Croydon Tories in call for public inquiry into Brick by Brick

Croydon Tories have appealed to a government minister to hold an urgent inquiry into the running of Brick by Brick, the council’s in-house house-builders.

Lynne Hale: worried about Brick by Brick

The call was made public at last night’s meeting of the full council by Tim Pollard, the leader of the Town Hall’s opposition Conservative group, and Lynne Hale, their housing spokesperson.

It comes following mounting concerns about the nature of the loss-making firm, which is wholly owned by Croydon Council and which has managed to build just three council flats in five years.

Despite receiving more than £260million in loans from the council, Brick by Brick is now unable to sell properties under shared ownership schemes because, as was exclusively revealed by Inside Croydon, no one at the company bothered to get registered as an approved supplier, as is routinely required by the major mortgage firms and lenders.

And Brick by Brick was also the project manager on the Fairfield Halls refurbishment project, where costs have more than doubled, to £60million.

Alison Butler: she thinks Brick by Brick in ‘on target’

Last night, responding to Hale’s question in the Town Hall chamber about Brick by Brick’s failures over share ownership homes, Alison “Lying Cow” Butler, the council deputy leader and cabinet member responsible for housing, claimed that the builders “weren’t required to register for anything”. Which is at odds to the company’s own emails to dozens of disappointed home-seekers.

And Butler unapologetically claimed that Brick by Brick “… is delivering homes and is delivering profits to the council and continue to be on target”.

Brick by Brick’s latest annual business report was meant to be included in the agenda for next Tuesday’s council scrutiny committee, which was published yesterday. It has, so far, been withheld. Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader will draw their own conclusions as to why.

Confronted with Butler and council leader Tony Newman’s refusal to accept any responsibility for, or need to improve, Brick by Brick’s apparent incompetence and mismanagement, Croydon’s Conservatives have called in the Whitehall big guns.

Tim Pollard and Hale have signed jointly a letter to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, which laid out the widespread concerns about Brick by Brick. Jenrick, a rising star in the Conservative Party, might have a small understanding of the issues faced by Croydon: in 2014, before he was handed the apparently more attractive seat of Newark, he was considered the front-runner for selection for the Tory safe seat of Croydon South.

Robert Jenrick: asked to intervene over Brick by Brick

In his absence, local Tories selected Chris Philp to be their parliamentary candidate, and with MP Philp now the Minister for London in Boris Johnson’s government, the call for a public inquiry is unlikely to be falling on deaf ears.

Pollard and Hale’s letter, under the heading “Brick by Brick Croydon Ltd”, said, “We are writing to request that you urgently investigate the activities of the above Company.

“It was established in 2015 by the Labour-controlled Croydon Council with the aim of delivering affordable homes for Croydon residents. However, it has since then received some £260million of public money and has delivered just three one-bedroom flats for social rent.

“Sales of its other properties on the private market – with some three-bed homes priced at £600,000 – are best described as sluggish so there is little hope of seeing much profit being returned to the council in the near future.

“In addition to this, last week it was revealed that Brick by Brick failed to register to sell shared ownership properties meaning that dozens of potential clients have been left completely in the lurch as their mortgage providers wouldn’t lend money on Brick by Brick properties.

The letter to Robert Jenrick sent by Croydon Tories last week

“If this wasn’t bad enough, the council has also been selling off large council-owned pieces of green space amenity land for very low sums and then building on them. One such site, sold to Brick by Brick for £1, is now hosting 34 homes. Serious questions are being raised about the impact on the environment and the well-being of local residents following the loss of these grassy areas and how this can possibly be seen as good value for Croydon Council Tax-payers.

“We would also like to draw to your attention that Croydon recently received a grant from the GLA to help buy up to 116 homes from Brick by Brick, this same company which it has leant [sic] huge sums of public money to already, and for which the profits are returned to the council. Thus, this GLA money will end up in the council’s Revenue Account.

“Finally, you should be aware that despite the Brick by Brick homes being placed within the HRA, and the net funding requirement for these homes being funded through HRA borrowing, the council advises that none will benefit from the Right to Buy.

“In the circumstances. on behalf of Croydon Council Tax-payers, we would appreciate you having a close look at this matter.”


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
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2 Responses to Croydon Tories in call for public inquiry into Brick by Brick

  1. Alison Butler claims that Brick by Brick “… is delivering homes and is delivering profits to the council and continue to be on target”.

    That is a statement right out of the playbook of the eminent philosopher of theoretical veracity, Kelly-Anne Conway, the discoverer of the wondrous principle of Alternative Truth. Congratulations!!

  2. derekthrower says:

    This is a pretty poor effort by the Tories here. Smacks purely of the low grade opportunism of Mario Creatura without any specialist Housing Development knowledge and insight which could make the appeal to their Housing Minister more compelling. You would have thought they of all people would have access through their internal political networks to the opinions of specialist Housing Law Practitioners and Developers to technically pick apart the Brick by Brick model and point directly to how Croydon Council have acted unlawfully. This would require a more detailed consideration from the Housing Minister than this purely political appeal to one of them. A more effective scrutinising opposition could have stopped the progress of the Brick by Brick debacle.

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