Back in September 2016 the Hornet’s Nest website published a blog raising concerns about the relationship between Rock Feilding-Mellen, RBKC’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration, and a Public Relations operative by the name of Peter Bingle from a company called Terrapin Communications.
It is not really clear to the Grenfell Action Group what advantage the residents of North Kensington might obtain through the services of Terrapin Communications who claim to be a leading public affairs agency advising on property and whose website states that the company “combine experience with the buzz of a coming of age agency”. Terrapin Communications then, cringingly, go on to boast that “the Terrapins are the masters of the art of self preservation. They know when to stick their heads out and when to keep them in their shells”. Let’s hope this is the case for Rocky’s sake!
At the time, the Hornet’s Nest blog questioned why Rock Feilding-Mellen would want to meet with Mr Bingle, who paid for the meeting, what was discussed at the meeting and why wasn’t a senior RBKC Council Officer on hand to record what matters were on the agenda?
Following this revelation a member of the Grenfell Action Group wrote to the Leader of RBKC and questioned the legitimacy and appropriateness of why a representative of RBKC would need to meet with Terrapin Communications and to ask what was discussed at this meeting? We received the following response from Cllr Paget-Brown on the 30th September 2016 that sought to normalise the meeting and portray the relationship between Cllr Feilding-Mellen and Peter Bingle as entirely appropriate and above board. Cllr Paget Brown responded as follows:
“Rock Feilding-Mellen attended a lunch with Peter Bingle of Terrapin Communications as London Councils, unsurprisingly, has an interest in London’s housing shortage and we need to make common cause across the Boroughs and across the political divide to address it. London Councils makes no decisions on individual housing and regeneration projects. The lunch was to discuss London’s response to the challenge of the new Housing Act and was also attended by a senior Labour Councillor from another Borough”.
What Paget-Brown failed to mention is that this was not the first time that Feilding-Mellen had met with Peter Bingle and that other senior Ruling Party Councillors appear to have been wined and dined by Peter Bingle and Terrapin Communications on numerous previous occasions. The Grenfell Action Group do not believe that the Cabinet Member with responsibility for handling the Borough’s sensitive property portfolio should be accepting free hospitality from a private property public relations company.
The RBKC have their own Media Communications Department at Hornton Street led by Martin “carpet bomber” Fitzpatrick that is funded to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds so one really has to wonder why senior Councillors should feel the need to accept hospitality from an outside public relations agency?
A look at Rock Feilding-Mellen’s declaration of acceptance of hospitality and gifts shows that there was a long standing relationship between Terrapin Communication and the RBKC Cabinet Member for Housing Property and Regeneration. The pair are first recorded meeting for a dinner, valued at £60, at an un-named restaurant and paid for by Terrapin Communications on a claim form submitted on 31st March 2015. They met again for an £80 dinner in a un-named restaurant in a claim form submitted on 3rd Feburary 2016. While Councillor Fielding-Mellen actually submitted his claim form for their third dinner together (at the meeting referred to in the Hornet’s Nest blog) on the very same day that Cllr Paget-Brown, Leader of RBKC, wrote to the Grenfell Action Group claiming that there was nothing underhand in their relationship. Rather a funny coincidence one might think!
The Grenfell Action Group are also aware that Councillor Feilding-Mellen travelled to Cannes to attend MIPIM earlier this year. Cllr Feilding-Mellen has claimed that he was not representing the RBKC but, instead, paid for his own ticket and visited this international property fair as a representative of his own property development company called Socially Conscious Capital. It is a little disconcerting to find that Peter Bingle and his contacts from Terrapin Communications were also present at MIPIM and that Cllr Feilding-Mellen is on record as having met with Terrapin Communications in the run up to MIPIM. While it is not for the Grenfell Action Group to suggest that anything underhand might have occurred in Cannes it is not difficult to imagine the kind of conversations and introductions that might have taken place were Feilding-Mellen and Peter Bingle to have crossed paths in the South of France. Just remember this is where Mr Bingle likes to boast that “they will spend their time representing clients, meeting politicians and making new friends”!!!!
Councillor Paget-Brown also failed to mention that another senior Ruling Party Councillor has a long standing relationships with Terrapin Communications. Councillor Daniel Moylan’s relationship with the property Public Relations firm goes back much further according to Council records. Cllr Moylan first appears to have accepted hospitality from Terrapin back in 2013 when he enjoyed a a number of trips at their expense to the theatre with accompanying drinks and a dinner and night out at the Proms. In 2014 Cllr Moylan is on record of accepting a drinks invitation with Peter Bingle and in 2016 Moylan’s diary records numerous meetings with Peter Bingle and Terrapin Communications that have included dinners and trips to the Barbican and other concert venues. Of course, Cllr Moylan is far too grand to trouble himself with actually declaring the total value of this hospitality but one can assume that the net total of these sojourns could well add up to a four figure sum. The Grenfell Action Group believe that this is a lot of hospitality for a RBKC Councillor to receive from a private company and we wish to know who else at RBKC has benefitted from these dinners and trips out to the theatre and concert halls?
The Grenfell Action Group will be writing to the Leader of the RBKC asking why Cllr Moylan and Cllr Feilding-Mellen have repeatedly accepted hospitality from Terrapin Communications and why a senior Council Officer has not been present when meetings between Terrapin and senior RBKC Councillors have taken place. It is correct protocol for Councillors not to meet to discuss RBKC business with private companies or individuals without having these meetings witnessed and recorded by Council Officers. The fact that Feilding-Mellen has travelled to MIPIM in Cannes, where Bingle and Terrapin have a regular presence, only further muddies these murky waters!