Brick by Brick calls in ex-Royal Navy officer to sort out the flak

Brick by Brick has announced the appointment of two directors to manage the wind-down of the loss-making council-owned house-builders.

With the publication expected tomorrow of the long-anticipated Report In The Public Interest into the multi-million-pound disaster that was Brick by Brick’s refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls, Andrew Percival and Griff Marshalsay will doubtless also be pressed into service to handle some of the flak arising from the external auditors’ report.

The appointments of Percival and Marshalsay to the Brick by Brick board also coincides with the formal departure of Colm Lacey as the firm’s chief exec.

According to a statement on the Brick by Brick website, Percival “will be taking on the role of executive chair”.

Brick by Brick notes: “Following a successful naval career…”, what’s a “successful naval career”? He didn’t manage to sink any of Her Maj’s ships?

Incoming: BxB exec chair Andrew Percival

“… Andrew has been a director at UPP Group Holdings, Vinci and Taylor Woodrow and was chair of Stevenage First and a board member of the Hertfordshire LEP and is currently independent chair of the Hemel Place Board.”

So basically, Herts is where the home is.

The Vinci connection is an interesting one: they were the construction firm hired by Brick by Brick to work on the Fairfield Halls refurb. It did not end well.

Brick by Brick says Marshalsay has more than 30 years experience in property operations and management for residential development companies including Catalyst Housing, Antler Homes, the Berkeley Group and Bellway Homes. He is the chair of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead’s property company.

They take up their roles immediately, joining Duncan Whitfield and Ian O’Donnell, the two local government troubleshooters who were parachuted into the BxB board in late 2020, when the council’s finances collapsed largely as a result of Lacey and his crew at Brick by Brick failing to repay a single penny of the £200million-worth of loans and financing that they’d been handed by the council.

Board man: Griff Marshalsay

Last year, with commissioners from Whitehall staring over the shoulders of the council, it was finally agreed to pull the plug on Brick by Brick and wind the company down once any sites under active construction were completed. This is anticipated to be in summer 2023.

“The new board members will work with the council to close out the company’s existing developments, utilising their vast client-side development experience to achieve the delivery of high-quality homes for residents in the borough,” the company statement said.

The contrast between the experience and background on the CVs of Percival and Marshalsay and the non-existent commercial building background of former council staffer Lacey could not be greater, and provides a stark insight into many of the reasons behind BxB’s failures.

Established in 2015, using council-owned sites and property and those multi-million-pound loans, by last autumn Brick by Brick had completed 460 homes across 18 locations around the borough.

More than half of those units were later bought by the council – yep, the same council whose loans had paid to buy the land and build the flats – to be used as council homes, while also providing yet another public bailout for the struggling company.

Percival and Marshalsay arrive with another 311 homes still under construction on five sites, including the Kindred House tower block next to the Flyover, and Lion Green Road in Coulsdon, where construction work began as long ago as 2017.

Croydon Council expects to write off between £26.6million and £52.7million as a result of the Brick by Brick winding down operation.

Read more: Auditors investigated four unlawful actions over Fairfield Halls
Read more: ‘An accountant could have foreseen this more than a year ago’
Read more:
Council to pick up £69.2m costs of failed Fairfield Halls refurb
Read more: Conflicts of interest, incomplete contracts, unlawful payments

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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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8 Responses to Brick by Brick calls in ex-Royal Navy officer to sort out the flak

  1. CentralCroydon says:

    In the BxB promotional video you have inserted, the pigeon looks more like a turkey when it is flying. How forward thinking of Lacey when it was commissioned.

  2. Great work here but ‘flak’ is anti-air craft fire – more RAF than RN. More likely to be repelling boarders and keel hauling mutineers I’d have thought. But maybe this is just a small landing party on a recce?

  3. Jim Bush says:

    The Navy is probably the wrong service for sorting out flak. the Army probably fire artillery and anti-aircraft guns and the air force are trained to avoid flak (being fired at them), but what would the Navy know about dealing with flak? Being at sea a lot of the time, Naval people may know little about going on turkey shoots ?!

  4. Micky Davies says:

    So Mr Percival is an ex-Director of Vinci? Vinci were the contractor who carried out the utter shambles of the Fairfield Halls “refurbishment”, appointed by BXB!! Keep it in the family eh??

    • Percival stood down from Vinci in June 2016 – more than a year before the firm was appointed (by BxB) to work on the Fairfield Halls.
      Given we know there have been more recent legal disputes between Vinci and Brick by Brick over standards of work and unpaid bills, it could put Percival in an entirely conflicted position.

  5. Lewis White says:

    The appointment of ex RN new Director will hopefully allow the new management team in the Bridge to put clear blue water between CC(al)S (Croydon Council (arms length) Ship) “Brick by Brick” and the darkly troubled, rock-studded and shark-infested waters of the recent past.

    One hopes that the new crew have a really good radar to detect ice bergs and rocks as yet over the horizon, and that the badly holed ship, battered, rusty, and fire damaged (and only recently abandoned by its former pirate Captain and Admiral), is able to limp on and get to a safe port without further storm damage, or sabotage by the officers, and that there is still enough fuel in the almost empty bunkers.

    But it doesn’t take a genius–a Leonardo da Vinci–to know that the ship owners back in South London might yet have to pay more massive bills to pay for more fuel, repairs, temporary crew, pilotage, and docking/ harbour/ scrappage fees before the ship can be dry-docked and ultimately responsibly recycled at an eco-friendly ship dismantler.

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