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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


Responsibility and irresponsibility

AFTER the GLC was smashed up by Margaret Thatcher, in 1980 responsibility for the historic Alexandra Palace landed up in the sole hands of one of London’s least competent borough councils.

THE current Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Alexandra Park and Palace is, like most of his fellow Trustees, a political appointment of the ruling majority group of the local council (Haringey).

He is reported recently to have said of the recently announced multi-million pound deficit at Alexandra Palace,
“obviously the financial situation we find ourselves in is not ideal.”
It sounds like the Trust Board is the victim of an inexplicable freak accident. But who was at the steering wheel of the vehicle that sustained £2.5 million damage? Perhaps the posing of a few questions might help the current chairman (only since last May) discover the mysterious cause of the less-than-ideal financial situation in which the Trust finds itself …

WHO allows the same management of trading operations to continue – despite mediocre performance – year after year?

WHO embarked on a fatally-flawed and misconceived policy of flogging Alexandra Palace for a paltry £1.5 million?

WHO, by the end of 2006, had spent £1.2 million on advisors in AP sale-related costs (2007 will add much to this bill)?

WHO ruled out all respected and experienced bidders for Alexandra Palace?

WHO entered into secret commercial agreements in defiance of the promise of a Government Minister?

WHO agreed to a late change in the Lease permitting the ‘preferred development partner’ to occupy the Palace two months before a judicial challenge – capable of overturning the sale – might be mounted?

WHO let Firoka bosses into the Palace and start intensively milking the cash-cow without payment and without a formal agreement?

WHO let Firoka trouser hundreds of thousands of pounds of cash for events and exhibitions since May 2007, for little or nothing in exchange?

WHOSE conduct led the High Court to award costs against them in the Judicial Review of 5 October 2007?

WHO did the Judge describe as the “authors of their own misfortune”?

WHO retains the same legal advisor – year after year – the same advisor who allowed them to sign a Lease allowing Firoka occupation before payment and who led them each step of the way through the ‘public consultation’ and right up to the High Court dénouement?

WHO mislead the preferred development partner over the need to have a Public Consultation?

WHO left themselves open to a huge law suit, due to their incompetence?

WHO often holds their meetings in secret session, away from public and press scrutiny?

WHO bear no personal responsibility for their decisions and indeed, some of whom profit regardless?

WHO is facing enquiries by the Attorney General and the District Auditor?

WHO does not recognize the conflict-of-interest where an individual is responsible to both a Council and to a registered charitable Trust?

WHO is so unable to defend the situation they “find themselves in”, that they pay a public relations firm to speak on their behalf?

The answer to each question is the same: the Trustees of the local Council-controlled Alexandra Palace Trust. The failure to take responsibility is typical, chronic and set to continue.

In the past, for the problems at Alexandra Palace, the Council-controlled Trust has put blame on everyone around them: their political opponents, a failed AP-bidder, a campaign group and even on an individual private citizen!

Now it seems they blame the stars, chance or bad luck (at least this is consistent with their intention of granting themselves a permanent gambling licence at the Palace).

The problems will go on until amateur Councillor trustees of our charitable trust are eventually replaced with committed trustees of long-term interest, integrity and independence.

In the meantime, ratepayers pick up the multi-million pound tab for more or less continuous incompetence and mismanagement. The public deserve better.

7 January 2008