McConville At MIPIM

Ever since the Grenfell Action Group joined the Radical Housing Network in 2013 we have been warning our readers about the sinister going’s on at the MIPIM property fairs held in both Cannes and London. We believe that no good can come to the besieged working class communities of North Kensington while our futures are held hostage to the highest bidder at MIPIM. The Grenfell Action Group are proud to have been part of a direct action that targeted the MIPIM conference at Olympia in November 2014 which led to the temporary closure of this sordid gathering of mercenary predators and property sharks.

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/protesters-blockade-controversial-mipim-property-fair/

The Guardian newspaper recently commented that;

“Events such as Mipim raise the flag on the land grab that eventually leads to thousands of people being kicked out of their homes – and in many cases out of London. It is a forum that relies on invitation-only lunches, secret talks and the public being kept well away. In a shamefully undemocratic development system, this is one of the most untransparent forums of the lot”.

Our readers might also like to check out the following article from the Independent, in August 2016, containing details of the kind of people who typically attend MIPIM and the kind of debauchery they indulge in while there. The article described the MIPIM fair in Cannes as ‘a nonstop party where estate agency professionals and wealthy investors cavort around five-star hotels and champagne receptions, while ruminating about the housing crisis many of them benefit from directly’. In our view this is a MUST READ :

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/mipim-housing-crisis-markets-insiders-what-they-say-london-conference-property-magnates-a7369621.html

We have previously made it our business to highlight what we regard as an unhealthy and abusive relationship between senior Councillors from the RBKC and MIPIM and we have published a number of blogs that have exposed these shady goings on :

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/rbkc-supping-at-the-property-developers-table/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/paget-brown-and-mipim/

We had hoped that, by calling into question the legitimacy of the relationship between local councillors and MIPIM, we could shine a light on how this Property Fair, notorious for its excess and licentiousness, is designed to serve only the vested interests of the ruthless speculators and other vultures who frequent these gatherings, and we had hoped we could discourage the attendance of RBKC Councillors and their poodles at future MIPIM events. It was, therefore, a severe disappointment for us to discover that rather than curbing the cancer of MIPIM in our community we are instead witnessing its rapid growth. More recently it is not just local councillors that we have discovered living the high life at MIPIM but also the Head of the now infamous Westway Trust.

A recent tweet from Angela McCoville, Chief Executive of the Trust, alerted us to the fact that she had probably attended the most recent  MIPIM event at Cannes. Ms McConville, who receives a stipend of approximately £120,000 per annum as CEO of the Trust, is almost Trump-like in her love of Twitter. We can’t help but wonder how she ever finds time to do any actual work as she appears to be so busy tweeting all the time.

We believe that McConville’s twitter feed shows very clearly how far detached she is from the real world of North Kensington and the lives and concerns of the community whose interests she is employed to represent. It appears that the Chief Executive of the Westway Trust is more interested in indulging her apparent fetish for wealth and the wealthy by constantly tweeting about the time she spends at this or that exclusive restaurant or society event than she is working to better manage the Westway Trust property portfolio on behalf of our community and striving to ameliorate the toxic effects of the polluted Westway flyover that rips through it’s heart:

https://twitter.com/angelamcconvill?lang=en-gb

We wrote to Ms McConville asking her to confirm her attendance at MIPIM, whether she was there to represent the Westway Trust, and how much her attendance had cost the Trust. We received the following rather tart reply from her a few days later: We recommend that our readers follow the link provided and digest the contents of the blog:

Yes, I attended MIPIM on behalf of Westway Trust. I attended because as a development trust we need to build relationships with a diverse range of organisations including the Mayor’s Office, Transport for London, neighbouring land owners, housing providers and political decision-makers – all of whom come together to share ideas at this conference. My attendance on behalf of the Trust was agreed with the Chairman, Alan Brown. We did not have a stall at the event. I’ve written a brief blog about the visit, you can read it here:

http://www.westway.org/news/promoting-westway-trust-and-people-and-place-we-represent-london’s-decision-makers

As she had neglected to inform us how much all this had cost we wrote again seeking this information. In her subsequent reply she was less than fully forthcoming about how much this little jolly had cost. She did reveal that the Trust had paid for a single MIPIM delegate pass at a reduced (charity) rate of £1530, but failed to disclose how much she had spent on travel, accommodation and whatever, which would most likely have been charged to her expense account. So much for full transparency! We fail to understand why she felt it appropriate to spend copious amounts of Westway Trust money on flights, accommodation and other expenses attending this conference when she could have met any of the “decision makers” she claimed were so important right here in London.

If meeting with Transport for London, the Mayor of London or other members of the Greater London Assembly was so important then there was nothing to prevent her from simply picking up the telephone and setting up a meeting with the relevant parties at City Hall. The same applies to meetings with representatives 0f the various other London based organisations which she referenced in her blog, such as London First, the Westminster Property Association, Imperial College and various London boroughs.

We do not believe there was any need for her to fly to Cannes to attend this morally bankrupt, decadent and elitist property fair to forward the ambitions of the Westway Trust. In fact, we find it totally sickening that charitable Trust money should be spent on anything to do with MIPIM. The Grenfell Action Group do not believe that the champange guzzling property sharks who frequent MIPIM have any interest in the largely working class communities Ms McConville is employed to represent and, instead, they seek to steal our land and exploit our resources for their own personal greed and self aggrandisement.

In her Westway Trust blog Ms McConville speaks highly of ‘Urban Splash’ which she describes as ‘…an innovative developer of modular housing, keeping costs low, using exciting designs and allowing owners the opportunity to customise layout so that each home has its own character’. She suggests that the concepts put forward by ‘Urban Splash’ at MIPIM, although relating only to their housing regeneration projects, could help to solve ‘issues concerning lack of community space and a need for more responsive working spaces’ in North Kensington.

The Grenfell Action Group would question her judgment  in seeking to cosy up to companies such as ‘Urban Splash’, the owners of which were described by the Daily Mail in 2013 as belonging to ‘the wealthy clique of professionals who dominated Liverpool’s social scene’ and were known as ‘property royalty’. Urban Splash was founded in 1993, and was for several years at the forefront of property development in the  North-West, renovating decaying former industrial mills and warehouses as exclusive loft-style apartments and executive homes way beyond the budgets of ordinary workers. Maybe this is what attracted Ms McConville to want to rub shoulders with such ‘property royalty’.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2272114/Nicole-Falkingham-An-embarrassing-email-private-agony-tycoons-wife-froze-death.htm

She seems willfully oblivious of the following critique, which appeared in the Guardian in August 2011, of a flagship Urban Splash ‘regeneration’ of Park Hill Estate in Sheffield :

“Two-thirds of the original 1,000 council flats will, with the help of public subsidy to the development, now be for private sale. The council says that it’s better to have a mixture of tenures than to remake a ‘ghetto’ of council tenants. This follows the current orthodoxy and might be entirely reasonable if the homes were being replaced elsewhere in the city. Instead, there has been a demolition derby of council flats, leaving cleared sites which ‘haven’t been built on as fast as we would like’. This problem is not the size of Park Hill, it’s the size of Sheffield.”

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/aug/21/park-hill-sheffield-renovation

She seems equally oblivious of the fact that Urban Splash took a hammering in the banking and real estate collapse of the noughties and, according to the Manchester Evening News, racked up debts of £242 million in 2013. In 2014 they were baled out by the Pears Group, a major player in the UK property market, who bought up £135 million worth of the Urban Splash debt, thus saving them from bankruptcy. The Pears Group has a £6 billion property portfolio centred around London and the South East and it would seem highly likely that Urban Splash lost its independence as a result of this bale-out and became just another subsidiary of one of the UK’s biggest property conglomerates.

http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/business/commercial-property/urban-splash-returns-black-7347536

We do not see how the values or influences of such predatory property giants can bring any tangible benefits to the North Kensington community. Let us hope that Ms McConville will carry out proper due diligence checks on those she seems so keen to cosy up to before she invites them in to redevelop and further privatise and gentrify the Westway Trust property portfolio, ie the 32 acres entrusted to her management and care for the benefit, and not for the ruthless exploitation, of the North Kensington community.

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Please, Sir, Can We Have Some More?

Anyone familar with the Ladbroke Grove area of North Kensington cannot have failed to have noticed the extensive hoardings that now surround the old Westway Information Centre. These hoardings have been erected to protect the public from the major construction work that is now taking place to the exterior of these premises under the Westway flyover. This building was a vital resource that previously housed local Social Services offices and our much valued Citizens Advice Bureau that provided free information to people who could not afford to access help from other sources. It is the understanding of the Grenfell Action Group that the RBKC and Notting Hill Prep School have now come to an agreement for NHP to lease this building and that the level of rent payable by the exclusive private school was formalised in late 2016 but has not been made public.

What many local residents will find particularily disturbing is that the RBKC have agreed to spend massive amounts of our hard earned Council Tax money on making the exterior of the old Westway Information Centre posh and flashy prior to handing it over to their friends at Notting Hill Prep School. The Grenfell Action Group has learned, via the Freedom of Information Act, that the cost of stripping out the interior and recladding the exterior of the former WIC premises will cost RBKC council tax payers nearly £1 million. It is also our understanding that the repair and maintenance of the exterior of the building will remain the responsibility of the Council during the 25 year lease to NHP.

For many years local visitors and employees using the Westway Information Centre have carried on their business in a building that, while not spectaularily lavish in apperance, has always been maintained in a reasonably adequate manner by RBKC. It seems however that the exterior of the old Westway Information Centre is not nearly posh enough for the privileged and well heeled children attending Notting Hill Prep School Ltd and that the Council have agreed to spend a substantial wedge of our public money in carrying out these improvement works. It will only be after these works have been completed, to the satisfaction of Notting Hill Prep, that the lease to occupy the building will become active.

It is also our understanding that works to the building had to be suspended at one point because the Council services that were formerly accommodated there were forced to return temporarily when the Malton Road Hub – to which they had been moved – was hurriedly evacuated due to leaks and other problems including a rat infestation.

It appears to us that the Council will bend over backwards to do everything in their power to help facilitate the expansion of Notting Hill Prep via the provision of state of the art premises at the former Westway Information Centre. We can also expect RBKC to spend lavish amounts of our money doing up the exterior of the North Kensington Library building prior to delivering this much loved and treasured community asset via a 25 year lease to the same prep school that will be occupying the Westway Information Centre. We have attached the decision report for the WIC works from January 2017:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/howwegovern/keydecisions/reports/deputy leader and cabinet member for housing property and regeneration/kd04836r.pdf

An artist’s impression of the revamped exterior of the former Westway Information Centre

The decision report includes the following details:

4.1 The former Westway Information Centre (WIC) forms part of the Westway
Masterplan, and following completion of the Malton Road hub, the building
became vacant and surplus to operational requirements, all services having
relocated to alternative facilities. Following a full and open market tendering
process to receive bids, an agreement to lease has been confirmed to
generate a rental income for the longer-term.

4.2 The existing elevations of the building are in poor condition and outdated, and
impact its environmental performance in what is a prominent location, and
hence the ability to attract long term occupiers for the property. The proposal
to re-clad the existing elevations with a new glazed curtain walling system
would enhance the environmental performance and general appearance
significantly, increase the natural light within the building, and prolong the life
cycle of the Council’s asset.

4.3 The Budget was approved in October 2014 for strip out works, and
subsequently a further approval was given in September 2015 to increase the
project scope of the works and budget, to provide external cladding
improvements. Strip out works were undertaken to clear the site, and this
decision is for the outstanding elements of the work.

4.6 Planning permission relating to the cladding improvements was granted in October 2015, but subject to Section 73 amendments due to planning conditions relating to the design of the external cladding and other external elements including street furniture and similar.

4.7 Pre-application discussions were held with the Planning Dept during 2016, resulting in an amended planning application being submitted in September 2016 and being granted planning permission in November 2016.

4.8 Discussions with prospective tenants and sub-tenants have been undertaken by the Corporate Property Investment team during 2016, resulting in an agreement to lease.

The decision to proceed with this project was taken by none other than Councillor Rock Feilding-Mellen, Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration. Cllr Feilding-Mellen is understood to have applied for his children to attend the exclusive Notting Hill Prep School and stands to benefit significantly from any improvements to the school premises which his children will attend in due course. Despite this fact Feilding-Mellen has declared no conflict of interest in his decision making process:

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/howwegovern/keydecisions/reports/deputy leader and cabinet member for housing property and regeneration/kd04836c.pdf

It is worth noting that Notting Hill Prep includes among its patrons Earl Spencer, the brother of the sainted Princess Diana, and that Diana’s sons, the princes William and Harry, attended Wetherby Prep as children, a private school run by the Alpha Plus Group which, in 2014, outbid Notting Hill Prep for the lease of the Isaac Newton Centre in Lancaster Road. These premises were subsequently refurbished for use as an Alpha Plus prep school, Chepstow House. William and Harry are, of course, nephews of Earl Spencer.

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/notting-hill-writer-and-earl-spencer-fight-kensington-and-chelsea-over-new-school-bid-9167975.html

Given the wealth and influence of such vested interests is it any wonder that resistance by the mere ‘commoners’ of North Kensington to the creeping gentrification of the area has invariably proved utterly futile? A case in point is the issue under discussion here – the transfer of a cluster of public assets in the Ladbroke Grove area from public use to the control of exclusive private schools via shady private deals conducted with the full connivance and complicity of the the Royal Borough Council and with little or no consultation or consideration of the views, concerns or opposition of the general public.

It is interesting to note also that the Key Decision Report for the improvement works to the WIC describes the exterior of the building as “in poor condition and outdated, impacting its environmental performance in what is a prominent location”. If this is the case one would be well entitled to ask why the Council never considered, and certainly never delivered, any such improvement to the exterior of the WIC during the many years in which it served the community as a public service hub.

However, now that they have decided to privatise it via a longterm lease to their privileged friends at Notting Hill Prep School they clearly have no qualms about spending a million quid of public money sprucing it up for that purpose. In our view this reveals a highly partisan and preferential attitude at RBKC favouring private enterprise over public service. This is unbecoming of the role of RBKC as a local authority and stinks of elitism and class prejudice.

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KCC Board – Coming Apart At The Seams!

The Grenfell Action Group are great believers that”sunlight is the best disinfectant” and it is our intention to shine a beam of light directly into the goings on at the Board of Governors of Kensington and Chelsea College (KCC) so that we can discover and reveal what has really been happening behind the scenes at our local adult education centre.

We have been using Freedom of Information legislation to obtain a great deal of documentation from KCC and from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that it is our intention to publish for public consumption. We believe that we will be able to use this information to show that there is an inappropriate and possibly sinister relationship between the local Council and the College. We aim to reveal the full facts behind the sudden departure from their senior managerial posts of both the Principal, Mark Brickley, and the Deputy Principal, Fiona Ross, and we intend to publish more data on recent financial mismanagement sanctioned by the Board of Governors at KCC.

We have decided to start this process by releasing the contents of an email written by a senior Council employee, Tony Redpath,  who is Director of Strategy and Local Services at RBKC and who also occupies a position on the Board of Governors at Kensington and Chelsea College.

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/03/24/redpath-holgate-and-brickley/

The Grenfell Action Group will be returning in future blogs to the subject of what appears to be a blatant conflict of interest arising from Mr Redpath’s dual roles but we believe that the contents of the email that we are releasing below show very clearly that there is something rather strange and inappropriate in the role that Mr Redpath is playing by acting as a conduit between Kensington and Chelsea College and the RBKC. In fact, we wonder if the other members of the Board of Governors at KCC have any idea that Mr Redpath is using his position on the KCC Board to feed back sensitive and possibly privileged information to his emloyers at the Borough Council.

The email (link included) below was sent by Mr Redpath on 7th Febuary 2017 to a number of councillors and other senior figures at RBKC including the Council’s Director of Education (Cllr Emma Will), the Leader of RBKC (Cllr Nicholas Paget Brown), the Council’s Head of Media and Communications (Martin “carpet bomber” Fitzpatrick) and also to the Town Clerk (Nicholas Holgate).

Redpath confidential email KCC OFSTED result etc

The email from Mr Redpath to RBKC Councillors and senior officers was marked as confidential and reveals that the KCC has again performed poorly in the latest OFSTED inspectors draft report (a document which is itself still confidential) that was conducted at the College in mid January of this year. The Kensington and Chelsea College received a 3 rating that equates to “requires improvement” and was the same rating that the College achieved when last visited by the OFSTED inspectors back in 2013. Mr Redpath states in his email that this current rating and the scores given to the College were precisely in line with the KCC’s recent self assessment:

Mr Redpath then goes on to to state that a full draft report of OFSTED’s findings is still awaited but that it is expected that the report “will not be kind” to the Governors at KCC (of which Mr Redpath is one) because of the high rate of senior management turnover at the College which we assume relates to the recent departures of Mark Brickley (College Principal) and Fiona Ross (Deputy Principal) among others. Mr Redpath goes on to state that OFSTED will be recommending a “rapid change in Board membership” and then rather mysteriously claims that there will be a problem implementing these required changes in governance which “in current circumstances will be difficult”.

Mr Redpath’s email also reveals that having reviewed draft due diligence information on Kensington and Chelsea College the City Lit Board has decided not to proceed with their intended merger with KCC. Redpath goes on to state that the due diligence on City Lit by KCC shows that the City Lit itself  “is not exactly in robust financial health” and that the final due diligence report on KCC is not yet available but that the key reasons for City Lit’s cold feet are likely to be:

  • KCC’s poor financial viability, owing to declining student numbers and the College’s commitment to retain an expensive two-site model;
  • an awkward strategic fit; and
  • governance complications because of City Lit’s SDI status.

Mr Redpath further reveals that that the “KCC Board remains clear that the College must merge” and that other “suitors”, including Ealing College and West London and City of Westminster/CNWL are “already circling”. Redpath identifies that “KCC’s problem, put baldly, is that it’s attraction to other College’s is based on it’s assets rather than it’s activities” and that “a longer than anticipated period of change and uncertainty for the College beckons”. Redpath ends his correspondence to his fellow RBKC Officers and elected Councillors by stating that he “will provide further information as I receive it”.

Sadly, it is not only Mr Redpath who has been letting the side down at KCC. In other developments Ian Rule, the newly appointed Interim Vice Principal (Finance), has been setting a poor example on how to win friends and influence people in the local community. Mr Rule has taken it on himself to try and dissuade campaigners from standing on the public thoroughfare outside Wornington College to pursue their democratic right to free speech. Mr Rule has used obnoxious and intimidatory tactics to try and warn protesters off from the gates of KCC and has gone as far as to threaten that he will spread rumours that it is the demonstrators fault that the College is facing closure.

This seems perverse in the extreme as it is not members of the ‘Save Wornington College’ campaign who have repeatedly obtained poor OFSTED inspection reports on the management at KCC, sold the freehold of the College building to RBKC to be developed for housing with an unseen commitment to re-provide a smaller educational space, overpriced the cost of courses, been abandoned by the Principal and Vice Principal in opaque circumstances with no notice, failed to communicate properly or involve staff in decision making causing low morale among KCC employees, been responsible for hiring an invisible senior management team, lost its Chair of the Board of Governors who has now also resigned, flown around the world wasting vital finances chasing illusory overseas students, conspicuously failed to recruit local students to the College, or taken on board a Council Officer from RBKC who appears to have his employers (ie RBKC) interests at heart rather than those of the College, its students and the local community!

OFSTED have recommended that it might be an idea to implement a “rapid change in board members”. The Grenfell Action Group believe that KCC should heed this timely advice and that they could do a lot worse than send the likes of Redpath and Rule packing and find people who genuinely care about the education and life prospects of students at Wornington, in one of the poorest and most underprivileged wards in the whole of Britain.

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UN-TRUST THE TRUST!

Many readers of this blog will be aware that the Westway Trust was originally set up in the early 1970’s to compensate the local community for the negative impacts of the imposition of an elevated motorway, the A40(M), better known as the ‘Westway’, running through the heart of our community. The Westway Trust was created to hold in trust, develop and manage, on behalf of the North Kensington community, the 23 acres of derelict land that remained beneath the new Westway flyover. Since its creation the Westway Trust has had a chequered history and today we really have to ask who the apparatchiks of the Trust are actually serving and benefiting, other than themselves.

The Grenfell Action Group believes that the RBKC Council recognised some time ago that the land under the Westway is a potential goldmine that can be farmed off to their pals in property development and private education and not necessarily used primarily to the advantage of local working class people. We believe that the Westway Trust has been morally corrupted by the likes of Cllr Spalding, Cllr Cyron and Cllr Feilding-Mellen from RBKC who have spent their time on the Westway Trust Board pushing this neo-Con Council’s agenda and ensuring that the Trust moves in the direction of benefiting the rich and privileged rather than local people.

An examination of the Westway Trust’s finances appears to show that the Trust is totally self serving and has little interest in making links with or benefiting local community groups who don’t adhere to their myopic view of the future of the land and resources that lie below the A40 flyover. In this blog we will highlight how, we believe, the Westway Trust uses the extensive resources that they are meant to spread among the North Kensington community for their own benefit and personal advancement. Let us look, first, at the Westway Trust’s finances that are published annually and are freely available for all to access on the Trust’s website

https://www.westway.org/sites/default/files/files/t_162_annual_report_web_lores.pdf

In 2015/16 the total income of the Westway Trust from all sources was £8.078 million and their total expenditure was recorded as £7.87 million. The Trust holds total assets, including property and land  of £46.771 million which it is entrusted to manage for the benefit of the local community.

The total net current assets that exclude property and land  are £4.038 million which is raised largely through rental of land and premises under the Westway. With so much money floating around one would think that the local community should be able to see tangible benefits from the existence of the Westway Trust but this is sadly not the case! What is particularly shocking is that instead of the £8.07 million being used to benefit the local community a mind boggling 43% of this money is spent on the Westway Trust’s own inflated staff costs. These staff costs (that, we understand, include gold plated pension contributions) total an eye watering £3.479 million per annum.

There are five highly salaried executive directors in addition to Ms McConville, who now earns a reputed £110-120k (almost as much as the Prime Minister) and who the Trust felt it appropriate to award a pay increase last year taking her salary to over £110,000. In 2015 there were three employees of the Westway Trust (in addition to Ms McConville) whose emoluments during the year ranged between  £70,000 and £79,999. In 2016 the number of employees receiving a salary between £70,000 and £79,000 was reduced to two. In 2016 the total staff benefits paid to key Westway Trust management personal was a shocking £487,000 (reduced from £529,000 in 2015).

During 2016, one of the Westway Trust Directors was engaged through a consultancy agreement. Estelle Burns, Director of Change was engaged through a personal service company, Juniper (HRM) Consulting Limited. The fees paid to that company in the year were £44,000 reduced from the sum of £78,000 that Juniper (HRM) Consulting received in 2015. The Grenfell Action Group believe that it is highly inappropriate for the Westway Trust to haemorrhage so much of it’s income on extortionate salaries and consultant’s fees, especially when so much of this money is ferreted away into the hands of so few!

The Westway Trust states in its remuneration policy that staff are paid in a way “which ensures we attract and retain the right skills in order to have the greatest impact in delivering our charitable objectives”. What they fail to say is that they do not appear interested or willing to recruit any senior staff members from among the local North Kensington community. It is a sad fact that a virulent kind of nepotism seems to be at work at the Trust that deems local people not fit for managerial level employment.

Since Angela McConville left her previous position as company secretary of ‘Vital Regeneration’ in late 2013 almost all subsequent senior staff appointments have been made from this same company! It is our understanding that Christian Tilleray, Director of Culture, Learning and Enterprise was recruited from ‘Vital Regeneration’. It is also believed that Gary Thomas, the Community Engagement Officer, and Marie Monaghan, Head of Environment and Local Economy, were previously at ‘Vital Regeneration’.

It is worth noting that ‘Vital Regeneration’, like the Westway Trust, is a registered charity, but also a private limited company, registered at Companies House. Vital Regeneration’s claims to legitimacy rest entirely on its claim that it supports the homeless and underprivileged by facilitating access to employment opportunities and by supporting small business start-ups. Ironically, however, its board of directors includes at least one banker and others involved in venture capital, private equity, accountancy and property management. Make of this what you will, but in this Grave New World we in the Grenfell Action Group find ourselves, as members of the underclass, increasingly distrustful of social engineering via trickle-down philantropy. We believe we have a right to demand social change and should not have to beg for it. We also suspect that Ms McConville and her ilk may have imported a morally corrupted and self-serving version of the ‘Vital Regeneration’ business model into the Westway Trust, making radical and unwelcome changes to its fundamental role and function within the North Kensington community.

The Grenfell Action Group would also question why ex RBKC Councillor and former Chair of Planning, Terence Buxton, has been co-opted as a member of the Westway Trust’s Property and Regeneration sub-committee. We understand that Buxton is reputed to own a number of properties in the north of the Borough which may have created a conflict of interest between his private interests and his role on the Trust’s sub-committee. Terrence Buxton is believed to have been relieved from his position as a Councillor in the Rotten Borough due to some kind of political skulduggery and we fear that he may be an inappropriate appointee to such a sensitive and controversial position at the Trust.

As if these abuses of our community were not already bad enough, then the way that the Trust goes about managing its finances is truly shocking.  In 2015/16 it was responsible for awarding the sum total of £551,609 to local voluntary organisations in the form of grants. but the Trust also spent a total of £493,000 on IT, engagement, communication and marketing. In other words, they spent nearly as much money telling us how wonderful they are as they did actually ‘being wonderful’ by handing out funds entrusted to them by numerous charities and RBKC.

The Grenfell Action Group believes that the Westway Trust has become a morally corrupt and unhealthy proxy of RBKC that seeks to disenfranchise the residents of North Kensington and marginalise, rather than empower, local residents. It appears to have morphed in recent years into a body that exists solely to collude with the Council’s gentrification of North Kensington while providing lucrative employment opportunities for its own senior management, filling these roles mostly with ex-employees of ‘Vital Regeneration’. We do not believe that the current actions of the Westway Trust are consistent with those of a bona fide local charity and that the inflated salaries they pay and their profligate spending of public money on marketing and PR is highly questionable and nothing short of immoral.

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Redpath, Holgate and Brickley.

Over the recent months the Grenfell Action Group have published two blogs highlighting our concern about a senior Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council Officer, namely Tony Redpath, RBKC Director of Strategy and Local Services, who occupies an influential postion on the Kensington and Chelsea College Board of Governors.

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/save-wornington-college/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/when-they-go-low-we-go-foi/

We were so concerned about a possible conflict of interest arising from this arrangement that we wrote to the RBKC Town Clerk, Nicholas Holgate, and asked for assurances that Mr Redpath was acting in an appropriate manner. We received a response from Mr Holgate that sought to placate our concerns and explain the circumstances surrounding Mr Redpath’s invitation to join the Board of Govenors at KCC.

In an email dated 16th January 2017 Mr Holgate informed us that Kensington and Chelsea College had invited Mr Redpath to join their Board because “they valued his knowledge and experience“. However, subsequent Freedom Of Information requests revealed that Mr Holgate was not entirely honest with us and that Kensington and Chelsea College didn’t know Mr Repath from a hole in the ground before he was recommended by Mr Holgate to occupy a position on the KCC Board of Governors.

The Grenfell Action Group believe that the exchange of emails published below shows clearly that Kensington and Chelsea College had never met with or had any relationship with Tony Redpath and were  not in a position to judge the value or quality of either his knowledge or his expertise as claimed to us previously by Mr Holgate.

We believe that the email below from the then Principal of Kensington and Chelsea College, Mark Brickley, written to the RBKC Town Clerk on 27th January 2017 was not based on any personal knowledge of the skills or qualities of individual Council staff members but was simply a direct, unsolicited request to RBKC aimed at strengthening the relationship between the College and the Council. The reason why Mr Brickley should be so keen to establish stronger links beteeen Kensington and Chelsea College and the RBKC are not made clear in this correspondence but what is perfectly clear is that it was the Council who selected Mr Redpath to do their bidding and it was the Council who put his name forward for selection as a future member of the KCC Board of Governors:

The RBKC Town Clerk responded to Mr Brickley’s email with the following  suggesting that this role could best be filled by either Tony Redpath or one of his subordinates:

The fact that the Council were happy to nominate a subordinate of Mr Redpath’s for the role indicates that the suppossed individual qualities of “knowledge and expertise” were not unique to Mr Redpath and strongly suggests that Mr Holgate’s  Freedom of Information reply to the Grenfell Action Group was deliberately misleading.

The Grenfell Action Group will be lodging an offical complaint against the Town Clerk as it is our belief that he intended to mislead the public by implying that Mr Redpath would be a free agent on the KCC Board, that he would not be representing the Council’s interests, that he had been ‘headhunted’ by KCC because of his special talents and expertise, and that Mr Holgate had no involvement in the procurement of Redpath’s services by KCC. Perversely Mr Holgate made no mention of the fact that the request for a Council representive had actually come to him from the Principal of the College and was made with the aim of forming a strategic partnership between KCC and the Local Authority.

We believe that the Grenfell Action Group’s future investigations will reveal whose interests were best served (ie those of KCC or those of RBKC) by Mark Brickley’s cosying up to the Local Authority and we believe that these revelations will not reflect well on either organisation. We also aim to publish evidence that Mr Redpath had a direct and obvious conflict of interest arising from his continued service as a senior officer at RBKC while simultaneously serving on the KCC Board of Governors.

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Brickley’s Travels

brickley-2

Since the sudden departure of Mark Brickley from his role as Principal of Kensington and Chelsea College in October 2016, a persistent flow of unsettling rumours have been reaching us that has even had the street dogs barking. We first learned about the resignation of the Kensington and Chelsea College Principal after an article appeared on the widely circulated “FE Week” website on 4th November 2016 that cited “personal reasons” as the only explanation given for his departure:

http://feweek.co.uk/2016/11/04/kensington-and-chelsea-college-principal-resigns-with-immediate-effect/

This article was then posted on the respected “Hornet’s Nest” blog and a number of worrying allegations were made with regards to alleged going’s on at the Kensington and Chelsea College. These comments were posted anonymously and the Grenfell Action Group have no idea what truth, if any, they contain:

http://fromthehornetsnest.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/whats-happened-at-kensington-chelsea.html

Following publication of the item on the Hornet’s Nest blog, and the start of the campaign by local residents to save Wornington College, these same allegations resurfaced on a number of different occasions. The Grenfell Action Group believe that the public are entitled to know if there is any substance to the rumours that the former College Principal may have mis-used Kensington and Chelsea College money to fund a number of trips abroad on the pretext of recruiting overseas students. To this end, we wrote to the Clerk of Kensington and Chelsea College, using Freedom of Information legislation, to request details of all of Mr Brickley’s trips abroad at the college’s expense. We received the following information in response:

We shared this information with FE Week and they published a follow up to their original article: http://feweek.co.uk/2017/02/24/principal-racked-up-60k-bill-on-overseas-trips/ Mindful of an air of secrecy surrounding the unexplained departure from KCC of Mr Brickley, and the slightly earlier departure of Deputy Principal Fiona Ross, we followed up our initial FoI request with additional requests for full and comprehensive accounts of the reasons why these two senior figures had so suddenly resigned as Principal and Deputy Principal of KCC, and why their resignations were not recorded anywhere in board minutes. We also queried whether Ms Ross had been subject to a ‘gagging order’ or any other disciplinary measures prior to her departure. KCC subsequently sent us an FoI Refusal Notice which ignored the part of our query related to board minutes and instead offered the following justification for their non-disclosure of all other information we had requested relating to the sudden departure of these two key figures from KCC:
Given the persistent rumours that some form of misconduct in office may have led to the departure of Mr Brickley, and possibly of Ms Ross, we found KCC’s refusal to provide a full explanation of their departures less than reassuring.

It has been claimed that the £64,000+ spent on Mr Brickley’s travels abroad was wasteful and extravagant. This certainly would appear to be the case. But It has also been rumoured that he may have misbehaved in other ways and that his departure may have resulted from improper conduct in office rather than ‘for personal reasons’ as claimed thus far by KCC. If there is any truth in the rumours of misconduct by either party then Kensington and Chelsea College have a duty to inform their students, their staff and the general public.

THERE SHOULD BE NO COVER UP!

The Grenfell Action Group will not rest until we have obtained the full facts behind Mr Brickley’s and Ms Ross’s departures from KCC and we suspect that the circumstances, once fully revealed, may prove highly embarrasing to all those concerned. We will be appealing the decision of KCC to withhold the information we requested in relation to these events. We believe that time will prove that it is very much in the public interest to fully explain the reasons why the College Principal and Deputy Principal of Kensington and Chelsea College left their posts in such secrecy and haste.

The Grenfell Action Group have no confidence in the decision of the Clerk of Kensington and Chelsea College to refuse our FoI request on this matter and we have serious concerns about the competency of the Board of Governors who seemingly felt it appropriate to approve and fund Brickley’s multiple trips abroad. We believe the Board of Governors should now focus their attention on improving the educational ambitions and life chances of their students rather than on attempts to cover up the reasons why their most senior staff members have vacated their roles and responsibilities so suddenly and without proper explanation.

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