OpinioN8

Connecting Crouch End and Hornsey with news, views and information

Evasive, diversionary, far from the point - PMQs - no Crouch End politics

I've just seen the start of Newsnight on BBC2 being broadcast from Stoke. The audience was asked if politicians are out of touch with the public. Yes, almost all the audience thought so. One gentleman cited HS2 as an example - he doesn't know anyone who wants it. Saving a few minutes on what are anyway short journeys on a small island Evasivereally isn't worth while, and as far as technological innovation goes, while Britain was right there with Stephenson's Rocket, we're well behind TGV and Shinkansen. If they want to spend £50 billion of our money (or 60 or 70 or 100 or whatever it turns out to be) it should be on 21st century (22nd if they can manage it) inventions, not 18th. Wind turbines and solar panels are my own particular pet hate. We know these are reliable ways to generate electricity. If they are any good then anyone who wants to generate electricity will buy them. Rather than subsidising the past what we should have been sinking our money into is a way of recharging our smartphones in the middle of a cold, windless, dark night. Batteries that store a lot of electricity in a small space perhaps, or lunar panels, or total dead calm turbines.

More locally, even our councillors manage to get out of touch. One of them is so far out of touch she's even forgotten how elections work. All three of them are right behind the Haringey Development Vehicle , something that every one except the inner circle of Labour councillors think is fraught with just too much risk to be worth taking on. And they back the sale of Hornsey Town Hall to an offshore hotelier. As do the Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust (HTHCT), the eventual target of tonight's rant.

I wrote to the HTHCT asking where I could see the Community Use Agreement referred to in their latest blog "Hornsey Town Hall refurbishment go ahead signed". The answer I got back was evasive and off the point.

Thank you for your e mail Adrian.

The trust is not a signatory to the Community Use Agreement and so it is not a matter for us whether it is published or not.
We have, however, as part of our continuing work in relation to the Town Hall, participated in discussions and negotiations seeking to ensure that it is a good agreement which is, as far as possible, in line with local aspirations whilst also consistent with a viable plan for the renovation and running of the Town Hall.
A simple "You can't, it's not been made public" would have done. Better yet "You can't , it won't be made public until  . . . . ".  
It made me proper angry, as evidenced by my reply (see below) , which I have now had even further time to reflect on. I do understand that one needs to leave an email like this overnight before sending it. But now I have re-read it, and I think I'm right. The four points I've made are valid. HTHCT is well and truly out of step with the rest of Crouch End and should disappear up its own OJEU confidentiality agreement.
My reply to HTHCT
Thank you for being prompt in your reply.
I do find the reply to be massively disappointing. I asked where I could see the public copy of the agreement. You have answered a series of quite different questions, a technique widely adopted by politicians trying to dodge the issue.  I have to infer from your reply that the agreement has not been published, you do not say so explicitly. If I could see the agreement I would know who are the signatories, and who had published it, and judge for myself if it is 'good'. 
Your answer is also hedged about with caveats. Take "as far as possible". My inference is that as far as possible is really not very far. 
My understanding of 'local aspirations' is that
1) Crouch End aspires to be a centre for independent businesses - every survey I have ever seen demonstrates that Crouch Enders love their independent shops and businesses. Your own survey of April/May 2015 has a list of bullet points on page 4 under the heading "1. Creative arts use" all of which are hugely compromised by the removal of the small business space from future plans. The continuing success of the businesses currently in residence proves the viability of spaces used in this way. 
2) Crouch End does not seek a hotel - your own survey of April/May 2015 shows one lone voice in favour of a hotel (0.37% of c300 respondents). The estate agents' assessment for Haringey prior to going out to tender posits that Crouch End is the wrong place for a hotel. 6,933 signatories to a petition  all agree that Haringey should think again before allowing this to happen.
3) An Arts Centre - what constitutes an Arts Centre is neatly defined by your own bullet points already referred to - what we seem to be getting is a venue with a few rooms for hire, which we have to guess will be at commercial rates. Without sight of the Community Use Agreement we have no way of knowing. It is clearly very much in the public interest for this agreement to be made available. It is also worth noting that the phrase "Arts Centre" does not appear in the pre-planning advice offered by Haringey to any of the participants in the closed and opaque bidding process.
4) A sense of ownership - Crouch End has most recently returned two Labour Councillors and  has a Labour MP. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, has said that large public contracts will not be awarded to overseas bidders. Sadiq Khan, Labour Mayor of London, has instituted an inquiry into the overseas ownership of London properties, has put in place measures to protect small businesses and supports artists' workspace through the Creative Land Trust. Catherine West, Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, has openly spoken against the proposed sale of the Town Hall and its meagre provision of anything other than luxury housing. Yet the Town Hall, iconic centrepiece of Crouch End, is being sold to a complex of companies with a variety of shareholders largely based in overseas tax havens, leaving no sense of ownership whatsoever. Even our promised meetings and new websites have been postponed.
All of which leads me to wonder what is the continuing purpose of the Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust. For the entire length of the OJEU tendering process it has been shut away from public view, emerging only to parrot the views of the council. By my assessment it has turned 'local aspirations' on their head and collaborated in what for all the world looks like a very unhappy decision. Even now a simple question is greeted with sidestepping and caveats. I wonder how any of this is consistent with the objects in your articles of association.
We also read that the "an agreement has now been signed that secures the multi-million pound renovation of Hornsey Town Hall"  (on this link) . What then is the continuing purpose of the Trust? The standards to be applied to the renovation, and the monitoring to ensure that the standards are met, are managed at a national level. The community involvement will be handled by a new steering group. The future is secure. Perhaps it is time for the Trust to retire itself.
May I ask another question? How did your recent recruitment go? Was there a good response from a wide range of local people? Have new appointments been made?

Tags: creative trust, dorsett, far east consortium, hornsey town hall, ojeu, tax haven

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Adrian, I am still away in Vietnam ...probably until the summer so its good to know what's going on in CE 6000miles away.  I don't know the ins and outs of the new agreement from this distance but I think you have a point.

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