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As a killer quote it doesn't amount to much, but increasingly, things don't feel right. Clive Carter was commenting on a series of lunches, dinners and appointments involving elected members of the London Borough of Haringey. But he is right. It does not feel right. We have no evidence of actual wrongdoing, but, by golly , we have our instincts.
And then we have the advertisement by the Hornsey Town Hall Creative Trust for new Trustees. That too does not feel right. They actively boast about their inability to speak to the community they claim to represent. And somehow, somewhy they propose perpetuating themselves when, if all we are led to believe is true, they have served their purpose. If the Far East Consortium (FEC) of Mr Chiu (and his hotelier Dorsett Hospitality and their UK representatives CoPlan Ltd) are putting £27m into the refurbishment of the Hall , then we no longer need an "independent buildings preservation trust". So by renewing themselves, a process over which they, and only they, have control, they presumably have their eye on some future goal.
Perhaps they are setting themselves up as the community representatives foretold in the Haringey People press release.
"The developer (FEC and Coplan Estates) will set up a steering group when the refurbished town hall building opens, which will include local residents and community groups and will actively engage with the local community on the refurbishment plan of the Town Hall." Perhaps the comunity might think that does not feel right, either.
And what of the promises of the money and the refurb. The words used have not changed over months. Page 11 of the December / January Haringey People repeats last September's news of the FEC offer. Still it is only a proposal, still the hotel will only 'help to cover the extensive running costs', still the public consultation on what is to be done will begin only after the hotel is open. It still doesn't feel right, not like a good offer should.
And as for those extensive running costs, I don't believe them. They are repeatedly stated as "It costs 350 grand just to keep the doors open" - I was a bit slow on the uptake with my first FoI request for the running costs, I should have asked for the income as well, which I have now done. The answer is due on 21st December. It'll probably be "can't tell you" but that won't stop me believing that 74 businesses each paying £100 per week is , broadly speaking, 350 grand per annum. So, it does not feel right to say the cost of keeping the doors open is 350grand. I reckon its more like nil, or better.
And our expectations of what the 'improvements' might be to the Town Hall Square. Step 1 is to make it a park, and therefore much more expensive to hold an event in. Step 2 will be to sell it to a private tenant, Shevlock Ltd. Perhaps that wan't perfectly plain. Haringey's lease for the Town Hall and Square will not be with the consortium that bid but with a specially created company, the sole shareholder of which is Shevlock Ltd, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. It doesn't sound right does it. Step 3 will be to remove control of what goes on there altogether and take it out of the hands of the community. Cllr Arthur recently wrote, in wha has become a widely circulated email, unbidden and unasked
"As an early heads up, from next year onwards the Council will be working in partnership with FEC and CoPlan to fund and provide the Christmas Tree and lights for the square, . . . . ."
so community involvement removed, at a stroke. It doesn't feel right , does it?
"If we go out to procurement and the right solution isn't found, will we be bold enough to say "this isn't working" and go back to the drawing board?' - when something's not going right and doesn't feel quite right the best thing to do is to re-group and take the tough decision of saying it's probably right that we don't go down this route and we either, in the case of procurement, stop the procurement and go out again or rethink the strategy more fundamentally."
Claire Kober, the Leader, on the Hornsey Town Hall procurement, June 2015
There was I worrying about the corporate entertainment implications when all along Claire is a wise and prescient leader. Let's add a couple more 'not quite rights' and she can make good on her promise.
Back to Freedom of Information. I asked (inter alia) for "1. Details of the scores in the scoring matrix for the
preferred bidder and the runner up" . Haringey replied "We think that to disclose the bidders
scores and the preferred bidder’s financial offer to the Council would prejudice the commercial interests of bidders, particularly as a contract has not yet been awarded."
Now for the financial offer, I can agree. Indeed, I was careful to exclude the financial offer from my question. But the scores? These are just numbers someone (Haringey, specifically) has made up. There is no absolute standard for percentages. There is no universal percentational constant which guarantees that percentage points will move towards each other at a rate proportional to the product of their masses. There is no definition which gives that the temperature of a quorum of highly paid consultants will increase by one degree centigrade for every percentage point awarded; no arc on the surface of the earth subtended by an angle of one degree at the centre which is exactly one percentage point long. So how can these numbers , not provided by the competing bidders, simply made up by Haringey, have any bearing on their commercial interests? You might ask why I am interested in such works of fiction. Precisely because what they do give an insight into Haringey's thought process. But they won't tell us. That does not feel right. I have asked Haringey to conduct a review into the way this answer was arrived at.
And what about the key distinguishing features between the winning bid. The winner, it said in the cabinet papers, had a better guarantee, a less risky planning approach, and a better financial offer. I asked (inter alia)
"What are the terms of the guarantee under the preferred bid to ensure that the Arts Centre remains viable?"
Haringey answered "The preferred bidder will be guaranteeing public access and public use to the building. Public access and public use will be secured through the legal agreements. The details of these legal documents are not yet available." But, but, splutter, when the cabinet papers were written they knew enough to know that this guarantee was better than the others. Now, they know nothing. How can that be right? I have asked Haringey to conduct a review into the way this answer was arrived at.
I also asked "Please provide the formal advice which sets out how a change of use from the currently implemented planning consent on the site to hotel, can be achieved without a full planning application" Haringey replied "Until a full package of design work is provided, it cannot be determined what the planning route will be." But, but, splutter, when the cabinet papers were written they knew enough to know that the hotel could be snuck through on a section 73 (minor amendment) basis. Now, they know nothing. How can that be right? I have asked Haringey to conduct a review into the way this answer was arrived at.
THOSE declared multiple lunches—with Terrapin and three Cabinet Members, both here in London and Cannes (MIPIM)—do not look and feel right. The circumstances of which we know, leave themselves open – in the time-honoured journalist's phrase – to misinterpretation.
Of course, the lunches and dinners won't have involved legal minutiae and they may not have involved Principals. However, in 2008, Martin Walklate noted something broadly parallel in respect to his investigation of the Development of the Licence for Alexandra Palace: Negotiation [of the Licence to Firoka] in the absence of any agreed framework or written evidence places those involved in difficulty of being able to justify decisions or defend accusations of impropriety.
(The Walklate Report, para.85)
There has to come a point when simply declaring hundreds of pounds worth of slap-up-meals is not good enough and the question arises of trust.
Because although the tabs for these fine meals were picked up by Terrapin Communications Limited, this cost is likely to have been passed on to a client or clients. That is the business of PR companies. And property companies are the business of Terrapin.
In the same way that justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done, relations with developers and their agents not only need to be above board, but need to be seen to be above board.
That the perceived value of public relations (PR) now imbues this Council, is shown by the emphasis it's given: the size of the Municipal Communications Dept., in these times, it's budget and the number of recent extra staff employed in it, at a time of severe cut-backs to vital services.
Haringey People magazine is a part of the Good News effort.
In September 2015, the Council spent £86,000 on a new identity rebranding strategy (i.e. the new logo). That was claimed to be a “one-off cost”. The logo "Haringey London" continues to be rolled out.
One might say that public relations is the meat and drink of this Council's leadership.
Yesterday in the midst of all the accusations, truths, half truths, spin and supposition (in the absence of hard facts around when is a hotel not a hotel and when is an arts centre a venue etc) I sought solace in the dark of the cinema to watch Oliver Stone's Snowden. Talk about answering the question when something doesn't feel right what do you do. Well we are not planning a trip to Moscow yet, but it really is time to go public. The Town Hall is sitting there waiting for its fate to be decided whilst not a single public meeting has been held on the subject since the unfortunate and uncomfortable GVA presentation of the Town Hall's bright future which involved several hundred people squeezed together and forced to stand in the hallway of the Town Hall and listen (or boo several times as was the case). Time to call another public meeting in the Town Hall (not the hallway this time) with all parties involved and let Crouch End judge the players and just how bright the future is 2 years on.
TERRAPIN is 50% owned by Peter James Bingle. This is the Public Affairs company that hosted Haringey Council Cabinet Members several times, both in London and in Cannes. Since joining Twitter in 2009, Mr. Bingle has tweeted more than 18,000 times. 12 months ago – on 21 December 2015 to be exact – Mr. Bingle tweeted:
My baby Terrapin. A great addition to the team …
It’s currently in the public domain, but in case there are any technical difficulties with viewing this tweet in future, I took a screen shot that I've reproduced above. The picture appears be that of Hornsey Councillor Adam Jogee in a restaurant. The surroundings look pleasant enough. From the Councillor's expression, we may surmise that the company was convivial.
(Although after reading about Mr. Bingle and his tastes in politics, I was surprised that a Member of Mr. Corbyn’s Labour Party found Mr. Bingle's company to be so agreeable. As a Liberal Democrat Councillor, I find many of Mr. Bingle's reported – and self-reported – views to be some distance from my own, but I digress).
Currently, the tweet is Liked by two Twitter accounts and one of them is by Cllr. Jogee, who appears to have recently joined the [Terrapin] team.
That date is four or five months before Cllr. Jogee's remarkably rapid promotion to Haringey Council Labour Group Chief Whip at age 22 or 23. The timing is a little uncertain, because in another tweet, eight weeks earlier, Mr. Bingle had recorded,
Delighted that [Councillor Jogee] has joined Terrapin Communications. A strong addition to a great team.
Even more interesting, Klapp has now deleted the 2011 tweet, which has the effect of deleting all retweets. Suggests that Klapp thinks there is some implication?
I suggest for the time being it's wise to stick to the facts as we know them. Which to me are fairly worrying as they stand.
Anyone familiar with CS Lewis's Lecture "The Inner Ring"?
Hi Adrian, I think all we know at present, is that an unknown technical Twitter glitch/Gremlin intervened. But I've let Mr. Klapp know that a backup of his important 19 November 2011 tweet does exist, should he wish to refer to it or retrieve it.
Back-up is really important and one of the first lessons of computing. Anyone that's lost valuable data can attest to the value of backing-up.
This must be a very rare typo by the usually meticulous Peter Bingle.
Obviously it should read: "Lobbyists' and property developers' future is safe. Let's do lunch."