Brick by Brick hires firm which has Butler’s son on staff

WALTER CRONXITE reveals a series of failures to declare interests by the Town Hall’s deputy leader, despite family links to a consultancy which has been handed hundreds of thousands of pounds of contracts by Croydon Council

Family planning: Alison Butler and Paul Scott

Town Hall contracts worth almost £200,000 have been awarded over the past four years to a company which has close family ties to Alison Butler, the Labour councillor for Bensham Manor ward and deputy leader of the council.

And now that same firm, The Campaign Company, is being hired to run public consultations on behalf of Brick by Brick, the council’s wholly owned housing developer, for which Butler, as the cabinet member responsible for homes, has a direct responsibility.

Butler has not declared her close family connections to The Campaign Company.

TCC – whose corporate slogan is “Values first” – was formed in 2001 by David Evans, who was the Labour Party’s assistant general secretary from 1999, and who had responsibility for organising Tony Blair’s 2001 General Election campaign.

Evans has continued to utilise his political campaigning expertise, at least locally. He oversaw the campaign which saw Labour regain control of Croydon Town Hall at the 2014 local elections. It is widely understood that Evans’ work on Labour’s campaign was done voluntarily.

In the years prior to 2014, Croydon-based TCC never got much work from its local council, which had been under Conservative Party control from 2006.

But once Croydon Labour leader Tony Newman was back in office, with Butler at his side, that began to change.

David Evans: The Campaign Company founder linked to Butler

In October 2014, an 18-month council consultation for something called the Fairness Commission was initially awarded by Croydon Council to Quadrant Consultants. Quadrant then subcontracted the £130,912 deal to The Campaign Company.

Chaired by the Bishop of Croydon, the Fairness Commission duly delivered its report, though it was late and mostly never heard of again. TCC put together the lavish-looking report, which used lots of lovely colour pictures, but had little else by way of substance.

“It had all the look of a soft contract handed to Evans in return for other ‘services rendered’,” a Katharine Street source suggests.

According to a Freedom of Information response by the council, from 2014 to 2017, Evans’ TCC picked up a further three council contracts, between them worth in total £64,370, and all for what amounted to just a few months’ work.

In the main, these contracts were awarded by council officers, under delegated authority, and so were never subject to any scrutiny at council meetings. It would seem unlikely, though, that the agreements were entered into without some knowledge of the council leadership, including Butler.

In one case, however, there is documented proof that Butler knew that council work was being placed with Evans’s company. The council report, from 2016, was “noted” by Butler in her role as cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning. The contract was for a £16,100 to operate a pilot for the council’s housing department called “FairBnB”.

Butler never made any declaration in the councillors’ register of interests over TCC, even though Evans is the father of her daughter from a relationship in the 1990s.

Now, TCC is embarking into the business of developer consultations for Brick by Brick. This is the council-owned home-building enterprise championed by Butler, who at the 2016 Labour Party conference got plaudits for her efforts to end the housing crisis.

A FoI response provided a document which showed Alison Butler had seen a council deal worth more than £16,000 for a brief pilot project awarded to TCC in 2016

Since it was set up in 2015, Brick by Brick has so far managed to deliver precisely… zero homes.

Using £36.8million in loans from the council and building on public land – including green spaces between social housing, on a children’s playground and with in-fill and back-garden developments – Brick by Brick is beginning the process of developing a second tranche of sites, for hundreds more homes on top of the 1,000 already with planning permission.

How Alison Butler’s son appears on The Campaign Company website

Brick by Brick’s early schemes have been a PR disaster with residents across the borough. According to the company’s own figures, it is struggling to meet its target of providing even 50 per cent of the homes as “affordable”; nearly two-thirds of those in development so far, using council land and money, will be immediately going for private sale.

It has been suggested within the Croydon Labour Party that much of the unpopularity of Brick by Brick’s early schemes has been because of poorly run consultations, leaving existing residents hostile to the badly presented projects.

So now Evans’ The Campaign Company has been brought in to run public engagement over newly proposed sites.

Where this becomes a matter of integrity for the council, its councillors and their leadership is that, since July last year, TCC has included among its staff Jed Mohammed.

TCC intern Mohammed is Alison Butler’s son from another relationship.

As one widely respected Croydon Labour member said, “I like Dave, he’s a decent guy.

“But this is one hell of a conflict. Why do they think they can get away with it?”

Again, Butler has made no mention of her son working for a council contractor in the council’s register of interests.

While there is no suggestion that Butler has benefited financially, or directly, from the awarding of any of these contracts, that of itself is not necessarily the only consideration when making declarations of interest.

According to Government guidance on councillors’ conduct and their declarations of interest, it says, “Under your council’s code of conduct you must act in conformity with the Seven Principles of Public Life. One of these is the principle of integrity – that ‘Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships’.

The emphasis on that final sentence is provided by the Whitehall guide for councillors. It is significant that the guidance says that councillors must declare any interests or relationships.

Inside Croydon asked Councillor Butler (council allowances: £48,660) why she had never declared her close family links to The Campaign Company. The council’s deputy leader had failed to respond by the time of publication.

Alison Butler with council leader Tony Newman. Butler has refused to answer questions on her failure to declare her connections to TCC

There is, of course, another alleged conflict of interest involving Butler and the council’s planning procedures, which some regard as Croydon’s own peculiar take on “family planning”.

Because it hardly matters how good, or bad, a job which Evans, Mohammed and their colleagues at The Campaign Company do with the consultations on Brick by Brick housing schemes, there seems little risk that any will be refused planning permission.

So far, of 43 applications, not a single Brick by Brick scheme has been refused consent by Croydon’s planning committee, which is chaired by Paul Scott.

And Scott (council allowances: £38,000) just happens to be married to Alison Butler, the cabinet member responsible for delivering on the Brick by Brick project. Trebles all round, as they might put it at Private Eye


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About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Alison Butler, Brick by Brick, Business, Paul Scott, Planning, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Brick by Brick hires firm which has Butler’s son on staff

  1. I just can’t understand why you are all so surprised, I’ve always thought the Council’s motto was “It’s not what you know but who you know”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If this isn’t the definition of corrupt behaviour I don’t know what is.

    It seems that whatever safeguards and regulations there are to prevent this type of self-serving behaviour simply aren’t working. I am used to seeing this type of thing in my business dealings in Asia and the Middle East, but to have it happening where I live is really depressing. Clearly these people have no conscience and no comprehension of what is expected of them as Public Servants paid for by the taxpayer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave Scott says:

    It bloody stinks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. derekthrower says:

    In the old days of local government, when councillors used to have to consider the actions of the District Auditor and could also face being surcharged for irresponsible financial behaviour, it did seem at least (for all it’s faults) to make local authority elected members act with some standards over conflicts of interest and fear repercussions for their behaviour.

    The Butler-Scott axis at the heart of Croydon Council does not appear to ever register a conflict of interest, because everything they do is a conflict of interest.

    It is funny that our dynamic Tories have an open and justifiable goal to scrutinise and seek remedies against our local Bonnie & Clyde, but just as unsurprisingly don’t ever appear to do anything about it. They have too many of their own conflicts of interests to worry about.

    So as we go on “Keeping it in the Extended Family”, just consider there are legal remedies that can be followed apparently, but must be so ineffective that no one never appears to use them. Part two here appears to be the relevant section.

    https://www.nao.org.uk/code-audit-practice/wp-content/uploads/sites/29/2015/03/Council-accounts-a-guide-to-your-rights.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “TCC – Values First” it says by the mug shots of David Evans and Jed Mohammed. Family values, if Alison Butler’s seemingly nepotistic behaviour is anything to go by.

    Try checking details of TCC and other current contractors on the council website.

    It tells you that, “The London Borough of Croydon has joined the London Contracts Register. This allows you to view the contracts held by the borough as well as those held by most of the local authorities in the greater London area. You can access the register via the London Contracts Register website.”

    Their link to that website doesn’t work. A bit of Googling finds that it is because “The London Contracts Register, previously provided by London Councils, has now ended – as of 30 April 2018. Boroughs comply with transparency requirements via other platforms, either their own websites or others such as the London Tenders Portal or capitalEsourcing.”

    The “Croydon” button on the London Tenders Portal takes you back to Croydon council’s website.

    capitalEsourcing’s list of participating councils does not include Croydon.

    Transparent? No, opaque – and with our money. Something is rotten in the borough of Croydon.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. timbartell says:

    In the Croydon orchestra the string section is jointly led by Scott and Butler on violin

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wonderful!!! Croydon is really emulating the big boys now. We’re finally in the Premier League.
    Run by an autocrat and a closed circle of acolytes, impervious to any form or criticism or comment but very quick to take offence at even the mildest of perceived insults, acting only on internal agenda and in no way responsive to the real needs or wishes of the electorate, riding roughshod over established procedures of control, making sure the emolument system works best for him and his mates, allowing blatant nepotism and greatly under the influence of unresponsive and secretive one paid senior officer who seems to be more in control of policy than the chief incumbent and his cabal.
    It’s a horror.
    Could you Trump that anywhere else in local government?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Why is this allowed to continue? Why are we, residents, not demanding for all of those involved being removed and fined? Doesn’t Croydon deserve better than this?
    If I was watching this played out as a sitcom, it would be considered too far-fetched and farcical – even Alison Butler’s twitter account is alisonb4croydon – !!!!
    And don’t even get me started about the bins…
    It is all so depressing 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Yes, the council’s deputy leader doesn’t appear to have thought through her Twitter handle before hitting upon it… Like she failed to consider the consequences of handing over some of Croydon’s housing budget to a business involving her relations.

    Liked by 1 person

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