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 It includes letters sent to local papers, published & unpublished.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


Secrecy in Council decision-making

Or, Alexandra Palace and the code of omertà about the sale

THE intense secrecy pervading the sale of Alexandra Palace continues. The Palace is a Charity, paid for by all of us and whose beneficiaries are all of us. But its disposal, as a Developer Shell by Haringey Council to their favoured property developer, doesn’t feel like simply the sale of surplus land.

The sale is treated with all the secrecy of a big arms deal to a dodgy third-world dictator. Replete with bribes, kick-backs, immorality and government-subsidy, together with excuses of ‘commercial confidentiality’ – unlawful, but said to be in the interests of National Security. It’s surprising the press hasn’t been slapped with a D-notice!

Again and again, the Council uses commercial confidentiality to excuse the mystery about the deal. This is despite the fact that entering into these arrangements was ruled unlawful in the High Court last October and not least, because these arrangements were in defiance of the specific promise of a Government Minister in Parliament in 2004. The shady deal is currently stalled; since the High Court defeat, the silence from the developer himself has been deafening.

Even some Trustees of the main Trust Board have difficulty obtaining basic information from the coterie of council-cronies who control our charity.

Sometimes it is possible for the public to attend an entire Trust Board meeting. But often press and public are told to leave when the meeting agenda reaches Exempt Items. The items the council wants to conceal from the public are always labelled Exempt. These are said to be commercially sensitive but are probably politically sensitive or just plain embarrassing. They might reveal details of council ineptitude and the level of quality of the legal advice that the Council receives.

Some of the current negotiations about the sale of a Lease of 125 years, are believed to be about the need to provide for full disclosure (during the required Public Consultation) and to maintain commercial confidentiality (!)

Month after month, the general manager provides either verbal or written reports which say that there is nothing to report. The Council has been furnished with an Opinion from leading Charity Counsel, that shows that any Lease of AP cannot be solely for commercial purposes. But Haringey is unable to face the fact that this unlawful deal has to be called off.

What little information is released to the public, is carefully channelled and spun via the PR firm Lexington Communications, which our council-controlled Trust has employed at great cost since January 2005.

As for the two nominally autonomous committees which might be expected to have a say about the future of our Palace, the Council cares little what they might say. Nonetheless, the Council has artfully managed to muzzle those two watch dogs: the Statutory Advisory and the Consultative Committees.

Haringey council corrupts their proper independent functioning, by inviting favoured members of those committees to have access to documents on the strict condition that they are sworn to secrecy. By granting access to some members of those committees, the council divides those committees and extends the conspiracy of silence.

Those members selected for access will feel special and privileged and may do more than just keep quiet. They are likely to stifle any reservations they may have had and defend council policies against attack. But by agreeing to such restrictions, these members loose any basis for arguing that the documentation should be open to all, as it should be. Their position is compromised and their independence is shot. The Council has deployed the insidious technique of omertà in order to pervert both committees.

Each committee is also dependent on the council organisation for resources and facilities including venue, Minutes, administration and legal “advice”. The Consultative committee is chaired by the same Councillor who chairs both the main Trust Board and the Palace’s trading company.

Secrecy in local government is probably never likely to lead to good, well-rounded decisions. It can cover-up mistakes. An absence of scrutiny allows a culture of waste and inefficiency to develop. Councillors and council officers, of course, feel more comfortable in such a climate but it is not good governance.