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.
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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