Email to Cllr Ejiofor

Dear Joe,

Thank you for your email.

I’m afraid that the claims made in your email do not represent the facts. I’ve picked up some of the issues below.

The Group

  • Our intention to run a procurement process after the failure of the Mountview project was mentioned in my Cabinet member report (one example of this is attached) making clear that we were going to start an open bidding process. The update clearly says that we had no presumption about what use this would involve, and it clearly says that the successful option would have to have a strong commercial element to pay the bills.
  • I answered questions about this at numerous groups meeting, and included it in other reports.
  • It is not true to say that information has been withheld from the Group or that people have been bounced. We have always been very open about what has been going on.

Involvement of councillors

 I set up a steering group to oversee the procurement process, to which the three ward councillors were invited. These were meetings of me, ward councillors, senior officers and external lawyers and procurement advisors. I established a clear principle with officers, that all issues would be discussed at these meetings, so that the ward councillors would see the same briefing as me.

  • This has meant that we’ve proceeded in a way that has fully involved the ward councillors. Procurement priorities and percentage weightings were in fact changed after some really good ideas from ward councillors at one of these meetings – so member involvement has been substantial and genuinely listened to.
  • It is therefore not true to say that councillors were involved – group members representing the ward have been heavily involved, which I think is the most appropriate way of ensuring detailed member input on these things.

Housing

  • The reason the council applied for permission for homes to the rear was to pay for the restoration of the building.
  • The number of homes and the number of affordable was set in 2010 by the planning committee.
  • You will understand that this is completely separate to the recent procurement process, and is something both myself and the officer team, and the bidders have inherited this and it has not been extensively discussed as part of the procurement.
  • We will be talking to the bidder about this, but this needs proper discussion and will be considered later. It is not directly part of the procurement decision. Conflating the two is not helpful and plays into Dave Winskill’s Lib Dem narrative on this.

Business space

  • I think that you have misunderstood the situation on the small business space.
  • As I’ve set out previously, ANA were brought in to run a temporary arts centre on an interim basis. ANA started offering cheap small business space to help bring in income because the arts centre wasn’t bringing in enough money.
  • All of the businesses were told very clearly that this was short term, temporary space and that they could be asked to leave at short notice. They all agreed on this basis.
  • In any case, we have been clear publicly that we have been looking for some time at Hornsey Library to find replacement small business space. We are in advanced negotiations with a local community workspace organisation.
  • This is all in hand and I would ask you not to listen to the propaganda from Dave Winskill and the Appreciation Society, which I hardly need to tell you is not accurate.

Procurement

  • This is a process agreed by Cabinet in summer of 2015, as flagged and discussed at Group.
  • The process was objective, rigorous and informed by external advisors.
  • Suggesting that an 18 month major procurement decision following the onerous OJEU rules has not provided ‘due diligence’ is simply not the case.

Overall

Let’s stick to the facts and not make sweeping statements about important decisions. The proposal offers an arts centre, full restoration, major investment in the green, a café, a small hotel and housing at the back. Most importantly, this saves the building for future generations and guarantees public access to the building and the green.

Let’s not lose sight of the big issue here, which is that we have a proposal for a good mixed scheme, offering much better community facilities than we’d expected to secure, while providing a sustainable future.

It has taken a decade to get to this point and we have a good proposal in front of us. That’s why I will not be agreeing to demands from a Lib Dem campaign group for a month’s delay. It serves no purpose  and is driven by party politics, not the future of this amazing building.

Best wishes,

Alan

Councillor Alan Strickland

Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing

Councillor for Noel Park (Labour)

London Borough of Haringey