Connecting Crouch End and Hornsey with news, views and information
THERE’s a single-line-item buried deep in Appendix 4 for Tuesday's Cabinet meeting.
Here, half-way down on page 86 (N.B. numbering at the side)
General Fund Capital Programme, 2019–2024
Features an amount of £35,900,000
What's all this about?
Agenda item # 9. MEDIUM TERM FINANCIAL STRATEGY 2018/19-2022/23 (PAGES 35 - 92)
Last week I looked this up on Fortismere Foundation School website.
I couldn't find much. The most recent docs I came across were from 2016. Including a report on what they've named their 'Site Improvement Project'. Please see attachment below. It refers to a Feasibility Study & Consultation. I presume at least the former took place as it would have been essential to develop the £35.9 million scheme now proposed.
I'm told parents also got a update letter last May (2018). And that there's some reference to a joint "Board" with the school & Haringey Council, which may have been meeting. I've looked unsuccessfully for the minutes and membership of this "Board".
I assume that such Boards where Haringey Council reps and independent bodies meet are posted on the council's website. Anyone know where I can find them?
As I understand the general position, a so-called Foundation School can agree to break away from their local Council and set up as an independent legal entity employing their own staff and forcing the transfer of public land & buildings. Which are then owned by the School. The Foundation's powers include selling-off parcels of that land. (In Fortismere's case, that was estimated as some 20 acres. Have they sold any?)
To me this new scheme seems to be the sort of asset stripping of publicly owned land/ buildings underway across the country for many decades.
Plainly, many other Haringey Schools have buildings in urgent need of capital funds for improvement. But Fortismere, having chosen independence and a large slice of the cake, also seems to want the largest slices remaining to be shares among every other community school.
The money requested seems to figure in a property development everyone-gets-rich scheme which is so tempting when the stake is other people's money.
If a few of our councillors want the thrill of a bet, why not try Labrokes putting up their own cash?
APART from the individual players in this business—such as the former School Governor—the background is surely the extraordinary demand for property in London some of which demand, is artificially enhanced and that has led to values that relatively, are extremely high.
The council—having a Capital Account flush with funds and—as a big land-owner, has over the last few years seemed to have been much-focused on property wheeling-and-dealing, partly getting rid of property and partly trying to get a slice of the action.
For example, more than 10 years ago, the Council tried extraordinarily hard to sell our Charitable Trust's main asset—Ally Pally—to a former slum-landlord and for a "premium" (understood to be £1.5m) plus an undisclosed profit-sharing arrangement.
That is to say, profit sharing with a former slum-landlord.
Such is municipal judgement.
Cllr. Charles Adje had been council leader for two years in the run-up to that deal, and at the time of the Lease in late 2006, he was Chair of the Alexandra Palace Trust Board (the Lease was later quashed by the High Court following action by Save Ally Pally).
Although suspended for a period in connection the Licence to Firoka (four months as a Councillor and six months from the Labour Group), Charles Adje was selected in May by Leader Joe Ejifor for a Cabinet position: for Strategic Regeneration. In our Borough.
The height of municipal interest in property investment/disinvestment was the unlamented HDV that involved much misleading and outright deceit. However, we may have not seen the last of its type.
Joe's Big Deal needs scrutiny, at a minimum.
Below is a copy of the letter Fortismere parents got in May 2018. I've named the file "Cost Neutral for Some".
I'm thinking of words for a new version of the old song "Other People's Babies".
(Words by A.P. Herbert; music by Vivian Ellis.) Listen on YouTube to Norah Howard.
Tentatively I've renamed it "Other People's Money".
The school's letter raises many questions and not least for Haringey Councillors and ratepayers. Six months ago, the letter spoke of more than £20 million needed, while this month, the council has earmarked almost double that figure. That 'increase' may be a concern of itself.
What were the "traditional routes" of funding explored and why were they of no avail?
And who was it who said "doing nothing is not an option for us"?
Was this not said by the former Leader in connection with the HDV? And later it transpired that there were more than a single alternative to doing nothing?
I have sent an email to the Cabinet's Support Officer
Dear Ayshe Simsek
Adrian you probably know this already, but your request for information from the council must, by law, be treated by the council as a formal request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, even though you may not have referenced the Act. You may wish to ask for a confirmation that your request has been received. You should expect an answer within 20 working days and I hope you may publish it here.
I have sent a follow up, incorporating the FoI advice you have offered, Clive.
Further to this request, I have been informed that you should anyway treat it as a Freedom of Information Request. This indeed does seem consistent with other sources of information. Please therefore will you treat it as a Freedom of Information request.. My email address is a sufficient address for you to return the answers.
“You can leave in a huff. Or you can leave in a minute and a huff.”
It feels like it's taken not much longer than a minute and a huff before the prospect of a new transparent and accountable Council evaporated under the Ejiofor regime. Senior Haringey staff / councillor cooking up £35.9 million land sale and speculation scheme with public money. And not a single document published by our Covert Council.
Nor a single public comment by the new Dear Leader who appears to know something but isn't telling. Or maybe he really doesn't know anything very much and imagines that Leadership means pretending to be Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek and saying: "Make it So".
Except now there's a new rumour that the Council might get some Council houses out of the scheme. How many? Nobody's saying. Where and when? Insiders are asking. Outsiders are asking.
Sshh! Don't ask; don't tell. It's an Ejiosecret.
Anyone out there who does know? Or when we patsies (Haringey residents) eventually find out, will it be too late?
So many thanks, Clive Carter and Adrian Essex for trying to look behind the usual Haringey secrecy curtain on this.
AS a long-time observer (and former Member) of my local council I see a familiar cycle beginning that broadly maps to this schema:
This cycle causes the waste of time and public money and it accounts for much of the poor governance and sub-optimal performance.
One of the in-built responses, is that constructive criticism from any quarter—and not least from members of the public—tends to be treated as political criticism (i.e. suspected to be either politically-motivated or at least potentially Party-political). Top tip for local Labour: this belief tends to be self-fulfilling!
This link goes to Fortismere School's webpage titled Site Improvement Project.
According to the Project Plan, the project Completion is due this month ("January 2019") so it's fair to say the schedule has slipped a bit.
This may be all well and good … but how and why should this involve £35.9m of council cash?
Thirty-five point nine million pounds of public money.
Does the council's latest property adventure involve any element of risk, the subject over which the council affected so little concern with the HDV?
Former School Governor and now Leader of the Council Ejiofor needs to be more open with his fellow Councillors as well as the residents of Haringey.
Adrian following your inspiration, I've also put in a request for the Feasibility Study (here).
It may help if others did too. The purpose of such requests is not to oppose or support Fortismere School's "Site Improvement" project.
Instead, it is simply to obtain information to which the public is entitled. Three years ago, the school's web page of FAQ's seemed to conceal more than it revealed and the 'answers' are less than helpful.
Meaningful information is almost wholly absent.
From the council's side, the project appears to involve at least £35,900,000 of public money. Your money!
And so far, represented in the council's documentation as a single-line-item buried deep in an Appendix.
It is not good enough. It has the hallmarks of another municipal property development deal or adventure, possibly in the same vein as the HDV and we know how that turned out.
The current council leader, Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, knows more about this and he needs to be open about it.