CROYDON IN CRISIS: It’s taken him 18 months to realise it, but the borough’s slow-on-the-uptake Mayor has finally realised that Valo Smart City was never going to deliver on any of its ambitious promises.
By STEVEN DOWNES
Having told dozens of residents at a public meeting last month that he would not be cancelling the contract for the delivery of bus shelters around the borough because re-procurement would take far too long, Croydon Mayor Jason Perry has now decided to cancel the contract with the suppliers and to pursue damages.
Croydon’s piss-poor Mayor made his latest U-turn having read Inside Croydon’s exclusive report that the founder of Valo Smart Cities Ltd, Isaac Sutton, intended to pull out of the deal after three years of failing to deliver a single bus shelter and leaving debts with his suppliers of an estimated £1million.
Sources close to the negotiations have told Inside Croydon that the council signed an understanding with Valo as recently as August 2023 agreeing not to sue the company, in return for a ex gratia payment of £500,000. It seems very likely that the understanding was entered into with Mayor Perry’s approval.
It means that Sutton has had one over Croydon Council’s gullible officials once again. Not a penny of that promised payment has been received by Croydon’s cash-strapped council, like they have not received a penny of the £670,000 per year in advertising revenues that Sutton promised when he appeared on the scene nearly three years ago.
Perry told a council meeting as recently as March this year that council lawyers would be pursuing Valo Smart Cities for some kind of settlement for their failures to fulfil their contract, before changing his mind over the course of this summer.
The prospect of ever getting any financial compensation from Valo Smart Cities after three years of non-delivery remains elusive, though: Valo has no cash to pay or assets to seize should the council go to court and get a judgement in their favour.
Given Mayor Perry’s own projections over how long it might take to procure a new bus shelter deal, it could be spring 2025 before new shelters start to appear on bus routes around the borough. This would mean that passengers in Croydon will have endured five winters in the wind and rain while waiting for their buses thanks to their council’s crass incompetence.
In a statement hidden away on the council website, they said: “Croydon Council is taking steps to terminate its contract with Valo Smart City to deliver bus shelters in the borough.”
According to Perry, “This is an incredibly frustrating and unacceptable situation.” Perry has persisted with the situation for 18 months, despite existing warnings that the Valo deal was always too good to be true.
“The council awarded this contract in 2021 to Valo Smart City which had no track record of delivering a contract like this in the UK and has failed to deliver a single bus shelter in our borough,” said Perry, who will have known all this since before he became Mayor in May 2022.
According to Perry, “Many attempts have been made to arrange a working plan that would deliver the shelters; timelines have been shifted, negotiations have taken place, and none of this has resulted in a satisfactory outcome. Our residents have waited long enough.
“The council is taking immediate steps to terminate the contract with Valo Smart City and we have informed them of our intent to pursue damages.” Good luck with that, Jase.
“Meanwhile council officers are reviewing our options to get bus shelters back on our streets as soon as possible.”
As usual, Mayor Perry has said nothing about taking disciplinary action against those council directors, and the council chief executive, Katherine Kerswell, who did such a poor job of due diligence and then approved and advocated the deal with Isaac Sutton’s Valo Smart Cities in the first place.
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