Caption for top photo

"Hello Radiolympia. This is direct television from the studios at Alexandra Palace!" *

THESE were the immortal words spoken to camera by Elizabeth Cowell and received at the big Radio show at Olympia, in West London. This was amongst similar test transmissions during August 1936, prior to the beginning of regular broadcasting just a couple of months later, on 2 November 1936.

Alexandra Palace was the birthplace of scheduled public, "high" definition television broadcasting in the UK and arguably, the world.

The American Modern Mechanix magazine of May 1935, described this as, England Will Broadcast First Chain Television Programs, to "Lookers".

BBC Studios A & B are the world's oldest surviving television studios.

YET in 2007, our People’s Palace was to be sold down the river by its very guardians – the Trustee – the London Borough of Haringey. The TV studios were to be destroyed with the connivance of the local council. Here is raw uncensored opinion and information about the scandal of the attempted fire-sale of our Charitable Trust’s asset, for property development. It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.

AFTER receiving a slap-down from the High Court (2007, October 5), two and a half years went by before the council finally abandoned its 15-year-old policy of "holistic" sale (i.e. lock stock and barrel). Then there was an attempt at partial sale ("up to two-thirds") to a music operator but without governance reform. To tart the place up for a developer, the council blithely sought about a million pounds towards this goal, a further sum of cash to be burnt.

THE local council has proved itself, to everyone's satisfaction, to have been a poor steward and guardian for over 20 years. Now, the master plan (below) developed under the new CEO Duncan Wilson OBE deserves to succeed.

It would be also be a big step forward to have a Trust Board at least partly independent of Haringey Council. 'Outside' experts would be an advantage. They'd likely be more interested, committed, of integrity and offer greater continuity. Bringing independent members onto the board and freeing it from political control would be the best assurance of success, sooner.


THE ULTIMATUM: Alexandra Palace Trustees and Firoka

IN the disposal of Alexandra Palace, the weakness in the Council’s position, vis a vis Firoka, is now fully revealed. The attempt at obtaining a firm commitment from the so-called ‘preferred development partner’ has fallen flat.

The levers of power must be satisfying to operate, even if little thought appears to lie behind their exercise. The young chairman of the Trust since May, seems to have relished his powers to evict members of the press and public from meetings of the Charity Trust Board.
Then in early December, the Trust proudly announced that they were serving notice on their preferred partner (!) from Alexandra Palace and, if that eviction wasn’t enough to demonstrate how tough was the Council’s new position, they also gave Firoka an ultimatum, reported in the press as:
“The time has come for Firoka to decide whether to move ahead in partnership with us as preferred development partner at the palace. If there is a will to progress, we are prepared, ready and willing to move forward.”
The only will demonstrated so far, has been a will to treat the Council-run Trust with contempt. The ultimatum expired on 28 December, without any apparent response from Firoka. The bluff by our Council - with their empty hand - has been called by professional players.

The Trustees do not admit publicly that they learnt anything from their defeat in the High Court, apart from learning the way ahead was now clarified (?!). But they probably did learn one thing: that the bluff of Firoka could be called - as it was called finally by the High Court judge - and Firoka does not necessarily walk away as they threatened.

In their earlier negotiations the Trust had buckled each time Firoka had threatened to walk. The custodians of our history, the Council, even agreed to the demolition of the world’s first television studios in their craven desire to appease commercial greed. The Council-Trustees should have called the bluff of Firoka a long time ago and pretended to Firoka that the Trustees were competent partners to be respected.

The recent attempt at a tough position came far too late and with its failure, the feeble position of our council is exposed still further.

Chamberlain’s speech to the House of Commons after the failure of his ultimatum to Hitler is well known, but do not expect any statement from the trustees along similar lines:
“Sir, that was a final Note. No such undertaking was received by the time stipulated and consequently this Trust is now at war with Firoka.”
Instead, expect an increasing bunker-mentality from the beleaguered Trust. Expect no public comment, but actions that signify the following statement:
“Ratepayers, that wasn’t actually a final request to commit (nobody really believed us, did they?). Although no undertaking was received by the time stipulated, the Trustees will continue to beg, bungle and grovel to Firoka to take Alexandra Palace away from us.

We now know we are rubbish negotiators, we don’t have any Plan B, and no exit strategy because we have burnt our bridges. We will get an awful deal on behalf of the Trust beneficiaries (the public).

We must appease Firoka before they turn on us and sue us for millions due to misleading them over the need for a public consultation. We (the Council Trustees) deliberately ignored the promise of a Government Minister and we may yet end up paying a far bigger price than merely the costs that were awarded against us in the High Court.

We have no choice but appeasement. You ratepayers will suffer, but hey, you’re going to suffer anyway!”
Having the local Council running a big asset disposal is like an anemic hemophiliac trying to get a good price for a blood-bank from a vampire.

31 Dcember 2007


• Council condoned casino?

Uncertainty over the Casino option for the Alexandra Palace Charitable Trust

THE Chairman of the AP Charitable Trust, Councillor Matt Cooke, has described the Casino shown in the plans of the Council’s favoured development partner, as merely an ‘option’. It might be helpful for the public if the status or likelihood of the Casino option could be clarified. Firoka’s casino option is I believe, the only casino currently proposed for Haringey.

A few factors give rise to concern. The Council has stated that they have not decided whether or not to have a ‘No-Casinos’ policy. This is shown on page 17 of the Council’s Statement of Gambling Policy.
There are currently no casinos operating within the borough. There is no resolution to prohibit casinos in the borough at present. The licensing authority is aware it has the power to do so under section 166 of the Gambling Act 2005. However the Council reserves the right to review this situation and may, at some time in the future, resolve not to permit casinos. Should the Council choose to make such a resolution, this will be a resolution of full Council.
Thus, the door is left open for the Council’s favoured business partner, Firoka, to have a Casino they want (Firoka were disappointed last year to be thwarted in getting casino permission in Oxford).

Firoka’s outline proposals show only a small casino in the basement, but if they eventually get approval for their casino, that operation would likely generate the most cash and the most profits within the Charitable Trust. The desire to expand from a small casino would be great, in the same way that there is great pressure for more gambling establishments in Green Lanes.

The Chairman of our Charitable Trust has previously discussed the casino option only in managerial terms: whether it is possible under current legislation (it is), rather than in terms of whether it is desirable. Not all of Cllr. Cooke’s colleagues are as indifferent as he appears to be, about gambling and its social effects.

Last year, the Charity’s long-time legal advisor, Trust Solicitor Mr Iain Harris, wrote to the Charity Commission
You have expressed concern that use as a small casino is not charitable. This is a very small part of the development proposal, certainly not something that is likely to happen for some time. Be that as it may, I would advance the proposition that casino use does fall within the objects of the Charity as a recreational activity
(letter to Mrs. V. Crandon,
Charity Commission, 7 July 2006, p.3)

Is Mr. Harris is writing on behalf of a Charitable Trust, on behalf of a property developer or both?

Some find it remarkable that the Council is currently sponsoring the first gambling license for Alexandra Palace. It is an application for a premises licence for permanent track betting. The application is in the name of Alexandra Palace Trading Ltd. (APTL). This is the council-owned and council-controlled trading company that runs day-to-day operations in our Charitable Trust. It appears this license is being sought on behalf of Firoka, whose first application – almost identical to the APTL one - was rejected because Firoka (wrongly) claimed the right to occupy the Palace.

It seems likely that when it comes to the licensing hearing, the committee Councillors will award the license to the company controlled by fellow Councillors. The public may see this as Council condoning and endorsing of gambling and be concerned that this will pave the way for wider gambling use in future in the seven acre Alexandra Palace building.

The Council is keen to keep their favoured business partner in discussions over the sale of Alexandra Palace, even though a High Court judge quashed the sale in October. Firoka at that stage may have contemplated suing the Trustees on the grounds that the Council mislead Firoka over the need for a public consultation. Firoka probably bit on their tongue because the deal they still want is monstrously lucrative for them, even more with a casino option.

Now the Council have (finally) evicted Firoka from the building, nine weeks after the High Court ruling, Firoka may feel let down by their ‘development partner’ and feel somewhat bruised. What could be offered to Firoka to keep them quiet and sweet?

Knowing how badly Firoka want a Casino in the Charitable Trust asset, is it possible that there is a private understanding that they will eventually get it, with quiet Council approval? This could be the one ultra-lucrative sweetener that keeps Firoka in the deal and prevents them from suing the Trustees for breach of contract and for misleading Firoka over the need to have a public Consultation.

The sale agreements for Alexandra Palace, which remain concealed from the public on the basis of ‘commercial confidentiality’, may contain clauses providing for Haringey’s first casino.

Notwithstanding the general commercial confidentiality agreement, is it possible for the Council to confirm - at least on this particular question - whether or not the sale documents refer to or allow for a casino in the Charitable Trust asset (Alexandra Palace)?

There has been too much secrecy and equivocation about this. An unambiguous statement is needed from the Council about the casino option so the public knows where it stands.


• Carry-on-bungling

IT'S CARRY ON bungling at Alexandra Place, with Council-appointed Trustees last week agreeing to evict the Council’s favoured business partner (Firoka) and in the same breath, begging him to stay (!). The public could be forgiven for being confused and it would all be hilarious but for the fact that the incompetence and mismanagement is being paid for by us and by cuts to services. The bungling tab is picked up by the Trustees = The Council = Taxpayers.

HARINGEY would have the public believe that the Firoka-eviction is the smooth execution of a coherent strategy to relieve ratepayers of a large burden. A spokesman for AP stated “it was a good time to end the agreement giving both parties an opportunity to reflect on the outcome of the judicial review” (they’ve had about nine weeks to consider on the judge’s damning remarks). The Chairman said of the U-turn “… it is right and proper that we now look to bring our own trading company back on-line …”

The truth is different. Firoka’s occupation - approved by the Trustees - was brought to the attention of both the Attorney General and of the District Auditor. The Trustees knew that the slipshod situation they had engineered would not pass muster. We shall watch with interest to make sure they really do leave and that this is not just another Haringey-sham.

Firoka leaves the Palace having trousered money from all the events held there since May. This could be a seven figure sum. We do not yet know how much of this money is owed to our Trust and how much, if any, has been passed to our Trust. We do know that Firoka has not paid for the Lease since they assumed the management of the building in May; the Lease was quashed by order of the High Court of Justice on 5 October 2007. Haringey let the occupation slide on for a further nine weeks.

Did the oft-quoted short-term licence agreement “dated” May 2007 really exist? Does the public get to see a copy of the 28 day notice to leave? When did the notice start? It is besides the point that Firoka may have paid some running costs during the time of their occupation. Did they pay rent? Goodwill? A Premium? Who pays for Insurance? Repairs? Maintenance? Is the taxpayer to wear all this? When will the Trustees take responsibility for this bungling?

Firoka’s boss at the Palace, Shaun Ormrod leaves behind a bruised and demoralized workforce, what is left of it. Ormrod expected to stay in charge and the staff were unhappy with the management style. They were encouraged to resign, which avoids eligibility for redundancy payments. It is surprisingly that a Labour Council allowed its workers to be treated so shabbily.

Firoka should not have been allowed in the palace in the first place. The incompetent Trustees, some of whom do not know what is going on, agreed to a late change in the Lease by Firoka, that would allow Firoka to occupy the Palace just one month after the Charity Commission sealed the sale Order. Normally the period would be three months, allowing sufficient time for any Judicial Review to manifest itself.

How many folk selling their property would allow possession before completion? In effect, this is what the Trustees agreed to.

The Trustees and their legal advisor, if they thought about it at all, were presumably gambling that no legal challenge would come. It came, they lost, costs were awarded against them. It seems that negligence was involved at some point and it is a pity that the Trustees never take personal responsibility for their decisions, otherwise they might take them more seriously.

The Trust chairman said
“The time has come for Firoka to decide whether to move ahead in partnership with us as preferred development partner at the Palace. If there is a will to progress, we are prepared, ready and willing to move forward.”
The time has come for the Trustees to decide whether or not to persist with the biggest rip-off of public assets in Borough history, or to hand over the reigns to those who have the interests of the people at heart.

The Chairman has spoken of his love for the Palace: so much love that he can’t wait to get rid of it! His love for the Palace might be compared with the love of a mother giving up her baby for adoption to a known pedophile! (see: Firoka and Oxford City Council)

The Council believes their problems over AP will end as soon as they get rid of the Palace. But when new problems arise, the public would still look to the Council as Trustee to solve them. Except the Council would be in a hugely weaker position to do anything about it, having sold the building.

Eviction of Firoka does not end the troubled stewardship at Alexandra Palace. The only thing that will end the agonies over AP will be a change in Trustees, away from the dead hand of an incompetent Council.

[letter sent 17 December 2007]


Original TV Studios vs. travesty of the TV ‘museum’

IN his letter published last month about the future of Alexandra Palace, the Chair of the Charitable Trust claimed, amongst other things:
“We are dedicated to ensuring that the main recreation goals of the project – namely: …, retention of the Willis organ and the television museum – are delivered.”
It is misleading to imply, as the Chairman did, that any television museum is being retained. No television museum exists. The real TV studios would either be demolished and/or used for other purposes – on the architect’s plans they are labeled as offices. No part of the so-called ‘museum’ would be in the famous studios. Since the Alexandra Palace Lease and related documents are still secret, what is meant by a television ‘museum’ we can only guess at. All we have to go on are Firoka’s architect’s concept sketches, see this web-page,

plus, that small part of the secret Project Agreement revealed in the High Court (in the case that quashed Haringey’s first attempt to ram through this shady deal). From Firoka’s plans, we see the studios are gone. As substitute for the world’s first television studios, off to one side, we see a square room of about 10% of the size of the real studios. Space for a mock-museum is given as a sop and if it ever got off the ground, it would in all likelihood be a short-lived affair.

Correspondence forced into the public domain via the High Court, includes a letter dated 13 February 2007 from the AP Trust’s Solicitor to the Charity Commission. This was more than five weeks after the end of the public consultation on the Lease. “This proposal [for ‘museum’ space] and the concept drawings has been incorporated into the agreed documentation.” Clause 9 (The Museum) of the still largely secret Project Agreement shows:

9 The Museum [this is a sop, fake, fiction and a travesty]

9.1 Having regard to the historic importance of the Premises as the first and former sole television broadcasting centre in England, the parties intend to allow the Museum Operator the opportunity of taking up an underlease of the premises … to accommodate a broadcasting museum and working recording studio (“The Museum”). The following provisions of this clause 9 are to apply accordingly as to the terms of the underlease and the premises to be available to the Museum Operator. [the TV broadcasting centre was not only first in England, but first in World. How generous of the parties to rent a room to a museum ‘Operator’ after destroying the original studios, currently owned by a charitable trust for the public in perpetuity]

9.2 The Landlord shall notify the Tenant of the identity of the Museum Operator as soon as reasonably practicable and in any event prior to completion of the underlease referred to in clause 9.1. [could lead to a rush to find any Operator]

9.3 The accommodation for the Museum is not to exceed 558 m2 [where does this precise figure come from? The area limit: (a) guarantees that any museum cannot later move to occupy the real studios, which are many times this size; (b) ensures any Museum cannot expand; (c) stipulates only a maximum area, (no minimum), and (d) suggests that the present place on the plans is not permanent.]
9.4 The Tenant shall provide the accommodation … to a specification agreed with the Museum Operator … [This is the strongest right enjoyed by the M.O. but Firoka is still in the driving seat.]

9.5 The underlease is to be offered for a term of not less than 15 years nor more than 20 years. [why 20 years? Will any TV museum be irrelevant after 20 years? Most retail leases are for 25 years. Does it perhaps mean that Firoka needs 20 years to amortize capital gains taxes? And then they want to be able to sell the whole building, without the ‘museum’? The 20 year maximum guarantees that Firoka will not have to tolerate any museum presence indefinitely.]

9.6 The rent of the premises is to be a market rent … exclusive of outgoings, service charges and insurance contributions … subject to rent reviews of a frequency according with current market conditions at the time of grant of the under lease. [any Museum would be set up to fail. These terms are intended to be so unattractive as to put off most would-be Operators right away. Yes, we are talking about what is now a Charitable Trust, the beneficiaries of which are all of us. As the real studios are demolished, Firoka will quietly wait while no Operator materializes. Until three years is up (see below). After then, even the sham Museum goes].

9.7 The underlease is to be on an interior repairing basis but subject to a pro-rated contribution to the cost of repairs maintenance and upkeep of the Premises (not comprised in an [sic] lettable area of the Premises) and recoverable by the Tenant by way of comprehensive service charge. [Firoka has in reserve all the power it needs to squeeze out any M.O. foolish enough to take on the underlease]

9.8 The underlease is otherwise to contain such other terms as are consistent in all material respects with the approved form of underlease referred to in clause of the Lease. [this clause, like most clauses in the Project Agreement, is still concealed from the public, so we do not know the approved form of underlease. Presumably it will contain standard terms relating to a commercial enterprise]

9.11 If no agreement has been reached with the Museum Operator within three years after the date of this Agreement, the Tenant having endeavored in earnest to do so, the Tenant will then be released from the obligations under this clause 9 which are to lapse accordingly. [Who will judge whether Firoka has tried to reach an agreement with a M.O in earnest? By setting impossible conditions, the whole notion of a Television Museum would probably not get off the ground. Firoka does not want it there because it is inconsistent with maximizing their profit potential.]

The Trust Solicitor presents this one-sided deal as evidence of how generous are the provisions for a TV museum. After reporting the failures of the Trustees to secure funding in the past, the concluding comment by the Solicitor to the Charity Commission is that

“In these circumstances it is quite impossible for the Lease to contain any covenant specifying the nature and type of museum or to ensure that it will have the resources necessary for its running costs.”

With these words and by setting strictly commercial criteria, the Alexandra Palace Trust Solicitor seeks to set in motion a sequence of events that step by step, will drive out anything tangible from the historic site.

Any possible Museum is tolerated by the grudging permission of Firoka who will hold several levers to force out the unwanted underlessee after an interval. The intention of the limited time, limited space and especially the reviewable market rent, is to give every chance for any Museum Operator to fail and fail fast. Firoka want their unloved Museum Operator-underlessee out, not immediately and not publicly but nonetheless out.

Our Council has gone along with all of this.

If, in the highly unlikely event – in spite of all the obstacles – of the Museum ‘Operator’ being a commercial success, then the backstop from Firoka’s point of view is that the underlease is for a maximum of 20 years (after which time, the Museum Operator would presumably be forced out anyway). This is possibly the timescale that Firoka are contemplating after which they want to be able to sell-on the entire building, once their capital gains taxes are amortized. Is this the best deal that our Council could achieve?

Hot-dog Concession or future UN World Heritage site?
It is bad enough for Haringey willingly to agree to the demolition of the BBC studios A and B, the world’s first. But even the ‘Operator’ of their token-gesture museum would be dealt with by Firoka on the same basis as the owner of a long-term hot-dog concession. At the end of this Council-approved process, to which they turn a blind eye, will be a ‘Heritage Facility’ which could be no more than a display board. Do we want a Haringey Heritage Facility or do we want restored historic studios?

Britain led the world in 1936 with the pioneer work that is such an influence in the lives of billions of people. To mark where it all began, if we are lucky, Firoka might permit us to have that display board in a corner, once any Museum Operator fails as it has surely been set up to do. Is this good enough?

Neither Firoka nor the Council have any genuine interest in history or preserving something truly valuable for the enjoyment of future generations.

The present Trustees …
“accept … that the TV studios are part of the national heritage. However the Trustees are without funds.”
If the Trust/Council had wisely spent the £100m of our money they used up, and had managed it well, the whole place including the studios would have been a gleaming, thriving facility for many years now and attracting tourists from around the world.

That the present Trustees have chronically failed to organize a solution for a site of such huge potential, is more a reflection on their imagination and competence rather than any inherent difficulty, apart from the conflicts of interest inherent with political appointments.

Simply because the present Council trustees have failed to find a workable solution does not mean that no trustees could find a solution. The present situation is untenable. Do we want political hacks as trustees or high-calibre experts with a genuine interest in AP? We don’t need a new Trust but we certainly need new Trustees.

The current trustees have always been compromised by the conflicting roles of their duties as Trustees to the Charity and their duties as Councillors to the Council. They love the Palace so much they cannot wait to wash their hands of it. The Save Ally campaign does not want to hand this immensely valuable facility on a plate to a developer but put it in the hands of Trustees who will preserve the studios and develop the place with enthusiasm for the benefit of all the public.


The pride of Haringey

WHILST walking around in any street in Haringey on any day, one may catch sight of a familiar symbol on the side of vehicles, on the odd sign tied to a lamp post, even appearing on a flag flying from the town hall; yes it is the most famous sign in Haringey, you’ve got it, it is Haringey Council’s own logo.

The logo was taken from Haringey’s coat of arms created in 1965 when Haringey was formed. The emblem symbolizes the London Borough and Haringey has displayed it with pride. It’s on signs, buildings, vehicles, documents, letterheads and every page of the Council’s web-site.

Yet how many know the origin of this symbol? Haringey Council doesn’t care to remind people of its background and they would probably rather people forgot if they ever knew. There is a certain irony about the kind of web-site it took to reveal the history behind the symbol which stands for the Borough. On a Casino web-site
(, there is a piece about our history:
The Haringey Symbol is based on a device in the Borough Arms. It is a stylised electric flash representing the first television transmission in Britain from Alexandra Palace
At some point in the Council’s past there was obvious and justified pride in this. Alexandra Palace is the highest place in the Borough above sea level, it is the most important building in the Borough and it is the Bletchley Park of London. It’s fame as the birthplace of television is known around the world. The world’s first television transmission came unsurprisingly, from the world’s first television mast (still standing) alongside the world’s first television studios, at Alexandra Palace.

“This is direct television from Alexandra Palace” were the first, simple yet immortal words spoken by Elizabeth Cowell on 2 November 1936 at the beginning of the first public television broadcast in world history. It happened at Alexandra Palace, Haringey, and fittingly this was celebrated in the symbol used throughout the Borough. The radiating zig-zags represents the transmission signal.

But one of the most important events in the history of Haringey – arguably of the world – is being forgotten. The pride in being home to the birthplace of one of the greatest engineering and technical achievements of last century is quietly being cast aside. Haringey want to get rid of the building to a favoured business partner for a reported £1.5 million pounds: a sum they have already spent in sale costs.

But Haringey Council has lost its former pride to such an extent that it has now agreed to the destruction of these television studios by Firoka, their favoured developer of Alexandra Palace. The story of the sale being attempted can also be seen online at
saveallypally. The Council are still trying to flog the Borough’s most important and most historic building, for property development.

The world-famous studios A and B, just to the west of the BBC Tower, are still there. Waiting, either to be demolished by Haringey or to be declared a UN World Heritage site. The public are barred from entry on the pretext that the studios are riddled with asbestos (it was completely removed 10 years ago). Early television exhibits continue to be concealed from the public by Haringey Council. Today’s Council no longer speaks proudly of the television studios as first in the world, but refers to them as the ‘old’ studios or the ‘disused’ studios. Such has been the decline in self-respect.

Because the Council made such a mess of managing the Palace, the studios will be sacrificed in an effort to flush down the drain the evidence of Council incompetence. The ultimate price for the loss of control of rebuilding costs, after the 1980 fire, is to be paid by the Studios and to the cost of history and future generations. is another casino web-site that has a section on the Borough of Haringey. This source of interest in Haringey is surprising given that the Borough possesses no casinos – yet. Do they know something we don’t? See here.

It is fitting that I learnt about the history of the Borough’s symbol from on-line casino sites. Haringey’s favoured business partner, Firoka, is keen on having a casino in Haringey, having been thwarted last year in getting a casino in Oxford. Firoka’s boss spends much of the year in Monte Carlo, famous for its casino.

While the Council is still trying to win public approval for the sale, Haringey decline permission for that casino. But Haringey Council are nonetheless now assisting with Firoka’s first gambling licence at Alexandra Palace – they even offered to put the Application in the name of
Alexandra Palace Trading Ltd, a Council-owned company. Haringey are currently asking themselves for a permanent gambling licence on behalf of their favoured business partner.

Are croupiers to be the glamourous new role models for Haringey’s youth, rather than boring old electrical engineers? If the Council is prepared to see demolished the history on which their corporate identity is based, why not be honest and get rid of the logo too? A vestige of such a leap forward in technology would be an anomaly after the Council allows the demolition of the world’s first TV studios.

After 40 years with the old logo, earlier this year Haringey decided to spend thousands of pounds of tax money in giving it a tweak. In March 2007, perhaps to disguise the now-embarrassing origins, the Council arranged for the logo to be tilted and coloured orange and green to become the current edition (once described as a squashed spider). Instead of symbolizing knowledge radiating out equally in all directions, the revised signal is twisted, contorted. The same signal is being slowly crushed, struggling to escape from a box of darkness (the Council of course prefers modern metaphors rather than allusion to what they see as ancient history).

But to truly break with the past, maybe Haringey should bring it more into line with the modern era and today’s new values and update it significantly. In order honestly to reflect the new priorities, perhaps the Borough’s symbol needs to reflect the likely change of use. It would represent not the world’s first TV broadcast in Haringey, but the future: the first casino in Haringey. Why not change the Council logo to a stylized roulette wheel?

[letter of 11 December 2007, unpublished by local newspapers. Was it unpublished through fear of offending Haringey Council?]


Haringey Council’s free magazine: I apologise and take back all my criticism (!?)

Haringey People magazine and its coverage of the High Court of Justice decision that led to costs awarded against the Council.

I take back my criticism of Haringey People as a journal of Council propaganda. Some people thought that Haringey tries to suppress news that does not reflect well on them. So you can imagine my surprise at the extent of coverage of one particular story in the latest Haringey People issue (p.16, December 2007), which confounds Council critics.

Everyone can now read the full story about the Council defeat in the High Court of Justice over Alexandra Palace on 5 October 2007. Devoting a double-page spread (‘Highlights of 2007’) to the Council’s reversal was more than fair: it is a credit to the dedicated investigative journalists on the People staff.

The article also went into detail about the punishment meted out: both how and why the Council came to have costs awarded against them, by a judge who was highly critical of their conduct. It all proves that the editors of Haringey People are making a strong effort to be open, objective and impartial.

“AUTHORS OF THEIR OWN MISFORTUNE” was the banner headline, quoting the judge’s words about the Trustees (i.e. the Council). This is proof positive that Haringey People gives space to viewpoints that differ from those of the majority group.

Haringey People – paid for out of general taxation – can now show it is not simply a mouthpiece for the majority group and the centre-fold spread is the proof. This big article gives the lie to any suggestion that the publication is just a means for the ruling party to communicate with its supporters and is little more than a misuse of public funds.

(Was this change of heart possibly helped by public relations firm Lexington Communications, in a move to make a clean breast of what had gone on before?) Although there was copious coverage in Haringey People, if anyone is interested in reading just a little more information, please visit this web-site for the Court Decision.

In the same spirit of openness, I wonder if the next issue of Haringey People will carry out a thorough investigation into the accounts at Alexandra Palace and of the ‘sale’ itself?

Can I suggest an in-depth, follow-up interview with Firoka boss Shaun Ormrod at the Palace? Shaun leads the Firoka team who were let into the Palace by the Trustees (and without payment), just four weeks after the Charity Commission sealed the Order allowing the sale. The same Order later quashed in the High Court. The public might be interested to know why Mr. Ormrod may now be given notice to vacate and why?

I’m sure Shaun would be delighted to have an opportunity to speak frankly and on the record. Has the Charitable Trust received any money for the sale of the building or any money from the events at Alexandra Palace that have taken place in the last six months? That might total millions of pounds that might be better in Council coffers.


ON A RELATED point, I was delighted to see that the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Alexandra Palace has promised that the public will never again be excluded from Board meetings. He has even apologized for the exclusion of the press and public from previous Charitable Trust Board meetings, “after all, they are the beneficiaries of the Trust, our decisions affect them and they need to feel a part of the Board’s decisions. We now believe in inclusiveness and community involvement. There has been too much secrecy in the past”.

The newly appointed young chairman is showing a welcome independent line, demonstrating that he is keen to make a clean break with the past and set a new open agenda. This change of heart is overdue – the public have always been beneficiaries of the Charitable Trust.

Next the public might even be given copies of the secret documents about the sale of Alexandra Palace to a favoured business partner for a reported £1.5 million.

Haringey People is worth every penny of its cover price.


• The long term risk to Alexandra Park, by selling the Palace

THE Council is sensitive to suggestions that the deal to sell the Alexandra Palace building would place Alexandra Park in jeopardy. But the long term future of the park – as it exists today – is in doubt as a direct result of the current deal to flog the building and the agreed change in park funding.
  1. In an effort to sweeten the deal to the greatest possible extent for the buyer – Firoka (Alexandra Park) Ltd.) – Haringey Council agreed to take over the running costs of park security, park upkeep and the costs of maintaining the road.

  2. This currently amounts to £740,000 per annum and is a cost that will rise in the years ahead. It is also a cost that the Council should have been bearing all along and not a burden on the Trust’s accounts. In the past, the Council has treated their wholly-owned company Alexandra Palace Trading Ltd. (APTL) as a cash cow. But now they intend to sell the cash cow for just £1.5 million. Yes, that’s for the whole Palace building with 125 year lease. Equivalent to £12 k per annum.

  3. The three quarter million pound AP park cost is an entirely new and additional charge on the Parks Service budget. How will this extra regular recurring expenditure be funded? The cost was previously met entirely out of the modestly profitable operations of the APTL. Where will all this money come from now?

  4. At 196 acres, Alexandra Park is the largest park in Haringey, much bigger than most, with many fine features that are the envy of the rest of the Borough. Some eastern councilors may wonder why Muswell Hill should enjoy such a good recreational facility and begin to question whether it should be now be funded from general taxation (as it should have been all along).

  5. Some members of Haringey Council’s Majority Group despise Muswell Hill. I live in a different part of our Borough but the loathing towards Muswell Hill residents is not hard to detect; many of these residents have heard it with their own ears. If senior Majority Group councilors are prepared to say rude and insulting things about Muswell Hill in public, the public can only wonder what they say in private. It is not hard to conclude that the Council is likely to regard this park as too big and too good for Muswell Hill and too expensive for the Council to fund in the long run.

  6. If the shady deal goes ahead, in a few year’s time our Council is likely to make the same misleading claims about the park as they’ve made about the building: claiming that it’s a loss to the Council, a disproportionate drain on council finances and a burden on the ratepayers. Both claims are false. Perhaps the Parks Service mobile Hygiene Team need to visit the Council’s accounts department. For an independent accountant’s analysis of the Trust’s accounts.

  7. Those Muswell Hill residents who are indifferent to today’s sale of the building (including the destruction of the world’s first television studios) may in a few years time, wake up one morning to learn of council proposals to start pruning either costs or land or both, from the park itself. Maintenance will be the first thing to suffer as those changes are not noticed quickly. These pressures might originate due to Council budgetary constraint or pressure from their lease-holder, Firoka.

  8. Even if the Council is delighted to continue to fund this big new expense indefinitely, Firoka will probably put pressure on the AP Trust or Council for more control over the Park (golf? roads? parking?). Firoka currently have the Council over a barrel over the entire sale process: the Council prematurely let Firoka bosses occupy the building without receiving any payment. All income from events goes to Firoka. Firoka bosses wasted no time extending their grasp throughout the park. The Farmers Market is already is already under pressure to move elsewhere so as to tidy up the entrance. Firoka’s reputation and record with ex-Council land is easy enough for anyone to research: just put the relevant key words into Google with ‘Oxford’, ‘City Council’ and ‘Football Club’. Recently, the leader of Oxford City Council, said:
The saga of Oxford City Council and the Kassam Stadium deal rumbles on, more than seven years after the event (Oxford Mail, October 19).

I am glad that the information is, at last, in the public domain. I believe it is right that the documents should be available for people wishing to investigate this episode in the council's history. As leader of the council, I don't have the power to turn the clock back or to revisit this sort of decision ...

But what I can do and am determined to do is to be assured that, if a poor deal was struck in the past, the same sort of thing could not happen again.

I have asked our officers to make certain that checks are now in place to ensure that the council gets value for money and is seen to get value from any property deal.

The officers now are well aware of the need to show to all the world - both the regulatory authorities and the public - that a deal is in the best interests of the council and the city.

This council has moved on a long way since the Kassam deal was done.
John Goddard, Leader Oxford City Council
The Oxford Mail, 26 October 2007

Will Haringey learn? No one can say they were not warned. It is difficult to see how this secret deal makes financial sense to anyone except Firoka. Whatever the outcome, that company is likely to walk away with millions. Even if the sale falls through, Firoka may yet cry all the way to the bank after a successful lawsuit against our Keystone Cop Council and their lamentable legal team.


• Power-play, poker and permissions at the Palace

I WAS GLAD to see the Member of Parliament for Tottenham, David Lammy, publicly endorse a recent refusal of an application for a betting licence:
The decision by Haringey Council to refuse a licence for yet another betting shop on Green Lanes should be applauded …

… This is something I will support in our community and will fight to keep this on the political agenda in Parliament.
David Lammy MP
Letters, various local papers, 20 November

I hope the MP would agree that there are more than enough betting facilities in Haringey. I further hope that Mr Lammy, as a former Minister of Culture, might oppose another betting licence application in Haringey, this time in our Borough’s most important building, Alexandra Palace.

This latest application might be the thin end of a thick wedge (of cash) that culminates in a few years time in Haringey’s first casino. This current application (just for track betting) is made in the name of ‘Alexandra Palace Trading Limited’ (APTL).

APTL is a secretive company controlled by none other than Haringey Council itself. The sole shareholder of APTL is the AP Trust Board. Both Boards comprise Haringey Councillors and all Councillors on the APTL Board are on the main Trust Board. APTL is therefore absolutely under the control of the Majority Group of the Council.

(What’s the betting that the Haringey Licensing Authority will find in APTL, a most trustworthy applicant of utmost integrity to whom they have no hesitation in awarding a gambling licence?!)

I hope that Mr. Lammy will hold firm to his principles and not be deflected by the fact that, with this new gambling licence application, Haringey Council is in effect, applying to itself for permission (a conflict of interest?).

What might further complicate this matter for the Member of Parliament, is that Haringey would be granting a licence to themselves in order to help out a private business with which they have become enmeshed. The need for APTL to help out their crony, arose because of what appears to be a need to circumvent Section 342 of the Gambling Act (see below) in connection with an earlier application made by the private company. Unofficially, APTL is applying on behalf of Firoka (Alexandra Palace) Ltd. whose original gambling application was turned down because it contained two fascinating claims:

In Firoka’s original application of 9 November 2007, they (a) confirmed that they had the right to occupy the premises and (b) applied for a permanent gambling licence.

There is no doubt that Firoka do occupy the premises and the claim for permanency may not at first sound remarkable.

But on 5 October 2007 – less than five weeks earlier – a Judicial Review had quashed the Order to sell Alexandra Palace to Firoka. Haringey’s behaviour leading up to that sale had been such that the High Court awarded costs against Haringey. The Judge said that the Trustees (i.e. Haringey) were “the authors of their own misfortune”. No one should hold their breath waiting for Haringey to explain that away!

The Chief Executive of Haringey Council, Dr. Ita O’Donovan, recently confirmed that Firoka Management “was given a very short term licence to trade at the Palace” but she has declined to give further details. Firoka’s managers have been handed both the income and management of Alexandra Palace, in exchange for – nothing. At least, nothing that the public knows about.

According to the gambling licence application form “… it is an offence under section 342 of the Gambling Act 2005 to give information which is false or misleading in, or in relation to, this application”. Again, no one should hold their breath waiting for Haringey to take action over the statements of their business partner.

I sincerely hope Mr. Lammy will not turn a blind eye to the continuing irregularities at the Palace. Three things seem certain:

1. Firoka are keen to have a Casino at Alexandra Palace. A casino would be generate much cash and profits for the Firoka company. Last year, Firoka tried to get a Super Casino in Oxford but were frustrated. A casino is clearly shown on Firoka’s architects’ plans for Alexandra Palace.

Firoka are insisting on total control over the entire building with what is euphemistically called a ‘Holistic Lease’. Firoka have repeatedly threatened to walk away from this shady deal unless they get everything they want. Haringey have suggested in the past that he will not be allowed his casino, but Mr. Kassam has a reputation of getting what he wants and he is a past-master at dealing with local authorities of variable competence.

2. Haringey are keen to sell Alexandra Palace to Firoka. Haringey have bent over backwards and forwards to accommodate their favoured partner. They are so keen to give Firoka everything they want, they have agreed to sell AP for a reported figure of only £1.5 million. But if one deducts the sale costs – by 2006, £1.2 million – from the sale proceeds, the Council will have received nothing. But it is worse than that for ratepayers: as part of the deal, the Council will incur new, extra, regular costs which are the annual upkeep of the park and road: now running at £740k/year and rising, costs previously met by the profitable Trust). The lengths to which Haringey are prepared to go to please Firoka, can be gauged by the fact that our local Council has even agreed to the destruction of the world’s first television studios, a potential UN World Heritage site.

3. Most of the deal remains secret. All the sale documents, including the Lease and Master Agreement were deliberately concealed by Haringey from the public during the Consultation. That was heavily criticized by the High Court. Even now, those documents are available only in severely redacted form. But the top-secret Project Agreement has never been available to the public, even in redacted form. The key finding of the High Court, was that Haringey had no business entering into any confidential deals in the first place over the AP sale, which contradicted the promise of a Minister in Parliament. Some of the concerns raised here may be groundless, but unless all sale documents are published un-redacted, we will never know. Haringey’s PR statements and politician-assurances have negligible legal value: only what is contained in the contractual agreements is legally enforceable.

Conclusion: For public consumption, Haringey claims there will not be a Casino at AP. Before the sale of our Charitable Trust’s asset, they will probably repeat this. But how can we know there does not exist a “gentleman’s” agreement or a clause in the secret contract providing for a casino in the future? A couple of years after a sale, and after Firoka threatens to pull out for the umpteenth time, they might then be granted the full gambling facilities they are keen on.

Even with the arrangements over the current APTL application (for permanent track-betting) we see how eager the Council is to help their favoured partner. A private or secret arrangement about the Casino could be the one sweetener that prevents Firoka from walking away.

By turning a blind eye to the occupation of AP by a private company, probably after the expiry of their licence to trade, Haringey thumb their nose at the High Court decision. The whole process relating to this sale shows that Haringey Council believe they are beyond the law.

I hope David Lammy MP might read the evidence and the Judgment from the totemic High Court case, together with further information about the continuing scandal at Ally Pally, all of which is freely available at


• Alexandra Palace: Gambling back on the Agenda

THE latest news from Alexandra Palace is that there is an Application in with the Council for a premises licence under the Gambling Act 2005. It happens to be for a permanent track betting licence. But it is more evidence of the determination of Haringey Council’s favoured development partner (Firoka) to bring gambling of one kind or another into the Alexandra Palace Trust – a registered Charity – with Council connivance.

The first Application for this gambling licence was made by Firoka (Alexandra Palace) Ltd. on 9 November 2007 for Track Betting and the licence would cover betting services provided for the World Darts Championship and other sporting events held at the hall at the Premises.

It is questionable as to whether Firoka should be in Alexandra Palace (AP) at all – and more questionable after the AP sale Order was quashed by the High Court. But, less than five weeks after the High Court quashed the sale of AP to Firoka, that same company applied for a permanent track betting licence at AP. On their original application form, they confirmed that they (Firoka the applicant) had the right to occupy the premises.

This was a little too rich, even for Haringey Council. Haringey’s Chief Executive confirmed recently that Firoka Management
“was given a very short term licence to trade at the Palace”
although what is meant by very short term, we do not know.

The secretive Alexandra Palace Trading Ltd. (APTL) is a company wholly owned by the Trust. And so Firoka’s cronies in APTL are now applying in that name for a licence which will doubtless be used by Firoka. APTL is now a shell, having prematurely handed over to Firoka both management and the income from the Palace, in return for – nothing. Is this not another example of the inherent conflict of interest in having a Charitable Trust board comprised of political appointees who implement Council policy?

The gambling Application makes a mockery of the licensing process. The puppet company of a puppet board of the ruling party, seeks permission to have permanent gambling in the principal asset of a Charitable Trust, whose beneficiaries are all of us. In effect, the Council is asking itself for permission.

Can this be regarded as good governance, an arms-length transaction or free from conflict of interest? Does anyone imagine that the public consultation about APTL-Firoka’s gambling licence will be any more sincere or effective than the public Consultation over the sale of the entire building? The so-called Consultation about the sale was condemned by the High Court as being fatally flawed, it was quashed and costs were awarded against the Council. The Council put much pressure on the Charity Commission to ensure that public consultation was limited, unfair and uninformed.

If there are submissions from the public about the gambling Application, what is the betting (off-track of course) that any objections will be ruled vexatious? Objections will be ignored because it is almost a forgone conclusion that Haringey will award itself a licence. Does anyone doubt that this is an incestuous relationship and that Haringey will award itself this licence? I’m sure that APTC and the Council are all in the same team; let us wait and see how independent is Haringey’s ‘Licensing Team’.

The intention of Haringey’s partner (Firoka) is to demolish the world’s first television studios and we are expected to be reassured on that score because it would need a Planning Application that requires approval by Haringey’s Planning committee. Does anyone believe Haringey will not give their favoured development partner all the approvals they demand?

Haringey continues to try to force through the sale, most aspects of which remain shrouded in obsessive secrecy. Is the gambling licence application another example of the corruption of normal processes that we now expect from this Council over AP?

How many more irregularities before the Charity Commission steps in to remove the current incompetent Trustees and replaces them with committed, independent Trustees of integrity?

GAMBLING: Firoka and the Casino
THE other manifestation of Firoka’s strong desire for gambling at AP is the Casino. The chairman of the Trust board has claimed that it was a myth that a Casino was ever a part of Firoka’s proposals. (Firoka certainly wants a Casino, although a Super casino now appears less likely.) A Casino – later described by Cllr. Cooke merely as an ‘option’ – is clearly shown on Firoka’s architects plans in the AP basement.

Cllr. Cooke said “One thing that needs to be highlighted is that since the implementation of the Gambling Act, the casino is no longer a realistic option.” Another thing that needs to be highlighted is that Cllr. Cooke sees the Casino option solely in terms of whether or not it is able to proceed under an Act of Parliament.

Is Cllr. Cooke relieved or disappointed on behalf of Haringey’s favoured partner, that the Gambling Act makes Firoka’s casino no longer a realistic option? Is he relieved because of the potential embarrassment or disappointed that Gordon Brown has stopped further Super Casinos? Would he prefer that the casino was a realistic option? Prostitution might fit with the casino and a hotel but there’s probably an Act of Parliament implemented that means that that too was not “a realistic option.” Money laundering, drug dealing and organized crime might also fit well with the Casino.

A small scale casino is allowed under current legislation so some sort of casino is a real possibility. On the gambling licence application form, it is just another checkbox: Casinos come in three sizes: Regional, Large or Small. Which size is favoured by our Charitable Trust?

Does the Chairman see casinos as desirable in Muswell Hill or anywhere else in Haringey? Does he believe that Firoka’s desired Casino – and all that would go with it – would not promote social problems? Those seems to be the prior questions. Politicians sometimes show moral courage and leadership. It’s troubling that gambling is seen only in managerial terms rather than in any moral context, the more so from the representative of a party that prides itself on looking after the more vulnerable in society.

Although Councillor Cooke has claimed to represent the position of the SaveAllyPally group, he is careful to avoid mentioning its principal address which has copies of the evidence from the High Court case that he wants to avoid publicizing. Why did his Council have costs awarded against them in the High Court over AP? That web site also contains the goals of the campaign and much additional information.

Haringey Council has prostituted itself over the sale of Alexandra Palace, but they are not a very business-like prostitute – the reported sale price of £1.5 million will pay for just 24 months’ worth of regular additional costs they have agreed to take over (the park and road upkeep), before the extra costs become a burden on Haringey’s long-suffering ratepayers. After spending £100 million on AP over the years, it doesn’t seem like a good deal to flog it for just £1.5 million.

Sent to local newspapers on
20 November 2007


• LBH unable to distinguish truth from falsehood

THERE is an old Turkish proverb which holds that, no matter how far you’ve gone down a road having taken the wrong turning, go back. Haringey Council has yet to demonstrate they understand this.

A total of 328 people wrote to the Charity Commission during their ‘Consultation’ over granting of a 125-year Lease of Alexandra Palace last December. I was one of the smaller number of 324 who wrote expressing concern and who were ignored.

Haringey Council is determined to turn a blind eye to the destruction of the world’s first TV studios and site of the first TV broadcasting - and was seeking to cover it up. They gambled that no one would be brave enough to take them on and they lost.

The High Court of Justice recently ruled that the Consultation (about Haringey’s shady deal) was unfair and fatally-flawed. The Palace’s Trustees had tried to bulldoze it through. After the damning double defeat by the Judicial Review, many questions are now raised about our Council that manipulates the AP Trust Board.

The Judge was so cross with the Trustees and their behaviour that he awarded costs against them (he said that the Trustees were “the authors of their own misfortune”). Unless the Board Chairman is found personally liable, this cash will come out of the hide of us ratepayers along with all the other money Haringey have wasted along the way.

Will anyone take responsibility for this debacle? Was there no one on the Board who saw this coming? The Chairman of the Alexandra Palace Trust Board will need to consider his position. The quality of advice received by the AP Trust Board from the Board’s Solicitor has to be called into question. The Trustees were prepared to - and did – bully the Charity Commission and drag the Commission’s name into the mud. The quality of advice and the behaviour of Haringey’s in-house legal advisors might also be questioned.

Does Councillor Cooke feel so wronged by the High Court decision that he will Appeal it? The puppet Trust may even have left themselves open to legal action from their preferred developer, Firoka, on the grounds that Firoka was mislead by the AP Trust over the requirement to make the Lease public.

The current Board Chairman, Councillor M. Cooke, was not responsible for the original misconceived policies of the Board. The previous boss Charles Adje vacated the hot-seat in the nick of time, earlier this year. But when Cllr. Cooke accepted the poison-chalice promotion, he continued the same misguided policies with real zeal.

Cooke set about a personal attack of questionable truthfulness on a private citizen (Jacob O’Callaghan) who had the temerity to ask inconvenient questions about AP. (What drives an elected politician to behave like this towards an honest historian?). But that resident was not cowed and was still confident enough to initiate a Judicial Review. And he now has the satisfaction of having a High Court Judge rule in his favour and see issued a stinging judgment against the Charity Commission. But can we now trust the very ‘Interested Party’, Cooke’s Trust?

Cllr. Cooke’s bulldozer, fuelled with high-octane hubris, has hit the steel wall of the law. Cooke had earlier accused O’Callaghan of being incorrect, misleading and wrong and had asserted that a copy of the AP Lease was on the resident’s website. Mr O’Callaghan is owed an apology, together with the hundreds of other people who wrote in to the Charity Commission expressing concern about Haringey’s shady deal.

In a debate on The Future of Alexandra Palace in a full Council meeting of 16 July 2007, that I attended, Cllr. Cooke blustered:
"All of this has been discussed, is in the public domain."

Reality check:

Since December 2006, and under the Freedom of Information Act (2000), I have sought documents from Haringey about the disposal of The People’s Palace, but without success.

Despite repeated requests, Haringey Council’s Corporate Legal Services (HCLS) refuse to confirm that the Chairman’s statement is true. They studiously ignore the fact that they are well-placed to give an authoritative answer:

The arm of the Council dealing with these requests (i.e. stonewalling) is none other than HCLS. And they knew better than anyone that the future of the Palace is not in the public domain: because they are the very outfit whose job it is to make certain that the sale documents remained concealed from the public!

The secrecy that surrounds the sale of AP is obsessive. Even the building survey, which we paid for, is marked Confidential.

Haringey’s lawyers really owe more loyalty to their political bosses - regardless of the truth - than to the public. If HCLS are unwilling to give an opinion it will need to go to the UK Standards Board unless some contrition is shown. The public deserves more integrity.

At the first forum in which Haringey was obliged to fight about AP on a level playing-field which they were unable to manipulate - the High Court - they were comprehensively defeated. Will they learn from this or attempt to drive on as before? Unfortunately, this dénouement is only the latest chapter in a story of deceit and incompetence by Haringey over AP that goes back years.

To Cllr. Cooke I say: park the bulldozer, switch off the engine and climb down. Stop attempting to flog the People’s Palace for peanuts, or at all. Talk to the many people who have more vision and knowledge about AP than the current Trustees and whose attention is focused on more than just getting rid of AP at any price.

If you cannot do these things for the citizens of this Borough, indeed for this city and nation, hand over to a more competent, experienced operator who can.

[letter to local newspapers
15 October 2007]


Councillor Cooke and censorship

COUNCILLOR M. Cooke – Chair of the Alexandra Palace Trust Board for just a few days – launched an attack (Hornsey Journal 21 June, p.16) on a rate-payer who is concerned about the fate of Alexandra Palace and – due to the connivance of Haringey Council – the impending demolition of the world’s first TV studios.
“to do anything to the [Alexandra Palace] Park other than manage and improve it is simply not on anyone’s agenda.”
This might be easier to believe if the only ‘agenda’ that exists on the subject was full public knowledge (i.e. the Lease & related documents). But Cooke’s Council has gone to some trouble to maintain a hidden agenda that contains the details that are either commercially or politically sensitive. Cooke stated:
“… O’Callaghan claims the details of the lease have never been made public, yet he has a copy on his web site. ...”
Not only is Mr O’Callaghan telling the truth – i.e. that the details of the Lease have never been made public – but Cooke dissembles when he says there is a copy on [the] web-site.

That document, which was all that was available to Save Ally Pally,
  1. was doctored by Cooke’s Council so as deliberately to conceal selected details from the public. That single document was given up so unwillingly by the Council, that,

  2. it took formal requests under the Freedom of Information Act to prise away even that censored version. We still do not know what are the details of the whole Lease.

  3. does not include other, intimately-connected documents that include the Master Plan and Project Agreement. Cooke fails to mention these, implying that the Lease is everything there is to know about the deal anyway. We the public, have never seen any part of these other important documents, not even censored versions.

  4. Cooke implies that the public has had full access to the Lease all along, and fails to disclose that – thanks to his Council’s most earnest efforts – even the cut-down version was published long after the final date for public comment to the Charity Commission.

Haringey, and its puppet AP trust board, made not a single detail of the Lease public of their own volition. Our Council released a partial version of one of several closely related documents, grudgingly, too late to help the public and under external pressure.

I made a request to the Council on 11 December 2006 under the FoI Act for a copy of the contract with the development company, Firoka. After a 10 day delay and just before Christmas, Haringey asked me for ‘clarification’ of what I sought. The deadline for public comment was in early January. Haringey then wrote that the Lease was subject to commercial confidentiality and I could expect further delay while the lawyers of Haringey/Firoka worked out what they might choose to release into the public domain.

Can it honestly be said that, in the handing over to Firoka of the Borough’s most important building, Haringey has operated in a fair, sincere, open manner?

We simply do not know what details have been withheld from us. Despite the protestation of commercial confidentiality, we cannot be sure about the nature of what is kept secret or even if it is kept secret at the behest of the property developer. The information concealed may be more politically sensitive than commercially sensitive. The public – on whose behalf all of this is being done – cannot tell. Where the excuse of ‘commercial’ confidentially is used in Council contracts, it can easily serve as a smokescreen for mistakes, inefficiency, irregularities and the abuse of power.

It is conceivable that the Council expected that the Lease might be subject to an FoI request. Haringey-Firoka lawyers could have drafted the Lease anticipating that some of it would need to be withheld. For example, one could construct, include (and later withhold) a clause along the lines of ‘notwithstanding the provisions of clauses x, y and z, Firoka shall not be liable for a penny in payment to Haringey in the event of a, b or c.’ Thus, the detail in the Lease that is hidden from the public might be small, but so critical that it puts the whole Lease in a completely different light. A few words omitted might qualify ‘Access’ to mean Restriction, Refurbishment to mean Demolition and ‘Nature Trail’ to ‘Golf Course’. Do Haringey residents have no right to know what is in store for this historic public building?

So the question is: why is the Council so secretive and who is doing the misleading?

letter to local newspapers
23 July 2007