Ally Pally inquiries cost �100,000

THREE investigations into Haringey Council’s attempts to sell Alexandra Palace have cost the taxpayer almost �100,000.

The failed sale of the landmark building to Firoka in 2007 is already estimated to have cost up to �2million and has been the subject of three separate investigations by independent advisor Martin Walklate.

Now campaigners have called on the council to take note of the report and overhaul how the palace is run, to make sure the money spent on the investigations is worthwhile.

Haringey Council, as trustee of the palace, attempted to sell Ally Pally to development company Firoka in 2007. That deal needed the green light from the Charity Commission, but when the then chairman of the board Cllr Charles Adje became worried that Firoka would walk away from the deal, the developer was handed a favourable lease which included the money-making ice rink and seconded council staff, whom the authority continued to pay for.

These actions were recently subject to the third of the Walklate reports – a standards committee hearing which saw Cllr Adje suspended from his duties for four months.

The Charity Commission later allowed the sale to go through despite strong opposition from leading community campaigners, who in turn took the commission to the High Court, where the sale was overturned. Firoka was then ousted from the Palace.

Two independent reports were carried out by Mr Walklate in September 2008 and April 2009 into the deal. A third, into the conduct of Cllr Adje, took place last month.

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A Freedom of Information request carried out by Stroud Green campaigner Clive Carter reveals the first report cost �17,010 and the second �16,315. In both cases, those figures exclude VAT and any internal work, because at the time staff did not record the time spent on the work.

The third investigation, prompted by a complaint into Cllr Adje’s conduct by Mr Carter, racked up �34,356, excluding VAT, in external costs. Internally the report cost the council a further �25,841.49.

The total cost amounts to �93,500, but with VAT and internal costs added on, the true figure would be well in excess of �100,000.

Mr Carter is one of those still campaigning for an overhaul to the governance of the Palace. They believe it should be independent from the council and are frustrated with the slow pace of efforts so far.

“We have now had effectively three investigations and have little to show for it,” Mr Carter said. “My point in asking what it has all cost is that it would be money well spent if it lead to meaningful governance reform. As it stands it’s just �100,000 spent.”

Fellow campaigner Colin Marr added: “It’s regrettable the enquiry had to be held, but these things need to be brought out into the open and lessons need to be learned.

“The first two reports came out quite quickly. What is regrettable is that it took two yeas of badgering by Clive Carter to get this enquiry and that ought to have been picked up quickly after reports one and two, and up to the council to do, not to be badgered into.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We have good systems in place to ensure that taxpayers get value for money from the services we provide and commission.

“The total cost of the three reports reflects the market rate and the high standard of work conducted by Martin Walklate. In such sensitive and complex matters, it’s important to establish clearly and correctly all the facts and this requires a very high level of professionalism.

“The three reports were commissioned over a period of three years for different purposes, all reports have been published.

“The first report was commissioned by the council, the second by the council on behalf of Alexandra Palace and Park Trust. The third report was commissioned for the council to facilitate the investigation of a Standards Committee complaint.”