach” on Wednesday, laying on the lubrication after exhausting sessions of schmoozing Russian oligarchs, Qatari royals and Hong Kong property speculators.

The event follows the 30-minute scheduled Croydon panel discussion in the grandly titled “London Pavilion”.

“Come and enjoy a taste of the Cronx as you sample a selection of Croydon-produced craft beers on the beach in an informal opportunity to network and meet the Develop Croydon partners and key players in Croydon’s regeneration,” the organisers say, surely in the knowledge that the only thing that will really matter will be the offer of free beer.

Croydon: famous as the place that gives away free beer. If you can remember that the morning after…

“It’s all happening in Croydon, join us to find out how,” say Develop Croydon, hopeful that anyone will remember anything about Croydon after an evening on the lash.

One of Grey Label’s directors, Katharine Glass, happens to be on Develop Croydon’s committee, which might explain why they get to do so much work for… Develop Croydon.

Another on that committee is Toby Fox, of 3Fox International, based in Croydon town centre and who made such a name for themselves over MIPIM last year, when they got various developers who wanted planning permission on schemes in Sutton to… well, stump up money so that Sutton Council officials could traipse off to the South of France.

Toby Fox claims to be a co-founder of Develop Croydon. On their website, 3Fox say that they work on regeneration schemes between the public and private sectors. Among the company’s most recent boasts is helping Southwark Council over its social cleansing of the Elephant and Castle, where multi-national developers LendLease have bulldozed in.

3Fox often have a close working relationship with Croydon Council, too, and they will be in Cannes again next week and are expected to have a presence on the Croydon stand, though they claim on their website that they will be working only for five other London authorities.

The other agency working with Croydon in Cannes next week is 31Ten.

3Fox International MD Toby Fox having a fun time in Cannes with council CEO Jo Negrini

31Ten is based in offices just off the Blackfriars Road (handy, perhaps, for any quick meetings with partners at nearby architects TP Bennett).

They appear to be doing a lot of business with Croydon Council. According to the council’s own records, they have been latched on to the civic teat since at least 2015.

In the past 12 months for which records are available, to January this year, Croydon Council has made payments to 31Ten amounting to at least £188,145, for a variety of “consultancy services” provided either to the council or to the supposedly independent, arm’s-length housing company Brick by Brick.

Yet ask any elected councillor, even senior front-bench councillors, who 31Ten are and what they do for the benefit of the people of Croydon, and you draw a blank (well, at least Inside Croydon did, and we asked six councillors, three of them members of the cabinet or shadow cabinet).

Croydon Council operates a system of “delegated authority”, under which council officers – such as Jo Negrini or finance executive Richard Simpson – are able to authorise contracts with third parties up to a value of £500,000 without any scrutiny from the democratically elected members of the council – our councillors.

The Croydon brunch at Plage Goeland next Thursday is a more select affair, ‘strictly by invitation only’. ‘Enjoy a seaside brunch with the key players in Croydon’s regeneration and explore the cultural and economic transformation the town is currently undergoing’

And the council only has to make public details of payments to a value of £500 or more, which they do each month, though with scandalously abbreviated detail.

This means that invoices listed for 31Ten over the past year or more tend to be described as being for “Consultancy services” or “Consultancy fees”. It’s a meaningless catch-all phrase, which makes the supposedly transparent publication of council spending accounts wholly opaque.

Thus, it is impossible to say with any certainty what 31Ten did in June last year to warrant being paid £56,800 in just one month.

Certainly, none of the councilors we spoke to – both Labour and Conservative – were aware of the part which 31Ten is playing in the development and planning of our borough.

Even experienced, been-round-the-block-a-few-times public relations consultants who have been working on the Croydon development market for two decades had never heard of 31Ten.

“It sounds like a bunch of parasitic property finance consultants advising on public private partnerships,” they said. “Thought that kind of thing died a death with Gordon Brown and the Carillon nail in the coffin.”

Ha! But we’re in Blairite-run Croydon in 2018. It’s as if the last 10 years never happened…

31Ten lists the council and Brick by Brick among their clients. Double-bubble, as Del Boy might have said

31Ten’s own website reveals that they have worked on Croydon’s RIF, the Revolving Infrastructure Fund. Basically, CCURV MkII (and we all know how well Mk I worked out…).

“Our clients are the experts in their field but 31Ten Consulting is dedicated to support those clients achieve more with what they have or be better at what they do,” they say.

We sent a series of questions to Chris Shepherd, the 31Ten director shown by the company’s website to be working on Brick by Brick, to get a better idea of exactly what those consultancy services for the house-builder and Croydon Council involve.

  • Their website stated that they are seeking commercial partners for Brick by Brick. This is news to anyone who has had to depend on Croydon Council’s public statements. We asked what success 31Ten have had in this quest so far.
  • We also asked how many staff and consultants from 31Ten will be attending MIPIM to assist Brick by Brick.
  • We asked what is the nature of 31Ten’s on-going commercial arrangement with Croydon Council and Brick by Brick.
  • And we asked Shepherd to outline what 31Ten’s expectations might be for a successful attendance at MIPIM on behalf of the Council Tax-payers of Croydon.

The director of a firm which has been paid at least £188,000 by Croydon Council Tax-payers in just 12 months has not yet managed to reply.

Maybe he can compare notes over a beer with Jo Negrini while in Cannes next week?

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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16 Responses to Croydon uses four agencies to help on trip to South of France

  1. This whole thing stinks of self importance and noses in the trough.

  2. timbartell says:

    There should be a probe into the probity of all this, where is the district auditor or is he/she going with them ?

  3. Dave Scott says:

    I have written to Ms Negrini (again) asking for the details, justification and expected outcomes for the trip. Needless to say, as a lowly taxpayer, my concerns are ignored.

    • We today received a response to our FoI request – which we filed on February 1, so they failed in their duty under the law to respond on that, too. But will be publishing details from it in due course, including…

      How Croydon Council Tax-payers are paying more in 2018 than they did in 2017 for the MIPIM delegation
      How local house-builders BxB are also spending thousands of pounds of public money to attend an international property conference
      And how Croydon Council is sharing a stand at MIPIM with three consultancies, yet claims they’re not paying any agencies at all…

    • Michael Hopkins says:

      Sent her a freedom of information request via the portal on the croydon website ….the council is legally bound to reply

  4. On the positive side, I’m sure this kind of initiative could help Croydon to come first now – in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs competition.

  5. derekthrower says:

    It’s amazing how a local authority no longer provides public services, but provides an income stream for private service companies who don’t appear to have to be accountable to anyone for their performance.. The process of regulatory capture as practiced by Negrini would thus be expected to have acheived some return for her income stream. She has so far been an utter failure in turning Croydon’s deep developmental malaise around. When does it have to come to the point of recognising that the policy of the LB of Croydon has been a complete failure. We are locked in a form of intellectual bankruptcy where the participants are completely unable to explain their purpose any more.

  6. Nick Davies says:

    I take it the Croydon Press Corps is accompanying them? Surely even the Sadvertiser can afford a RyanScare flight down to Nice and a couple of nights in an Ibis? I look forward to the double page spread, glossy supplement even, telling the Glee Club of the phenomenal deals done and what a great investment of council taxpayers’ money the event was.

  7. Whilst we keep hearing of young people being victims of knife crime in this Borough & a lack of funding for Youth Services & Intervention this council chooses to spend our money like this. 31Ten Consulting were paid in one month the equivalent of two Youth Gang Workers salaries for a year.

  8. veeanne2015 says:

    In 2007 and 2008 the Croydon stand at Cannes attracted a great deal of positive interest because of the large model of the centre of Croydon with its existing, planned or suggested developments.
    At that time Cllr. Pollard was quoted as saying ‘Every year it seems that people are more impressed by the fact that things which in the past have been ideas and now actually happening’ !

    But what has happened since then ? Not a lot !
    Now Fairfield Halls are being renovated, after more than a decade of promises, without adequate parking places, and Westfield shopping centre a little closer, but not much, (hasn’t France stopped creating large shopping malls ?), so the most impressive items at Cannes will be the latest regeneration vision ‘ambitions’, and the Cronx beer – with the latter winning by a long way !

  9. derekthrower says:

    I don’t know about that? Have you ever tried a pint of Cronx Yalla Mild?

  10. veeanne2015 says:

    I don’t like beer !
    But think any Cronx brew must be better and more impressive than the ‘ambition’ and regeneration claims rubbish spouted at such events !

  11. Alan Stanton says:

    Over in Haringey, this March there’s no MIPIM tripping for what passes as so-called Council “leaders”.

    To be fair – as I always try to be – our finest councillors seem to have been comparatively modest in the scale of wasted public money at MIPIM. Though a few of them have been ready to accept developers’ largesse back in London; including some fancy dinners paid for by lobbyists and property developers.
    However, roll-on to the May elections and most of the troughers and quaffers, guzzlers and gluggers are no longer candidates. The reason is linked to the property development. The “Haringey Development Vehicle” had planned to demolish a huge area of public housing, plus schools, a library, a nursery and business premises. It provoked wide ranging cross-party opposition. And hopefully will be buried by the new Council administration, which may actually have a democratic socialist majority for a change.

    In the meantime I am deeply puzzled that MIPIM still appears to get wide support from other local councils. Don’t these chumps realise that every photo of councillors on a Cannes beach, or of local government suits getting on a yacht, further destroys trust in elected Councils? That every press exposé of a snout-in-the-trough councillor high in the hospitality league feeds not just their own bellies but the public’s view that elected councillors as a whole are “in it for themselves”.

    There really is no need for all this “gifts and hospitality” nonsense. Don’t Go. Just say No.

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