KEN LEE, our newshound on Mint Walk, sniffs out the latest piece of nonsense from the £140m council office building, where the main entrance has been ruled out-of-bounds
Further proof, not that any has been needed, that Fisher’s Folly, the council offices built in the town centre at a cost of £140million, are not fit for purpose.
Staff from the building’s facilities management team were sent scurrying to the main entrance to use a bit of tape to stick notices to the revolving doors declaring that they would be closed from 9am to 4pm today. They were doing this at 10.15am…
This happens to be the entrance where office workers from the various tenant firms who occupy the prime, upper floors of the building arrive for their working day. Clearly, it is not what the corporate suits who pay top-dollar in rent will expect for their “state of the art” offices in sarf London’s rapidly growing (or not) borough.
Today, office workers were expected to schlep through some troublesome light sleet to the council’s Children’s Services entrance in order to get to work.
Access Croydon, the council services area, also on the ground floor on Mint Walk, was open for business (and looking very busy). Reassuringly, also open was the Job Centre.
In a message distributed by the building’s Facilities Management, it was explained that the entrance closure was “Due to the extreme temperatures being experienced”.
By 10am in Croydon today, the extreme temperature was 2° Centigrade.
Displaying the full bulldog spirit that got Britain through war blah, blah, blah… (use an outtake from any Nigel Farridge speech of the past 20 years), the people who manage Croydon Council’s offices said that today’s “extreme” conditions were causing “difficulties… in keeping our reception staff warm”.
The main entrance, they said, will be closed “until the weather conditions improve”.
But fear not, people of Croydon! “Security staff will be on hand to help direct staff and visitors through to corporate reception.”
So that’s just hunky dory.
Fisher’s Folly, which some still mistakenly refer to as “Bernard Weatherill House”, is the country’s most over-priced council building.
Opened in September 2013, the building was commissioned through a secret contract under the CCURV deal with John Laing by the previous Conservative council administration, led by Mike Fisher. It ended up costing Croydon residents £140million, at a time when equivalent-sized office blocks in London were being built for a mere £40million.
Tony Newman, the leader of Croydon Labour who came into office in 2014, had promised to “blow open the books” to discover where the extra £100million had gone. Once in charge at the Town Hall, Newman forgot all about that, for which the then council chief executive, Nathan Elvery, who had been key in procuring the new offices, was no doubt very grateful.
Fisher’s Folly stands as a glass monument to what happens when local authorities think that they can mix it with the big boys of the property development world.
The building has been plagued with problems since it opened, including a leaking roof and staff toilets which flooded because the expensive “automatic” taps malfunctioned.
In 2016, the building underwent some alterations – at the expense of the Croydon public, not the builders responsible for its shortcomings, naturally – to accommodate lodgers Arcadis by providing the secure, separate entrance. That’s the very entrance that is not fit for purpose in today’s “extreme” weather conditions.
“We’ve always said that we’re absolutely committed to delivering value for money to local taxpayers,” was the line offered by Newman when the Arcadis tenancy deal was announced. This agreement is on a 10-year lease, estimated as being worth around £7.5million to the council’s depleted coffers.
Whether Arcadis, and other tenants of Fisher’s Folly, inconvenienced by today’s closure, will be demanding a rent rebate from their dodgy landlords at Croydon Council, remains to be seen.
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