Six months since Inside Croydon first revealed the secret removal of the borough’s bus shelters, and a dodgy-looking £6.8million deal with a small company that had only been established a few months earlier, the council has admitted that not a single one of the promised new shelters has been installed.
Established bus shelter providers and street advertising specialists JCDecaux’s contract with Croydon Council ended at the end of March this year. They promptly started to remove nearly all of the bus shelters from around the borough.
A confidential council briefing document obtained by Inside Croydon showed that a multi-million-pound deal had been struck with a company called Valo Smart City UK Ltd, a firm operating from Suite 219a in some Regus serviced offices on Lansdowne Road.
Valo Smart City was only registered in August 2020, and has no business record of providing bus shelters or selling advertising. It has never even filed a set of accounts.
In true Croydon Council manner, the replacement shelters were not ready to replace the Decaux ones as they were being disassembled through the spring. The council promised that they would be installed “from autumn 2021”.
That has failed to happen.
In a reply to a question from Sanderstead councillor Yvette Hopley, a council official has admitted that JC Decaux quit Croydon – Katharine Street sources suggest that the council was asking for too big a slice of the advertising revenues. In their letter, the council official also claimed that “a full tender process” had been conducted to find an alternative supplier.
“We can confirm, that JC Decaux have removed their bus shelters in Croydon,” the council response stated.
“The contract with JCDecaux ended in March this year and they were not willing to extend this for any period of time despite our requests. Subsequently, they removed their bus shelters over the summer.
“We have completed a full tender process and have appointed a new company to install replacement bus shelters and street furniture as part of our ongoing programme and commitment to offer our residents in the borough a better service.”
Please try not to laugh.
“The new bus shelter installation will begin imminently.” Ahh, some good news.
But then, comes some bad news: “Unfortunately we do not have specific timings as yet as the deployment is dependent on gaining planning permission for Digital Advertising consent.”
The council has known about this situation since JCDecaux refused to sign another contract, thought to be some time in early 2020, if not before. The council’s planning committee was considering the installation of the replacement shelters as long ago as March this year.
“For your interest, the application for the first batch of sites has already been submitted to planning,” the council officer wrote to Hopley, “and we are currently working with the planning authority…”, which just happens to be Croydon Council, “… to gain consents for the numerous individual sites.”
The council is still banging on about how the replacement shelters will have “Smart City” technology, offering “bus countdown information” – something which had been available on many of the removed Decaux shelters for nearly 20 years – as well as air quality and traffic monitoring.
But the harsh reality is that the council has been receiving no income from bus shelter advertising since March this year. Given that the Valo deal promised £6.8million income to the council over 10 years, that could mean that our cash-strapped council has missed out on around £450,000 in the last eight months. Or what they call in Fisher’s Folly “a Full Negrini”.
And while the Smart City stuff might all sound very nice, what most residents want is somewhere to shelter from the winter wind and rain, and for somewhere safe to sit while waiting for their bus. How difficult can that be?
In Croydon, it would seem, it’s impossible.
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