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#Cllr Ejiofor’s statement to his Party members about the £35.9m Fortismere project

AS A RESULT of this thread about the Ejiofor-Fortismere scheme, the current council leader felt obliged yesterday to send a statement below to members of the Haringey Labour Party (only), less than 24 hours before it were to be covered in today's Ham & High article. 

Some points:

  1. Mentioned in the media recently – what Cllr Ejiofor means, is the linked thread above
  2. Without the exposure above—that likely led to difficult questions from his own Party—the initial explanation below was unlikely to have been forthcoming
  3. Up until now, there has been next-to-no detail on the £35,900,000 single-line-item, nodded through by Cabinet in December
  4. Proper procedures and good governance seem to have been given a wide berth, but now the gates of secrecy are prised open a little
  5. Rather than being addressed solely to members of Cllr Ejiofor's Party, a statement is owed to the whole of the Haringey public, involving as it does £35.9m of public money
  6. Cllr Ejiofor gives his Members a personal and one-sided view of a matter that led to his sacking two Cabinet Members on New Year's Eve
  7. In three places, the leader of the council attempts to throw shade at his officers, suggesting they are responsible for the one-line-item's appearance. (AKA, sorry Miss, some big boys did it Miss and then they ran away Miss)
  8. The scheme is promoted by Cllr Ejifor on the basis of social housing, but detail on this is absent
  9. What's significant is not what is said, but what has been left out. The statement confirms or provides some information, but raises many further questions
  10. The statement below was sent to me by a concerned, ordinary member of the Labour Party

__________

Dear […]

 

A proposed project involving Fortismere School has been mentioned in the media recently.

I want to make clear what the proposal is about.

 

First let’s correct some misrepresentations:

  • Haringey Council is not 'giving' £35.9m to Fortismere School.
  • Haringey Council is not spending half of the school’s capital budget at Fortismere School.

 

The facts are as follows:

 

Fortismere is a Foundation School. As such, the School grounds are held in trust by the Governors – separate from the Council. However, the Council still retains a statutory duty for repairing the school buildings, and indeed spent c£150k repairing the Sixth Form block roof in 2017.

 

For the record, I was a member of the governing body of Fortismere School between 29th June 2016 and 11th of May 2018. I am one of four current councillors who have children at the school. The school had been discussing its options for permanently resolving the problems of a decaying sixth from block for at least two years prior to the time I joined the governing body. Council officers were aware of this project at the highest levels at that time, and had already put money into assisting the school to develop some proposals.

 

Though the governing body initially considered approaching a private developer, in 2017 they decided to approach the council to see whether it wanted to be a partner in this potential development, which would build a new school building, council housing and housing for sale.

 

We are now a Council that wants to build traditional council homes. This proposal has the potential to enable the council to build council homes in Muswell Hill at nil cost. However, there is, at the moment, no concrete proposal and no decision is anywhere near being taken yet.

 

Finance officers have included it in the proposed capital budget because they thought it to be appropriate.

 

It was included as a line item in the capital budget for 2019/20 because there was a possibility that a proposal might be developed in this period and so officers thought it was appropriate to include it, under the criteria that it would be self-financing. It will not be taken forward unless the structure of the project (conditional itself on cabinet and group approval) ensures that the Council gets its money back in full.

 

Every member of the cabinet at that time knew the full reality of the relevance that this line item had, and how far the project was from a report coming to cabinet. They are also aware that the full options appraisal for all school repairs is due in the summer. Every cabinet member was clear that, if the Fortismere project was to be approved, that it would not take a single penny away from the allocation of capital available to repair Haringey schools.

 

If following our feasibility and impact study, the council decides to support the project, there will be a number of steps to take before this proposal can progress, including a Group and Cabinet decision on the project. I want to be clear that we will only consider a proposal that is value for money for the council, fits in with our plans for the wider Haringey school estate and is one that will genuinely provide social benefit for the community.

 

To reiterate. We will not be 'giving' £35.9 million to the school. The aim would be for it to be a self-funding partnership that fits in with the objectives of the schools Capital programme.

 

I hope that this clarifies the facts around the proposals at Fortismere School.

 

Both myself and your ward councillors will keep you up to date if and when there is anything further to report.

 

Regards,

 

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor

Leader of Haringey Council

Tags: 20 acres, 6th form block, Cabinet Members, DfE, Ejiofor, Fortismere School, Governor, Tetherdown, The Art of the Deal, Trump University, More…audit trail, catchment area, conflict of interest, decision in principle, declarations, developers, documentation, education, equity, fairness, financial risk, foundation school, land sales, land tricks, map, opaque, open land, plans, playing fields, property deal, real estate, risk, sell-off, social housing?, transparency

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Replies to This Discussion

I SEE that one of the two sacked Cabinet Members (Cllr. Brabazon) has responded on another social media platform whose web pages do not display properly in my browser. I've copied from the original at this link and pasted her comments below:

__________

Cllr Ejiofor has sent the email above to every Labour party member about Fortismere. I cannot reply to every party member but I can post some comments here  on Harringay on Line for residents elsewhere and in my ward.

I have disagreed with him on Fortismere, but have never said we are 'giving Fortismere £35.9m'. I am aware this project is being promoted as self-financing, but I am deeply concerned that this will not be the case ultimately. Capital schemes usually overrun. 

As a Foundation School, the first funding body for Fortsimere should be the DfE/Education Skills and Funding Agency. (EFSA) Why Haringey should be taking a huge risk on assembling land, ( for which application to the Secretary of State to transfer to the local authority would have to be made ) and expending £35.9m capital hoping to recoup the money from market sales, is beyond me.

Before thousands of pounds are expended on feasibility and other work, surely the school should just apply to the government for funding. Has the school applied - I don't know.  I've asked.

What we do know now  is  that this project hasn't emerged out of the blue - although as a Cabinet member I knew nothing about it till it appeared in a line item in a budget discussion a few weeks ago.

A brief paper subsequently followed because some of us asked for one. It is only now, because of several questions being asked by me and others, that more information is coming to light. It seems LBH has spent money on this - how much and for what? What is/was this project board and who sits on it?  It seems there are plans, so contrary to this being just a 'line item' in the budget with 'possibility that a proposal might be developed in this period ' it seems to me reasonable to assume this project is considerably more advanced. As there have been meetings - apparently with Haringey - for two years it would be surprising if it wasn't.

Turning to the issue of council housing being built, I can assure everyone on HoL that I am firmly committed to council housing. I am curious to know if this forms part of the school's plans or is just inserted now as an after thought. We have been told the plans are for 68 market and 14 council - so the site in question must be quite big. The fact that these figures are so precise suggests there are plans and quite sophisticated financial calculations. I have asked for more information as thus far, we have seen nothing. Will the DfE agree to the transfer of education land? Does the GLA like education land to be lost? These are  two huge questions, and it is my view that these should be clarified before more Haringey money is spent on working up a scheme which is so costly and so risky. Fortismere, as an effectively independent school - albeit funded by the government - should go to the government first to build a new 6th form centre which I am sure they need. Just as other schools in Haringey have great needs That should be a first step and is relatively  simple and straightforward. 

Cllr Ejiofor states that we all knew the 'full reality of the relevance that this line item had'. If only! That's why I am asking so many questions.

One lesson from the Haringey Development Vehicle is that each, supposedly non-committal step which says a project at this point is just 'exploratory', indicative' , 'in development ' and so forth, fundamentally builds the foundation for the ultimate formal decision which is being sought. By  the time this is clearer the argument is made that plans are so advanced it is difficult to withdraw. 

Finally, there are knock on effects on other schools. How will an expanded 6th form at Fortismere impact on Hornsey and Highgate Wood? How will community schools feel about so much money and officer time going into this project when community schools need huge investment? 

For the record, I am fully supportive of spending our capital money on schools and delighted there is money in the 2019/2020 capital budget for repairs.Long overdue. I am fully supportive of our manifesto commitment to build council houses and hope many sites in our ownership and control will be developed very soon. I will do all I can to make this happen.

Thank you to everyone who has contacted me with their support and good wishes.

Zena 

Zena Brabazon

Cllr, Harringay Ward

email: zena.brabazon@haringey.gov.uk

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