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Remember, remember those fibs of November

PUBLISHED: 18:06 05 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:32 07 September 2010

Memories of 2007’s £26k donations scandal haunt this year’s firework display at Ally Pally Charlotte Newton AS 40,000 people gather to watch the fireworks at Alexandra Palace on Saturday, questions are still being asked about how £26,000 collected at the display two years ago went up in smoke. Marshals on the gates of Alexandra Palace in 2007

Charlotte Newton

AS 40,000 people gather to watch the fireworks at Alexandra Palace on Saturday, questions are still being asked about how £26,000 collected at the display two years ago went up in smoke.

Marshals on the gates of Alexandra Palace in 2007 collected more than £26,000 from members of the public with buckets labelled for the Alexandra Palace charity.

But rather than going to the upkeep of the building, the money paid for the fireworks themselves. At the time Ally Pally was being run for profit by a commercial company Firoka, owned by the millionaire property developer Firoz Kassam.

Campaigner Clive Carter of Stapleton Hall Road, Stroud Green, said: "The missing cash in buckets raises a lot of questions about the broader unresolved issues between the Trust and Firoka."

Jacob O'Callaghan from the Save Ally Pally group said: "The fireworks night is a great tradition which has always been provided free by the council for the people of London at Alexandra Palace and it has been done very well in recent years.

"But if the public are asked for voluntary donations they should be informed as to what they are going to be used for - like restoration of the theatre and TV studios - and properly accounted for."

In May 2007, the Alexandra Palace and Park Trust, funded by Haringey Council and made up of councillors, entered into a temporary trading license with Firoka after the council decided to lease out the building.

The licence enabled Firoka to operate all the commercial facilities within the Alexandra Palace complex, such as the ice rink and cafe, while the trust provided staffing resources and other infrastructure at taxpayers' expense.

Firoka ended up retaining all the profits from the venture - which cost taxpayers £1.5million, according to an independent report published in April.

And the money from the fireworks collection was used by Firoka to meet the cost of staging the event - despite collectors claiming the money would help Ally Pally.

A spokeswoman for the trust, which took over the running of Ally Pally again in January last year, said all those attending on Saturday night would be told that their donations will pay for the fireworks at this year's £100,000 event, as will any money charged for other activities on the day.

She also said details of funds raised would be made public.

She said: "Although revenue from the beer festival, discos, fun-fairs and other family activities on Saturday will go some way towards offsetting the costs, there will be a shortfall that the donations will hopefully fill.

"We will announce and publish details of the amounts raised as soon as possible after the event this year."

She added: "A sum of £26,390 was collected from donations at the 2007 fireworks display and was used to offset the costs of staging the event. This information is recorded within the trust's audited 2007/08 accounts."

Firoka is suing the trust for £6.2million, the money it says it would have made if its plans to run a hotel, casino and leisure complex at the palace had gone ahead.

A spokeswoman for the trust said that for legal reasons she was unable to comment on any claims made by Firoka. Mr Kassam was not available for comment.

charlotte.newton@hamhigh.co.uk

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