Now Scott tries to play the blame game over Brick by Brick

Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, on how the chief architect of the council’s disastrous housing policy is trying to salvage his reputation

Paul Scott, part of the clique which led Croydon Council to bankruptcy, broke cover at a virtual Town Hall meeting this week in a blatant attempt to pin some of the blame for the failings of loss-making house-builders Brick by Brick on a council director.

Paul Scott: he glowered down the camera lens

Tuesday’s extraordinary council meeting (the latest one) was required for the finance director, Lisa Taylor, to lay out the terms of the Section 114 notice she had issued last month, and to confirm that a second such notice was to be issued the following morning.

Scott and fellow members of the old leadership cabal have been keeping a low profile since the collapse of their six-year regime with the resignation at the end of October of Simon Hall as the cabinet member for finance, swiftly followed by council leader Tony Newman’s resignation. Indeed, Hall did not even bother to log-in to Tuesday’s significant financial meeting – the first called by a London borough to discuss a S114 notice in 20 years.

Scott, however, did, and he was given the opportunity to point the finger of blame for Brick by Brick’s catastrophic failure at Taylor.

Brick by Brick was established in 2015 to build homes in the borough, on land bought from the council using huge borrowings from the council. Grant Thornton, the council auditors, confirmed last month that Brick by Brick had not paid back a penny of the loans and had never made any profits, short-changing the people of Croydon so far to the tune of £110million.

Risk: Lisa Taylor

A missing £36million from Brick by Brick in this financial year was given by Taylor as one of the significant “risks” of the council going bust when she issued the Section 114 notice on November 11.

Scott and his family have invested their political reputations, such as they are, on the Brick by Brick failed experiment. Scott, when the chair of planning, whipped Labour committee colleagues to grant permission to Brick by Brick schemes. “If one fails, they all fail,” Scott told planning committee members, in a serious breach of planning law which forbids any form of whipping.

Alison Butler, Scott’s wife, was the cabinet member for housing on the Labour-controlled council. Soon after Brick by Brick was formed, she wallowed in the claim of her party after she gave a speech to Labour’s annual conference lauding the achievement of Croydon Council in establishing the house-building company which she promised would solve the borough’s housing crisis. In five years on Butler’s watch, Brick by Brick delivered just three purpose-built council flats.

Now Scott used the council meeting to shift the blame away from his wife, himself and their closest friends. Delivering more of a speech than a question, it was his excuse to spotlight Taylor’s involvement in the clusterfuck that is Brick by Brick.

Alison Butler, right, taking the credit a year ago when handing over the keys of one of BxB’s three purpose-built council flats

Scott glowered into the lens of his digital camera. “Brick by Brick has many sites and many hundreds more homes than is being delivered at the moment across the borough, helping to tackle the housing crisis, of course.” The mantra added at the end of that sentence came more out of habit than of any real conviction.

Addressing Taylor, who was taking questions from councillors regarding the S114, Scott plunged a verbal knife: “As we all know, you were a director at Brick by Brick…”. He paused, presumably for effect “… for three years and remained one of our senior council contacts with the arm’s length company.

“Given your depth of involvement…” Scott said, slowly, with a sense that he was twisting that verbal knife, adding, “… knowledge and experience with Brick by Brick, what do you think is their capacity to repay, maybe only in part, the development loans and dividends owed in this financial year and moving forward during the period of the medium-term financial plan?”

Remote meetings are unremittingly dull, tame affairs, but Scott’s prolonged perambulation to get to his question actually drew what passes these days for a heckle from the chamber.

“He could only have put that question in the way that he did to try to shift some blame to Taylor,” a Katharine Street source said.

“Woe betide any councillor when Newman and Scott were in charge if they dared suggest even the mildest of criticisms of a council officer. That was how Jo Negrini was able to get away with so much for so long – she was supposed to be immune from criticism.

“But here was Scott using a question as an attempt to drag Lisa Taylor down with Brick by Brick – and to deflect the blame away from himself and Alison.”

Taylor is one of a series of council officials who have served on the board of Brick by Brick; she eventually stood down in January 2019.

Contempt: Colm Lacey

She responded to Scott by saying that she could not comment, since Brick by Brick’s accounts have not been finalised.

Inside Croydon understands that the company accounts, which ought to have been released in August (the company is in breach of part of its loan agreements as a result), may now be published in the last week of this year – probably in the hope that between Christmas and New Year, no one will be paying much attention.

Last week Colm Lacey, Brick by Brick’s chief exec, was kicked off the board of directors together with the chairman, Martyn Evans. The council has replaced them with two of the financial consultants who have been trying to help Croydon out of the crisis of its own making.

“Lacey treated us with contempt,” a councillor told Inside Croydon on condition of anonymity. “He seemed to think he was above any scrutiny. While Negrini and Newman were around, he was.

“He would withhold financial details and he lied to the council scrutiny committee. The Report in the Public Interest found huge holes in the company’s financial management – what makes Scott think that Lacey will have been any more forthcoming to Lisa at occasional board meetings than he ever was with councillors?

“If Scott thinks he’s going to pass the buck that easily, he’s mistaken.”

Read more: What is a S114 notice? What will it mean for the council?
Read more: Jenrick orders urgent inquiry into ‘unacceptable’ council


 

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, Colm Lacey, Croydon Council, Housing, Jo Negrini, Lisa Taylor, Martyn Evans, Paul Scott, Planning, Report in the Public Interest, Section 114 notice, Simon Hall, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Now Scott tries to play the blame game over Brick by Brick

  1. CentralCroydon says:

    What an utter shit Scott is. Him and his wife with their grand ambitions for BxB whilst massaging their own egos, with complete disregard for anything that may detract from that, is what has been the root cause of the BxB shit show.

  2. As an ex-local government worker of many years (makes me sound ancient – I am) the line is crossed when an elected councillor tries to blame an officer. It just isn’t done. It’s not just infra dig; it’s beneath contempt, unprofessional and should be career suicide,. Let’s hope so …

  3. Marcus Rigby says:

    Signs of a desperate little man trying to save his political career, he and his wife are a blot on Croydon’s landscape, Any sign of a minimal Christmas present for Croydon residents and indeed council staff would be for both of you to resign!

  4. Cllr Paul Scott has ruined planning in Croydon.

    He is a ‘meddler councillor’ who has used his position to manipulate council planning policy to reflect his personal ‘hobbyist’ views on property development. He is responsible for Croydon Planning Guidance document SPD2 which throws away all the good practice that other London boroughs protect and cherish.

    Croydon is now picked over by third-rate developers attracted like flies to Scott’s relaxations on building height, volume, mix, density, scale and plot ratio. He has single handedly fucked up the delivery of housing in this borough.

    At Croydon’s planning committee he runs the show like a medieval fiefdom; he whips easily influenced Labour councillors to vote his way, he openly and publicly sucks up to developers and takes delight in cutting off residents from speaking before flippantly dismissing their pleas.

    It’s really unpleasant to watch him in action.

    The councillor cabinet member responsible for Brick x Brick was Scott’s wife, Alison Butler (now sacked from the post).

    The two have became the Neil and Christine Hamilton of planning in Croydon.

    Nobody is going to buy Scott’s desperate attempt to deflect blame onto council employee, Mrs Taylor – she was just doing her job.

    Scott and Butler set the scene for Brick x Brick, they supported it in cabinet, they never questioned its structure or excessive requests for funding and consistently gave consent to their often harebrained proposals and now they are in denial.

    The council leader must now start to repair the north-south in Croydon. This should begin with meaningful changes in planning and the removal of Cllr Paul Scott from the planning committee.

  5. Ian Ross says:

    How did this this sorry state of affairs linger for so long before being found out?
    Just maybe some lessons will be learned and actions taken to prevent this ever happening again.
    Then again……

  6. Pete Jenkins says:

    Let’s hope all the Croydon councillor rogues are watching the Liverpool situation very carefully.

  7. J patel says:

    They all should be prosecuted and barred for ever working in any government jobs

  8. d wallis says:

    sorry but the word labour is missing from this sorry crooked story

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