There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes of the on-going saga of Hornsey Town Hall lately. So, here’s a quick update on what’s been happening:
- HTHAS went to see the Overview and Scrutiny Committee last month. A large number of councillors from both parties had succeeded in a very rare call-in of a Cabinet decision: to appoint FEC as preferred bidder. The meeting was one of the longest in OSC’s history (nearly four hours) with some very hard questioning by councillors form all sides. They were so unhappy that they referred it back to Cabinet with eleven recommendations in particular some pointed ones about the provision of social housing in the project. Sadly, though not a great surprise, Cabinet subsequently took those recommendations “under advisement” and reaffirmed their earlier decision.
- Later came a leaked email from Councillor Adam Jogee (the Labour Whip) reprimanding group councillors who had arranged the call-in. It later emerged that Cllr Jogee is employed by a PR/lobbying company that has in the past worked for CoPlan Estates – one of the lead bidders. No improper conduct is suggested but further investigations reveal that the company, Terrapin, have lunched and dined with Haringey Cabinet members 13 times. Again, nothing should be implied but, gentle reader, reflect that HTHAS got six minutes to present when we went to OSC and, if a lunch lasts two hours, then Terrapin got over twenty five hours of face to face meetings with Cabinet members for a mess of potage … or whatever was on the menu.
- HTHAS have been attempting to arrange meetings with FEC/CoPlan to understand what exactly they are planning, how the hotel will work, what they will do with the square and what their ideas are for an arts centre. As yet they are unwilling or unprepared to meet the community saying they are working to agree an engagement plan with Haringey.
- Crouch End Festival were surprised to be offered £5000 as a donation from FEC – Council arranged this themselves, CEF had not asked for it – to help pay for the Christmas tree and the increased Haringey charges for hiring the green. CEF refused it, saying they don’t accept corporate donations (sponsorship, yes; donations, no). A strange move by Haringey when they are at the negotiation table with FEC.
- A grumpy email from Jason Arthur suggests that this is the last year when the community will arrange the Christmas tree and the lights as Haringey and FEC will be doing it themselves next year.
- Crouch End Festival Christmas market went off very well, complemented by a craft market inside HTH. Carols, the big Christmas tree, the lovely weather, and the happy crowds show exactly how HTH and the Green should be put to community use. We hope FEC were watching.
- We hope to meet with HTH Creative Trust early in the new year (they helped score the bids in the procurement process) to find out more about the timeline and what they plan to do next.
- A flurry of Freedom of Information requests have been sent to Council, most met with a refusal – you’ve guessed it: commercial confidentiality. We are particularly interested to know the net running costs Haringey are claiming for HTH We await responses to our follow-ups.
- We continue to get first rate support from various councillors and from Catherine West MP: all want to see more affordable/social housing in the scheme, provision for small businesses and a sustainable, community led arts offering in HTH.
It is still important that we keep banging the drum and try to get Haringey to do exactly what Claire Kober wisely promised last year ..
“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
So, keep them emails rollin!