The council is claiming a role in spending £500,000 to establish a new “creative digital lab” off the Purley Way “to help support local businesses and enable residents to upskill” – despite there being existing facilities in the town centre that have often been denied any financial assistance from the local authority.
The council has collaborated with StartUp Croydon and South London Partnership to secure the cash from the City of London and the Greater London Authority.
StartUp Croydon is what was once known as Croydon Business Venture, an enterprise agency – a means of funnelling huge amounts of public money into private interests.
The lab will be based in a private office development, conveniently (for StartUp Croydon), in the same building where StartUp Croydon is based. It will include a digital audio production suite, post-production video and audio editing facilities, recording studio for podcasts and voiceovers, and a training suite.
“It will also be a centre for collaboration, where businesses can work together, spark innovation and access training,” according to a council press release, citing some typically anodyne soundbyte from Powerless Perry, the borough’s elected Mayor.
The council makes the blatantly false claim that their digital lab “will be one of the sole providers in south London of industry-standard digital facilities”.
The facility, they say, will be rented out “at affordable prices”, so effectively setting it up in competition with existing Croydon businesses, they say, “for Croydon’s companies to develop content on their doorstep”.
StartUp Croydon is based in offices in the New South Quarter.
Its trustees include some of the prime movers from the heart of the Croydon Establishment – the likes of estate agent Richard Plant, whose company handles so much of the Whitgift Foundation’s properties and who is closely involved with Develop Croydon and Croydon BID (where Mayor Perry is a director). And there’s sidekick Jo Gumb, the ex-Sadvertiser ad exec who is a director of Grey Label, which profits from receiving so many council PR gigs.
The council describes StartUp Croydon as “a local charity that supports entrepreneurship”. StartUp Croydon, the council says, “has contributed additional funding totalling £400,000 through other grant sources”. So this is actually their gig, and not the council’s. But piss-poor Perry needs as much positive coverage as his mates can give him at the moment, so they’ve plastered this as a news story over the (publicly funded) council website.
“The investment supports Croydon’s role as one of London’s Creative Enterprise Zones – a borough selected by the Mayor of London where creative industries can flourish and grow,” according to the council that ignores many of its creative businesses.
StartUp Croydon’s CEO is Saffron Saunders, who before taking on this job had worked as a membership sales manager for the local Chamber of Commerce, and as the centre manager at the Sussex Innovation Centre, based at No1 Croydon.
Saunders describes StartUp Croydon as “a Croydon Business Venture”.
“We are delighted to receive this capital investment which will breed [sic] new life into our building and propel our services into the digital era,” Saunders said.
We think she meant “breathe”. Note, too, the use of “our building”, and the fact that in the third decade of the 21st Century, StartUp Croydon is only now bringing its services into the digital era.
Saunders’ quotes only further underline that this digital lab is a private project, and not much to do with Croydon Council.
Saunders offered this verbiage soup: “We look forward to enabling local people to access state-of-the-art equipment and escalating career opportunities for those who would not usually have access to the digital assets our Creative Digital Lab will include.”
Oh, and this business enterprise is looking for volunteers to help them operate the facility on the cheap… The Creative Digital Lab is expected to open in the autumn.
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