Croydon Council, which Tony Newman once promised would, under Labour, become the most open and transparent in the borough’s history, has started to block Freedom of Information requests from Council Tax-payers who want to know where the £41million of their money has been spent on the Fairfield Halls.
The Fairfield Halls re-opened last month after what was supposed to be an extensive refurbishment, which took 15 months longer than planned and went £11million over budget.
But it quickly emerged that the works are unfinished and incomplete, with many key aspects which were promised to modernise the venue having been abandoned, undone.
New lifts had been installed, but one broke down on the gala opening night, the Concert Hall and Ashcroft Theatre’s 50-year-old seats have not been replaced, and disabled access is now worse than before the complex’s closure in 2016.
Many concert- and theatre-goers have asked, not unreasonably, “Where’s the money gone?”
But Newman’s Labour-run council, which owns the Fairfield Halls, commissioned the refurbishment works and used millions of pounds of public money to pay for it, is now refusing to answer that question.
In a Freedom of Information request submitted in the past month, a resident asked, “Can you provide me with a breakdown of the £41million cost thus far in refurbing Fairfield Halls please?”
The council’s response was both contemptuous and sought to avoid responsibility completely.
“Brick by Brick have undertaken the refurbishment of Fairfield Halls,” they wrote.
“As they operate independently from the council. [sic] We suggest you send your query to them.”
As well as inviting a complaint to the Information Commissioner (another one), such a response is likely to prompt a further questions.
Such as: “In 2016, Brick by Brick was a new housing development company that had built nothing at all. Why hand rookie developers such a significant and important task?”
Or: “Provide all documentary evidence of the competitive tendering process under which Croydon Council awarded the contract to Brick by Brick.”
And, finally, “What has Croydon Council got to hide?”
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The reply to ask Brick by Brick may have been relevant if it had been a fixed price contract with them, but it wasn’t and it is the taxpayer who has stumped up the cash. Clearly they have got a lot to hide. Having visited the Halls recently, there is little to see where £41m has gone as a lot of the fixtures and fittings look like they are unchanged apart from a lick of paint.
I was at the Fairfield Halls on Wednesday for Business Live 2019 exhibition. £41m spent and there was no parking as the car park isn’t finished and the air conditioning wasn’t working, leaving exhibitors and visitors suffering from sweltering heat within the exhibition hall. Tony Newman even had the nerve to swan around there, proud of himself and the omnishambles that he presided over.
I wonder if the information they are withholding shows the “fee” that Brick by Brick received for their expertise?!!
I thought Newman was claiming credit for delivering the refurbishment. Clarity is needed as to who is responsible for this shambles and then it needs testing against EU procurement regulations. The public are paying for this along with the money from the sale of the Riesco collection. The spend seems to be at least £11 million over budget and yet there is no art gallery and other items deleted. Did BxB make those changes themselves or did Croydon Council also approve them? BxB is wholly owned by Croydon Council to gain some kind of advantage and when it suits them Croydon claim credit. Seemingly they deny responsibility when that suits them. Shame on them.
Tony Newman should come out from under his stone and explain to the people of Croydon why, under his watch, £40 million has been spent on the refurb of a mid-size regional arts venue. The works should have cost half this.
For £40 million you could have built Sutton’s Harris Academy in Croydon. That’s the scale of waste Tony Newman has ignored.
Sutton’s Harris Academy is a spectacular new building. It’s has impeccable environmentally friendly credentials – the first secondary school in the country to meet the Passivhaus energy performance standard.
The school will have world-class science facilities planned and facilities to excel in the arts and sport unlike any other London school. The hall will be the very latest multi-functional adaptable performing arts space, larger than any other London school. It’s Sport facility, are, says Sports England the very best of its kind and the newest pro school facility in the UK.
This is an amazing new multi-discipline school, one of the most modern in the UK – and the cost, £40 million – EXACTLY the same as the money WASTED on Fairfield Halls.
Time for Tony to resign.
I believe that the reply I got from Tandridge earlier this beats anything I have seen from Croydon so far in the “who do they think they are kidding” stakes
“Thank you for your email in which you request the following information about Quadrant House:-
1 The statutory power under which the acquisition is being made and
2 The particular use to which the property is to be put in accordance with that power and
3 Where I can find the authority for acquisition in minutes
I am unable either to confirm or deny whether the Council holds information of this description. The Council is relying on the exemption in section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Section 43(2) provides that information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it). Section 43(3) provides that the duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that, compliance with section 1(1)(a) would, or would be likely to, prejudice the interests mentioned in subsection (2). In the circumstances of this case it is considered that any information held would, or would be likely to, if released in the public domain at this stage, cause actual, quantifiable harm to a third party’s business and to the financial interests of this Council.
The Section 43 exemption is a qualified exemption which means that the public interest test needs to be considered. In the circumstances of this case, it is considered that the public interest would be better served by withholding the information than by disclosing it”
They obviously have nothing to hide there.