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Ken pledges to take on Palace's financial burden

PUBLISHED: 17:02 24 April 2008 | UPDATED: 14:59 07 September 2010

Mayor Ken Livingstone has offered to take over the running of Alexandra Palace if he is re-elected on May 1 - but voters may be disappointed to learn that he made a similar pledge four years ago

Charlotte Newton

Mayor Ken Livingstone has offered to take over the running of Alexandra Palace if he is re-elected on May 1 - but voters may be disappointed to learn that he made a similar pledge four years ago.

Mr Livingstone suggested to George Meehan, leader of Labour-run Haringey Council, that the GLA could take over responsibility for the historic building, which is currently running at a deficit of £1.5million a year.

This means that the GLA could compete with millionaire property tycoon Firoz Kassam, whose company Firoka has spent the last two and-a-half years trying to negotiate a deal with the council for the lease of the Palace.

Kassam is still working with the Palace's trustees to reach an agreement on leasing the historic building, despite being evicted from the Palace in January after the High Court ruled that the original public consultation process was flawed.

Mr Livingstone, who is standing as the Labour candidate in the mayoral elections, told the Broadway: "I will arrange an early meeting with George Meehan after the election on May 1. I have told him that I can see that this is a huge burden on one borough and would be more manageable for the GLA. We have taken over Crystal Palace and we would be happy to do the same for Haringey Council."

But the minutes from a GLA meeting in December 2004 show that under questioning from Lynne Featherstone MP, Mr Livingstone made a similar offer.

He said: "I have recognised that the Alexandra Palace is a regional resource and a huge financial burden for the borough of Haringey and have indicated that I would be prepared to take over the management of it should resources become available for me to do so.

"The GLA has no such resources available at the present time but my officers have been in discussions with Haringey officers about the future of Alexandra Palace and I am keen to support viable and suitable proposals that come forward for its development."

Mr Meehan said: "He certainly didn't say such a thing to me four years ago. If he gets re-elected on May 1, I will phone him up and say, 'let's talk'."

Mr Livingstone's political opponents have been quick to denounce his promises.

Lib Dem mayoral candidate Brian Paddick said: "This is a Mayor who will promise you the earth at election time, then fail to deliver when he gets in. That is what happened four years ago, when he promised to save Ally Pally, but he has done nothing about it since. Why should anyone believe him now on this or anything else for that matter?"

Boris Johnson, Conservative candidate for Mayor, said: "Ken Livingstone has done nothing about saving Alexandra Palace - and now there is an election he is suddenly talking about it.

"He has no idea how he will fund the millions needed to meet

the deficits the trust is currently experiencing.

"I am committed to the future of the Palace. I will work with the local council to see how we raise the finance, without raising council tax, to make the Palace a success."

The Ham&High exclusively revealed on April 3 that Mr Livingstone has also vowed to save London's 171 post offices if he is re-elected.

broadway@hamhigh.co.uk

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