Sutton reporter CARL SHILTON on the property wheeling and dealing going on over a valuable piece of council-owned real estate
Documents show that the Carshalton charity which has been warned by the Charity Commission about its all-too-cosy political links with the local Liberal Democrats, is now trying to take over the freehold of Wentworth Hall from LibDem-controlled Sutton Council.
MCWAS, the Muslim Cultural and Welfare Association of Sutton, was established in 1981 and moved into Wentworth Hall in 1996, renting from Sutton Council. In 2011, MCWAS “negotiated” a 125-year lease for just £225,000 – less than one-quarter of the value of the publicly owned property.
The charity’s founder and driving force was Lal Hussain, who died last May. Hussain served as a LibDem councillor from 1998 to 2006 and was mayor of Sutton from 2000 to 2001.
Since moving into Wentworth Hall, MCWAS has purchased the freehold of its neighbour, 82 Ruskin Road, for £300,000, and in December 2016 bought 84 Ruskin Road for £485,000.
Inside Croydon has discovered that the trustees of MCWAS want to campaign to buy the freehold of Wentworth Hall from the council.
When the council arranged the deal with MCWAS in 2011, the LibDem spin at that time was that by selling it leasehold it was protecting the public amenity for future generations, as the council would remain the landlord and freeholder.
But the language used by MCWAS in its most recent annual report makes their intentions very clear: “…this process will take years and we will keep on insisting that the landlord sells the freehold to us as we are tenants since 1995 without any delayed or dishonoured payments of rent”.
The argument put up about Sutton Council “retaining the freehold” is the same that Sutton’s LibDems have used to justify the sell-off – at a £1million discount – of The Lodge, by Carshalton ponds, to EcoLocal – the charity of which Carshalton and Wallington LibDem MP Tom Brake just happens to be an trustee/director (albeit unpaid).
They’ve said much the same, too, over the below-market-rates sale of the Old Rectory to its own company, Sutton Living Ltd. Both The Lodge and the Rectory are to be used for money-spinning private residential developments.
Observers of Sutton LibDems’ generosity in giving enormous discounts to its chums will watch the unfolding events over Wentworth Hall with interest. Will Sutton Council remain robust in retaining the freehold of Wentworth Hall, and resisting the “insistence” of MCWAS?
Only time – or electoral change come May 3? – will tell.
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