Mayor Perry threatens legal action over missing bus shelters

Jason Perry, the part-time Mayor of Croydon, has promised to take “legal recourse” over the lingering scandal of Croydon’s shelter-less bus stops.

No shelter: bus stops at East Croydon and across the borough have been without shelters for more than 18 months

The only problem with the dim Mayor’s vacuous undertaking is that there is very probably no one to take “legal recourse” against.

As Inside Croydon reported exclusively last week, Valo Smart City UK Ltd, the start-up company that is supposed to be providing more than 180 “smart” bus shelters around the borough, was served with a warning that it faced being struck off the Companies House register earlier this month.

Valo Smart City UK Ltd was only formed as a company in August 2020 – after Croydon had started its procurement process for a new bus shelter contract. Previously, Croydon had dealt with tried-and-trusted suppliers JC Decaux.

Decaux removed their shelters in the spring of last year. Valo’s replacements were originally meant to be in place by the autumn of 2021, as part of a 10-year deal under which they promised to pay the council £6.8million from advertising revenue.

It turns out that Valo, a company with no track record in delivering bus shelters and no track record in selling roadside advertising, has already attracted a couple of County Court Judgments for unpaid bills. Meanwhile, they’ve managed to install precisely zero bus shelters.

‘Smart’ businessman: Isaac ‘Ike’ Sutton

The move to have the company struck off by Companies House was suspended last Tuesday. The company has failed to file annual accounts for the trading year that ended in December 2021.

A Companies House notice dated October 19, 2022, states of Valo Smart City UK Ltd, “Action under Section 1000 of the Companies Act 2006 has been temporarily suspended as an objection to the striking off has been received by the Registrar.”

Why Croydon ever came to enter into negotiations with a company that can’t do its own paperwork and can’t pay its bills has never been satisfactorily explained by Katherine Kerswell, the council chief exec, or any of her executive staff in Fisher’s Folly.

Kerswell has refused to respond to Inside Croydon’s questions.

Bluster: part-time Perry, Croydon’s £81,000 per year Mayor

Any proper due diligence process by the council, prior to entering into a business agreement with Valo, would surely have turned up the trading records of Isaac Sutton, the American businessman and founder of the firm, and the man behind its US parent company.

It would also have shown that Sutton has in the past been found to try to dodge paying his bills.

Due diligence would have also revealed the absence of any proven ability of Sutton’s companies to deliver on their ambitious promises to Croydon.

The absence of bus shelters from Croydon’s streets was raised as a question at last week’s meeting of full council – the first to be held since July. What was the £81,000 per year Mayor doing to get the situation fixed was the question put to Perry.

“If necessary, we will go to legal recourse to get bus stops back on our streets,” Tory Mayor Perry, all puffed up with his own self-importance, blustered.

He didn’t explain what might be achieved by dragging through the courts what is, to all intents and purposes, a company that has never traded and which has few, if any assets.

Perry could make better use of his time, and the cash-strapped council’s stretched resources, by looking into disciplinary action against which executive working in Fisher’s Folly ever suggested that scrapping the Decaux deal and replacing them with Valo was the right thing to do.

Others who have had dealings with Valo have recently expressed their regrets, in an effort to distance themselves from the company.

Distancing: UKPartnerships can’t drop Valo Smart City quickly enough

UKPartnerships Ltd is the consultancy that brokered the deal for Valo. One of the directors of UKPartnerships is Phil Woolas, the former Labour MP.

In a statement posted on their website at the end of September, they advised that they had worked on a consultancy basis for New York-based Valo Smart City for two years. “Our contract with them ended in March 2022,” they said.

“We were initially very positive about their offer to the London Borough of Croydon and believed it to be an innovative and sustainable way for Croydon to generate income while providing significant benefits to the local community,” the statement on UKPartnerships’ website said.

“We have recently become aware of issues with regard to Valo Smart City’s relationship with its suppliers, and would like to confirm that we no longer work with them in any capacity.” Nuffink to do with us, guv.

Broker: former MP Phil Woolas

Back in November 2021, UK Partnerships told anyone who would listen that it was they who “wrote and won the tender in Croydon on behalf of VALO Smart City”.

Intriguingly, in their latest statement, last month, this pivotal role was downgraded somewhat. “UK Partnerships advised Valo Smart City on the tendering and procurement process but did not introduce the opportunity to Valo nor did we introduce Valo to Croydon.”

Woolas, when the Croydon’s Valo deal had just been announced, boasted to councillors and Labour Party colleagues about the money-spinning agreement his organisation had helped to secure. It is also suggested that Woolas claimed that he had known Kerswell and her husband, Barry Quirk (then the chief exec at Kensington and Chelsea), since their student days.

According to Town Hall sources, there was never any declaration of this friendship made by Kerswell when the Valo Smart City UK Ltd deal was being approved.

Phil Woolas, like Kerswell, has failed to respond to Inside Croydon’s requests to comment.


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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9 Responses to Mayor Perry threatens legal action over missing bus shelters

  1. Once upon a time, there was a requirement for a performance bond linked to major Croydon Council contracts. These were typically for 10% of the contract value. This was held by a third party and paid out if the contractor went insolvent or did not perform. The idea was that it covered retendering and other costs.

    I wonder if such a bond exists for this contract and if not, why not? Perhaps they didn’t think they needed one for a credit contract?

    • Lewis White says:

      Oh dear, David, was that the old days of local Government?.

      When there were people called Borough Engineers, Borough Architects, Borough Planning Officers, and Borough Valuers and Borough Solicitors –and Borough Parks Superintendents (and of Cems and Crems) who were people who actually trained in their respective disciplines, either coming up the ranks from school-leaver trainee, gaining knowledge and skills of theor chosen profession through a mix of on-the-job training, or coming after a diploma or degree as an assistant officer, then getting promotion over a decade or more.

      They –or senior members of their staff– knew about, and could write specifications and draw up contracts for the supply of Goods and Services.

      Amazingly, they also knew about building and maintaining things called roads, bridges, buildings, and parks, and about town planning.

      A Performance Bond? I never arranged one, as the contracts I did were a bit too small, too small—but nevertheless, there were penalties for “Liquidated damages” to be deucted from the contact payments for delayed completion– worked out on the loss to the council of interest on the project sum.

      And payments were made always for only “Works carried out in accordance with the Specification”….. in installments for work carried out,

      Results….. good in all cases unless the contractor ceased trading– which does happen , unfortunately, once in a while, even witth reputable contrcators with long track records of sound work and service.

      Tenderers would be chosen from an approved list……. and only if they fitted the needs of that project.

      Oh well, back to the drawing board…sorry..showing my age……

      • Have just checked the latest Tenders and Contracts Regs. The requirements are still there. One wonders how the bus shelters and contracts such as for the Fairfield Halls managed to get in such a mess.

        • Lewis White says:

          No doubt there is a catch-all, “waive the rules if we don’t want to be restricted by them ” clause, buried in the fine print or the senior managers’ handbook.

          Probably subject to departmental Chief Officer agreement– for those ground-breaking, innovative, mould breaking, future-creating, need-for-secrecy sort of projects.

          And maybe reported under the secret half of the Agenda of the Scrutiny committee.

  2. Leslie Parry says:

    This procurement process I assume did not involve residents of LBC as this was the dictatorial attitude and practice of local councillors and LBC Managers who make decisions then impose them on the people. This must cease when such contracts are awarded and residents must be part of the decision process where public money is involved

  3. Jim Bush says:

    Perhaps TfL should put the boot in and sue Croydon Council because the lack of bus shelters is probably adversely affecting their bus passenger revenues in Croydon?

  4. J says:

    As someone with a disability, this has made getting around on buses much more difficult as there are less places to sit, I feel for those worse off than I am. Shameful situation.

  5. Stewart MacArthur says:

    This should be fairly simple to resolve. Cancel the contract due to failure to perform and give the job to someone else!

  6. Pete Jenkins says:

    Whatever the future “plans” are it will still be another 18months of suffering the elements of our weather.

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