Haringey Lib Dem council group leader Neil Williams tells me that he is increasingly worried about council tax payers being taken to the cleaners by the current goings on at Alexandra Palace.
As ever with Ally Pally, it’s a complicated story – and one to which neither Haringey Council, nor the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (also, alas, a Labour councillor) will give full and frank answers, but it goes like this.
When the Trust (and for this we must sadly read Haringey Labour in practice) thought they had a ‘done deal’ with their chosen developer (Firoz Kassam and Firoka), they (the developer that is) were allowed to start trading in the building, to get their feet under the carpet, as it were. It’s a bit like thinking you had sold your house, and then giving the potential future owners the keys before the deal was signed.
However, the deal on the lease was thrown out by the High Court – as the Charity Commission was found to have failed to consult the public properly on their plans for the Palace. The whole process now has to be done again. This could take months, if it happens at all.
In the meantime, as the Trust had no ‘plan B’ to cope with this cock-up, Firoka is now running the trading business at the Pally – and pretty much pocketing the profits coming in, from events and exhibitions, and so on.
Previously, some pretty tidy contributions from trading have always been used to bring down the cost of the Palace to the Haringey taxpayer, possibly up to about £2 million a year – but this pot of money is now essentially in the hands of Firoka, who show no visible signs of passing it on.
Haringey Council describes this situation as “unfortunate” and blames the Save Ally Pally campaign as well as the Lib Dems – i.e. anyone other than themselves, even though it was they who came up with the flawed sell off and they who let Firoka in to start earning money before the deal was finalised. Indeed, they have employed blue-chip PR advisers, Lexington Communications, who are helping them say so – all being paid for by the Haringey taxpayer, just to rub salt into the financial wounds of this all.