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#The curious case of the council, a contract and the concealed casino clause

ON 21 March 2006, the Haringey Council Cabinet meeting decided not to proceed with a casino at Alexandra Palace. To have gone ahead would have needed the council to effect a formal expression of interest to the Home Office by the end of that month.

(by 2006, the New-Labour government had much loosened laws on gambling).

In that Cabinet Meeting, the casino advocate was Cllr Lister and the meeting was chaired by the then Council Leader, Cllr Adje. A video record of the discussion and decision of the Cabinet not to proceed, may be viewed on Youtube, here.

Two months later, Cllr Adje was no longer Council Leader and instead was appointed as Chair of the Alexandra Palace Trust Board, for 12 months from May 2006 to May 2007.

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For four weeks over Xmas 2006 and the new year, the Charity Commission conducted a public consultation about the disposal of our Charity's main asset—Alexandra Palace. The timing—that minimised publicity and availability—as well as much else, was heavily influenced by the Trustee: the council. This became the subject of a High Court Judicial Review on 5 October 2007 and the case was brought by campaign group Save Ally Pally.

The Public Consultation was found to have been deeply flawed and as a result, the Lease to Firoka (Alexandra Palace) Ltd. was quashed on that very afternoon.

(The separate, temporary Licence to Firoka became the subject of an investigation initiated by a dedicated Council Officer. The findings of that investigation became known as the Walklate Report. That led to further investigations. Those led to a Standards Committee Determination Hearing).

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In December 2006—near the beginning of the flawed Public Consultation—I had sought a copy of the Lease from the Council and Charity Commission, but the request was refused. That aspect formed part of the High Court action.

A partly un-redacted Lease appeared for the High Court case. However I sought a wholly un-redacted lease and that was refused. After a second refusal by the council, I appealed to the Office of the Information Commissioner. Haringey continued to resist disclosure but 12 months later, I succeeded in obtaining a copy of the Lease that was minimally redacted, for financial data only. Under the 3.11 User clause heading, permission was granted for a Small Casino:

Firoka would certainly have wanted this clause and permission—from the council—for use as a casino was inserted in the Lease by the end of the year. However, given that the Council's decision-making body had earlier decided against a casino, it is a mystery as to how it got there.

Presumably, the person or persons responsible for inserting the clause may have thought it might never come to light. Or if it did, that it would not come to light until well after the Cabinet of March 2006 had dispersed—and long after the Lease was owned by Firoka.

Presumably also, the 2006/07 Cabinet did not know about this clause and nor would most Councillors, because that information appears not to have been shared. Yet, it was done in their name (by the “Mayor and Burgesses of Haringey”). The user clause by itself would not have been a sufficient condition to establish a casino in Ally Pally; however, it may have been a necessary condition. The inclusion of the clause would seem to be a breach of faith with the then Cabinet and would also seem to present questions about ethics and standards of governance.

Tags: Alexandra Palace, Firoka, Lease, casino, user clause

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