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"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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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.


• 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]