Hubris

The hubris of Lewisham Council Regeneration Officers never ceases to amaze.  But their dangerous over confidence is very worrying.  It seems they think they can ignore elected councillors, whose job it is to apply scrutiny, in full confidence of getting away with it.

These are some of the issues regarding the *regeneration* project of Beckenham Place Park raised by Sustainable Development Select Committee (elected councillors) on 20th April 2017:-

Change of wordingOfficers (paid staff) to report back to Mayor and Cabinet on 19th July 2017.  And therein lies the nub of the problem.  Reporting back to a different “committee” than the one that raised the issues.

So will the cabinet of Sir Mayor’s stooges notice, or if they do will they be *bovvered*, that the clever officer’s reply (below) completely ignores one of the issues (3.6), which is probably why she has not quoted paragraph numbers.  Had she done so, it would have been immediately obvious that she has chosen to *overlook* one of the queries.

Clever, innit!

Events

In addition, she has changed the wording of 3.7 (first bullet point above).

SDSC paragraph 3.7 referred to recouping the cost of staging large events in the park.  But for some reason the clever officer has changed it to returning revenues to parks budgets, which is an entirely different concept.  What are we to make of all this?

Still, I expect she’ll get away with it.

th2

I wonder, also, if Sir Mayor’s stooges will spot the fact that either the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, or that the officer wants her cake and eat it or that, quite simply, officers will answer questions with what is convenient rather than with what is true?  On the one hand (first bullet point above) we are told that there will be a business plan for income from events (this is the officer rewording of the original councillor question) and on the other hand (second bullet point) we are told a large part of the strategy will be focused on free events.

Eh?  Eh

I bet the Regeneration Officers are really cross these questions have come from councillors rather than members of the public.  Had these issues been public questions submitted to full council, the order of them would have been mixed up with questions relating to other issues.  That way, although the questioner would realise answers were contradictory, other people may not necessarily cotton on as they work their way through the mish-mash of Q&As.

But it’s a bit of a bummer when the questions come from councillors and there is nowhere to hide the contradictions.  Still, any anomalies will probably escape Mayor and Cabinet, who have not previously proved to be the brightest sparks with regard to scrutiny of Beckenham Place Park.

Spark plug

This contradiction about events really is very confusing!  Surely even Sir Mayor and cosy club cabinet will notice?

Seems to me that free events would benefit the target audience – remember them?

The pitch by the other clever Lewisham Officer to Heritage Lottery Fund was that closure of the viable, accessible and inclusive public golf course would benefit those Lewisham people considered to be deprived, especially those from the wards of Downham, Whitefoot and Bellingham.

But if events are to be part of a business plan to provide income (you know, like golf generated income) they will not necessarily benefit the target audience because they will be chargeable.  There are already small scale paid activities taking place in the park, but the fees are going to Third Parties (much like golf).  Or is the case that the better off will enjoy themselves while a few free crumbs will fall to the deprived?  Someone else thinks so:-

Cockney events

Another person, on the other hand, seems to think that two tiered events will be good (even though he thought revenue generating golf was bad, oh so very bad!)   Bingo again

This was my reply

Not bingo

To which I received a patronising (spot a common theme here) lecture that I am showing myself up, whether being obtuse or just plain silly, because the role of schools is pastoral care as well as education.  And his point being in relation to events in public parks?

Anyone know?  Eh

He points out as part of the same Facebook thread that public golf is a paying activity but that parks are free.  Except, of course, when fee charging events are taking place!

Laughing

Still, I expect it will all be OK with those clever officers overseeing the project.  Look at the reply they have given to another point raised by Sustainable Development Select Committee:-

Contingency 2

“A significant contingency is built in …”

How strange, then, that the Heritage Lottery case paper to Trustees says the opposite:-

Contingency 1

*Contingency* together with professional fees and inflation all seem “rather light.”

Seems to me that *excessive self confidence* by those clever Lewisham Council officers applies here, let alone any of the other synonyms of hubris!

hubris

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Squirrels

Barry Quirk must have got a shock!

People being allowed to stand up and admonish council members.  Surely not.

Barry Quirk RBKC

Barry is seated second from left.  I wonder if he’s thinking “this wouldn’t happen in Lewisham!”

Lewisham Council have security staff on standby at Council Question and Answer sessions, so that they can grab the microphone from you if you ask an awkward question.  Happened to my partner last year.

Baz, of course, being the 3 day a week Chief Executive Officer of Lewisham Council on a 6 figure salary seconded to Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  Lewisham Council often exclude Press and Public from their meetings.  Happened yesterday at RBKC.

#justsayin’

Let us hope for openness, transparency and a quick enquiry into the catastrophic fire and tragic deaths at Grenfell Tower, but people are suspicious this won’t be so, which is why the issue can’t be buried.

Is that why Baz is there?  He’s pretty good at cover ups.  I know this because I was on the receiving end of Baz allowing Lewisham Council officers to cover their own backs after I, and others, submitted complaints relating to misconduct to him.  We thought we would get some form of redress by going straight to the top.

Nope!

I didn’t even bother subsequently to go back to him about the trolling.

Remember that?  When Silly Timmy (AKA @bpptruth), husband of Lewisham Council officer Laura Harper, was uncovered as the chief troll targeting Beckenham Place Park golf campaigners.  A troll who had an obvious accomplice.

 

 

Now, in the clandestine world of Lewisham Council, we have the @BeckenhamPark Twitter account, followed by Lewisham Council and vice versa, refusing to give the joint Chair of Friends of Beckenham Place Park an email address.

Seems a bit odd.

The account couldn’t operate without an email address, so why so shy about sharing with the long established and active Friends group?

Lewisham Council initially claimed the Twitter account is nothing to do with them, but then went strangely quiet.

Reply Ros

So who are the Secret Squirrels of @BeckenhamPark that Lewisham Council follow, and vice versa?

secret-squirrel11.jpg

Not only do the Secret Squirrels refuse to communicate with the Friends of Beckenham Place Park, they also ignore requests from other Tweeps to say who they are:-

Not Lewisham2

No reply!

Someone was even outraged enough to DM me and provide me with some information.

Gavin email

Of course, I am already well aware of the clever officer’s role and email.  Had to laugh at this assessment:-

Tool

Anyway, why is it that often when @BeckenhamPark tweet about people enjoying the whizzy new golfless park, they don’t actually post a photo of the happy peeps?  Seems a bit barmy!

Barmy Balmy

 

Oh, but then they do post photos of peeps who have been allowed (who sought and were given permission by Lewisham Council) to break parks byelaws:-

Drones

Ah, I see the cunning plan now!  A Secret Squirrel Twitter account to promote Lewisham Council’s preferred use of Beckenham Place Park (having got rid of socially and ethnically diverse and viable revenue generating public golf) so that they can absolve themselves from any responsibility that bylaws have been flouted.  Is that right?

Or no responsibility for risk of accidents arising from their other preferred uses of the park.

The clever council officer who is driving this project has told Heritage Lottery Fund that the Friends group will be “enabled”.

Friends

Not really sure what Gavin means about a low level of activity considering the Friends lobbied for and maintain the sensory garden, keep people up to date with newsletters, organise guided walks and run the Visitor Centre on a Sunday afternoon.

Not really sure what he means about enabling an active user group with a greater role either – doesn’t he mean the Friends?  A greater role for the Friends of Beckenham Place Park?

He wouldn’t mean “alternative” volunteers?  Would he? Gasp!

Volunteers

Oh, if only Dim Tim had stuck to trolling from his mobile phone instead of using BBC systems, and being found out, he’d be able to really whinge about this blog!

Anyway, in preparation for Gavin’s stated greater role, the long established and active Friends of Beckenham Place Park now have a Twitter account.

FofBPP

And if you DM wanting a contact or more details I am sure they will oblige.  Unlike Secret Squirrels!

secret-squirrel21.jpg

 

Droning on

 

The lack of self awareness is amazing … but there again it is Lewisham …

Job

Having closed the revenue generating public golf course, Lewisham Council are now recruiting someone to drum up new users for the park after excluding a previous long-standing user community.  But I suppose that’s OK because it is Heritage Lottery money paying for the Community Engagement Officer.

Just another form of wasting public money!

Maybe this Twitter account owner will apply?

BeckPark

She (apparently) is already working with the Lewisham officer in overall charge of the project, if advice at a public meeting of Friends of Beckenham Place Park is anything to go by.  They were told by the project managing officer that the @BeckenhamPark Twitter account is Lewisham Comms team.

“Droning on again” I can just hear the chief troll itching to get back into action 🙂

And very apt, considering the example I have used, of the alleged Lewisham Comms Twitter account, is promoting drone racing in the park.  The trouble with that is drone racing infringes Lewisham’s parks’ bylaws.

Byelaws

There’s even a newspaper article about it!

Evening Standard

So, how can it happen that both the organiser of the drone race who said he had permission from Lewisham Council (no reason to disbelieve him) and @BeckenhamPark are not aware that drone racing infringes the by-laws?

 

Permission

Permission 2

Whilst it is forgivable that the drone flyers might rely on the veracity (ha, ha) of the council’s advice, how come the Lewisham tweeter didn’t know their own by-laws?

Simples!  Seems like the Friends of Beckenham Place Park were misinformed, the officer seems to have been a bit muddled, because @BeckenhamPark is not a Lewisham account.

Not Lewisham account

They are adamant about it!

Reiterate

Oh, but hold on a minute, whilst that may be true (contrary to the Lewisham officer’s advice) how does the official Lewisham Council tweep account for this:-

Great event

So, let’s get this right – flying drones is against Lewisham parks’ by-laws, yet drone racers obtained permission from Lewisham Council to hold a drone event and the *official* Lewisham Council Twitter account wants images of this illegal event to upload on to their Facebook page!

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Clueless!

I wonder if the new Community Engagement Officer will have any clue?

Anyway, Alex and his mates seemed a nice enough bunch.  We have an invitation to watch next time.  Hmm … I wonder if that clever (but confused) council officer project managing would approve?  After all, people who told her they enjoyed watching golf were more or less told to get a life!

Welcome

I’m not quite sure what to make of this either:-

Caution

Weren’t we told that the danger of being hit by a golf ball was so great that golf had to go!

Oh hum.

 

Heidi Hi – Heidi Go?

Heidi will always be her own woman.

IMG_0904[1]

Except that, despite being asked by constituents, she has nothing meaningful to say about Millwall Football Club’s involvement in the regeneration of New Bermondsey.

Perhaps her constituents who are Millwall supporters, employees or community workers don’t count?  Or maybe she thinks all of the latter only live and work in “out of constituency” Bermondsey?  Does she even know their training ground is in Lewisham East?

You can tell she’s really in touch with the people!

CPO

Even weirder is that Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East, turned up to a public meeting, to which she was extended an invitation by a constituent, in February 2015 about the proposed closure of Beckenham Place Park public golf course (within her constituency) during which her main focus was to be an advocate for what Mayor Bullock wanted.

But, but …. she says she has an open mind!

IMG_0903[1]

Heidi, of course, was well versed in Sir Mayor’s desires as she was deputy mayor and cabinet member from 2006 until the General Election in 2010.  Cllr Alexander was part of the inner cabal that made decisions about Beckenham Place Park, including trying to reduce the golf course to nine holes and to market the mansion house out of which the golf operation was run.

She was part of the clique which authorised paying for consultancy report after consultancy report to try and engineer the result Sir Mayor wanted.  He, of course, went into a huff when things didn’t go his way in 2008, until that clever officer in 2014, with the help of Land Use Consultants, told porkies about overwhelming support by local people in wanting to get rid of the golf course entirely!

The reality was this:-

nos-not-percentages

Approximately 16,500 people live within a 10 minute walk distance from a Beckenham Place Park entrance – I know that because Gavin commissioned  consultants to do a survey (costing best part of £10,000).  Yet the decision to close the golf course was following a consultation  of 175 people.  And – yep! – here it comes – that old chestnut (which makes the observation no less valid) – as a daily user of the park I knew nothing about any “consultation.”

And here’s Gav, seven months after the public meeting about the golf course, being all chummy with Heidi – you know, part of the cabal which previously failed where Gav has so gloriously succeeded!

IMG_1593[1]

Five years after #GE2010 Heidi Alexander continued to be an advocate for Bullock, completely forgetting that she was the Member of Parliament for the people of Lewisham East rather than a member of Sir Mayor’s cosy club.

Now we have #GE2017 and Sir Mayor has achieved his ambition of closing the golf course … maybe they were cutting the cake in celebration!  LOL! 🙂

H&B

Ahh, so sweet.

Whatever the reason for the cake, it is clear that Heidi MP has a better relationship with the mayor of her local Labour council than with the leader of her parliamentary party.  I expect that’s because Sir Mayor’s cabinet is functional – it seems to function well for him – rather than the so called dysfunctional shadow cabinet identified by Heidi, which she was so keen to leave because she couldn’t be asked to stay and work to make it functional.

 

Heidi

 

Heidi, being her own woman, was at the forefront of the surge to elect a nonentity to replace her leader – Corbyn, that is!!!  What was that bloke’s name again?  Owen something?  Oh, and Sir Mayor voted for Owen Who too.

JC

Anyway, here’s Sir Mayor whinging, like all politicians of course – it’s always someone else’s fault.

IMG_0907[1]

So, in case you can’t read my handwriting, Bullock is complaining about income cuts but costs increased.  Yet, he has thrown away viable income from public golf, kept the same staff costs for the park, maybe saved on some incidentals, but the council is also paying salaried officer posts to encourage people to use the new park scheme – having turfed out paying users!

Is this a metaphor for how Lewisham Council operates?

Yes, but, but … they did secure a Heritage Lottery Fund £4.9M grant for the park.  Hmm, of which about £1M has been spent on “other costs” i.e. consultancy (mustn’t forget those Land Use Consultants) and Lewisham needs (at last count) another £3.6M to complete the project.

You know, when you open a can of worms, rather a lot tend to spill out!

th[6]

No one knows what’s going to happen to the mansion house that Sir Mayor, Heidi and the cosy club were keen to market back in the day.  Perhaps they are waiting for a renewal of interest?

Then there’s this.  I won’t comment further because I don’t know the ins and outs.

Forest Hill

And who agreed to a six figure salary for a Chief Executive Officer who only works a three day week.  That’s a bit quirky.

*Sir* Mayor, of course, hides his light under a bushel – he’s really a man of the people, just an ordinary working class bloke from a northern council estate, who loves his football team.  Labour to the core – just like Heidi.

Boro

Strange then, that he doesn’t relate to the working classes of his place of residence, sarf London, who loved their public golf course and love their football teams, one of which is located within his public realm of Lewisham.

I note that Sir Mayor has nothing to say about the subsequent relegation of ‘Boro – 🙂 LOL.

Waiting for the right sound bite I suppose.

And he has nothing to say about Millwall’s success so far this season.

And just to add to the other cock ups and waste of money (must be the government’s fault) Sir Mayor had to agree to £500,000 worth of public enquiry into the Millwall CPO debacle, which would have provided very little social housing via Lewisham Council’s preferred developer, Renewal.

Off-shore, British Virgin Island based Renewal who, some say, couldn’t develop their way out of a paper bag.  And what’s that “own woman” Heidi got to say:-

Heidi CPO

Let’s give Willow a go!  Willow, who was offered a derisory £58K for her property by Renewal, Lewisham Council’s preferred (mystery) developer.

Willow

 

 

 

 

 

 

The relief of poverty?

Nope!

I’m struggling to discover, from the available information on the internet, how the outdoor education charity Wide Horizons fulfils their stated objective of the relief of poverty.  This from their report attached to their last set of accounts:-

Relief of poverty

Perhaps their CEO, Alex Brooks-Johnson, or Trustee, John Russell, could enlighten me?  But probably not because they do not want to engage in debate about Beckenham Place Park so I don’t suppose they want anyone to delve deep into the wider issues of the charity.

AJBJ block

JR blockWH block

Sure, they have a “Get Out Go Wild” holiday programme for disadvantaged city children and 227 kids benefitted last (financial) year.  But that’s out of a total of 41,625, which is pretty pathetic.  However, 227 is better than none, the programme being funded by London Quadrant and Phoenix Housing Associations, but for how long?

Wide Horizons say both Lewisham and Greenwich Councils provide support through joint initiatives to schools etc, but it is not explained exactly how they do so or how many of the 41,625 kids who enjoyed a WH experience are 1) from Lewisham 2) from Greenwich 3) fall into the category of disadvantaged, other than the 227 already mentioned.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against an outdoor education organisation, or schools and parents who can afford to use their service, but I think it is a bit rich that they claim to improve the lives of other kids in adverse social and economic circumstances when the only evidence of them doing so relates to a tiny percentage of 227 kids.  Not unless they are hiding their light under a bushel, but this from the horse’s mouth:-

Achievements

Some other numbers to consider:-

  • 74 state primary schools in Greenwich
  • 18 state secondary schools in Greenwich
  • 64,500 children and young people under the age of 18 in Greenwich
  • 74 state primary schools in Lewisham
  • 17 state secondary schools in Lewisham
  • 73,000 young people under age of 19 in Lewisham

You know how independent schools can apply to be registered charities?  And some offer a bursary for maybe one child whose family can’t afford the fees.  Seems to me the same sort of thing is going on with Wide Horizons.

Relief of poverty?  They say they target groups such as “Looked after Children”, but where’s the evidence?

Benevolent

This is part of the booking form for Wide Horizons’ Horton Kirby centre in Kent:-

Booking enquiry form

It is the only booking enquiry form I can find on the website, and I don’t know whether it is out of date, but it seems strange there is no other publically available guidance on pricing for their other centres.  Anyway, it seems that a day trip out to Horton Kirby for a class of up to 32 will cost (did cost) a Lewisham or Greenwich school £343.60 (unless they have their own coach or can get one cheaper).  There is nothing on the form to indicate lunch arrangements.

But hey, they are a charity!  So unless anyone on Lewisham Council or Heritage Lottery Fund is prepared to apply proper scrutiny – LOL 🙂 ha, ha,  – it’s obvious, innit, that the “regeneration” of Lewisham Council’s 240 acre Beckenham Place Park should be set up especially for them (one assumes at a similar cost to schools as Horton Kirby) and the 90 acre public golf course closed.

Ed programme

Kayak & canoes

So, for the scrutineers amongst us, here’s some Wide Horizons by numbers:-

  • 41,625 children had a WH experience 1/8/14 to 31/7/15 across eight centres (2 SE London, 2 Kent, 3 Wales, 1 Dorset) = average of 5,203 per centre = average of 14 per day (albeit accepting that over the Christmas holiday there would be no programme so that pushes the daily average up).
  • 227 inner city disadvantaged London kids had a “Get out Go Wild” experience i.e. 0.005% of total
  • This Easter the five day Eltham Adventure Holiday Club costs £150 (£30 per day) per child 9.30 to 16.00 or £200 (£40 per day) per child 8.30 to 17.30 with a 10% discount for second and subsequent siblings.  (Relief of poverty anyone?)
  • According to the report attached to their accounts, WH have 43 partnership schools across all centres; eight of the schools are in Greenwich and no information is available about Lewisham.  However, I have seen other evidence that two Lewisham schools have used WH.  Wow!
  • Wide Horizons took 150 kids into Beckenham Place Park in July 2015 before closure of the public golf course  – from Tower Hamlets.  I don’t know how it was financed.
  • By year five of the education programme coming to Beckenham Place Park (once Godot has arrived) Wide Horizons anticipate bringing 7,800 children annually during term time into the education centre i.e. 40 a day.  They will charge the schools involved for their service.  It is known that government funding to London schools is to be cut, albeit Wide Horizons work with schools for fund raising.  And they organise other fund raising activities:-

Cycle

  • Also by year five, a holiday programme for ten weeks of the year will, apparently, see 5,000 kids annually participating in BPP i.e. 100 a day.  This will be charged at £15 a day (concession of £10 available) and kids will have to provide their own packed lunch.  How reasonable is that compared to the Eltham (London Borough of Greenwich) programme quoted above!  How this discounted service will be achieved no one knows, given that both Greenwich and Lewisham are already described as benevolent landlords to WH, so the discrepancy between the two sites is quite puzzling.  Indeed, even the Heritage Lottery Fund Case Paper concedes it’s a bit of a gamble:-

SustainabilityI have no idea how many Lewisham families will be able to take advantage of the “cheap” holiday scheme at Beckenham Place Park, but I would suggest that this WH programme will do little to relieve poverty.

  • Beckenham Place Park is 240 acres, the revenue generating public golf course used to take up 90 acres of that, yet Wide Horizons claim they need the whole site – for 40 kids per day!?!!!  Oh, sorry, 100 during holidays.  By the way, what says the Lewisham troll who mocked me for pointing out that WH brought 150 kids into the park in July 2015, saying that wasn’t many and implying there would be many more on closure of the golf course?  Erm ….
  • Wide Horizons will be supplying canoes and kayaks exclusively for use under their direction for the new lake in the park and the plans indicate storage for 12 of the former, 36 of the latter.  They will also project pilot private hire.

Kayaking

And now we come to the nub of why Wide Horizons supported closure of the revenue generating golf course, despite 150 kids having coexisted with it in July 2015 – because there is to be an expensively constructed lake just for them!

Canoes and kayaks are not cheap, but I suppose WH will get a discount for buying bulk (one assumes life jackets too!)  Perhaps they will fund it via initiatives such as this:-

Ardeche disadvantaged kids

You don’t think Wide Horizons’ #mates want messing around on lakes (and other “approved” activities such as cycling) in order to keep their hand in for cronies’ adventures in France do you?

Swale Tri

It would be good to be able to discover just exactly what providing life changing adventures for “disadvantaged children” means.  How many and how often will disadvantaged kids go to the Ardeche, for example?

Wide Horizons social media feeds and website don’t really enlighten us any more than the report attached to their accounts.  Yes, we see tweets and Facebook posts of happy children at WH centres, but how were they able to participate, who paid, who was included and, most important of all, who was not and how many were “disadvantaged”?

You know what else I can’t find on the WH website?  It’s severely lacking in testimonials.

Here are some more Wide Horizons by numbers for accounting period 1/8/14 – 31/7/15:-

  • Income £2,912,233
  • Outgoing £2,901,235
  • Operational surplus £10,998
  • Reserves £330K to £430K
  • Staff costs £1,701,137 (58% of income)
  • Buildings and maintenance costs £419,448
  • Vehicle costs £178,347
  • Other costs (cost of generating funds, catering, depreciation, legal, audit etc) £386,122

Financial review

Looks like they will have to up their game if they are to have another base in Beckenham Place Park, or maybe they will close one or both of the Greenwich ones.  If so, the expectation of an average of 40 kids a day during term time to visit Beckenham Place Park looks even less impressive, in comparison to the overall size of the site and the fact that “Everyman” revenue generating golf has been closed for a fake lake for #mates.

So, for the benefit of an estimated 40 (occasionally 100) children a day, a 90 acre revenue generating public golf course was closed.  An “Everyman” course which, by my reckoning, if running at full capacity could have 216 players on it at any one time throughout the day (4 players on tee, 4 progressing on fairway, 4 on putting green x 18 holes = 216 x £s = wasted possibility to maximise a public asset.)  And there is still another 150 acres of Beckenham Place Park.

Still, I suppose Wide Horizons will need a training facility for when peeps go off to the Ardeche with however many lucky kids who are funded!  Or rather, whose parents can afford it.

Ardeche

I can’t help thinking Wide Horizons is an enterprise for the enjoyment and employment of outdoorsy types to provide jolly japes and jaunts for their peers, as much as for the advancement of outdoor education.  Seems to me that as far as Beckenham Place Park is concerned a group of #mates got together, including the hierarchy of Wide Horizons, and decided upon the type of park that suited them, which did not include the heritage and revenue generating public golf course.

Quite where this leaves the council tax payers of Lewisham I don’t know, with the prospect of Lewisham not only incurring capital costs (including an expensive lake) for Beckenham Place Park over and above the Heritage Lottery Fund grant, but also the continued maintenance of the 240 acre site, with very little (if any) savings having been achieved by the closure of revenue generating public golf and Wide Horizons contributing little to the upkeep and they are to benefit from a “peppercorn” rent.

This, in order to bring outdoor adventures to a relatively small number of children compared to the overall size of the park, on a site where Wide Horizons’ coexistence with revenue generating public golf had previously proved possible, in a climate where school budgets are to be reduced, and no clear indication of how “the relief of poverty” is to be achieved.

Is it just meanie old me?

Anyway, here’s a curious thing to end.  If you go to the Greenwich Council website and put in a search for Wide Horizons you get a result for Councillor Christine May, who is a director of the “charity”.  Not that you will find that information on WH website, but you will at Companies House.  If you go to Lewisham Council’s website and search, there are no results.  Strange!  However, at the Lewisham AGM on 27th March 2017, item 83 Mayoral appointments, two senior members of Lewisham staff plus all 55 councillors were appointed to one body or another.  One of the bodies is Wide Horizons.  The Mayor’s appointee is Mr John Russell, who is neither a Lewisham officer or a councillor but is the Trustee of Wide Horizons.  Hmm.

 

Choo, choo! Beware the know-it-alls.

The Government has set up a survey into the Heritage Lottery Gravy Train.

Choo, choo!

Erm … I mean, the roles and responsibilities of the distributors of National Lottery players’ money.

Gov Survey

Seems like it is aimed more at applicants than the General Public, but anyone can complete it.  Here is the link:-

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/review-of-the-national-heritage-memorial-fund-and-heritage-lottery-fund-launched

I have done so, along with several other people I know.  For example:-

Responses

As Frank says, it is a long survey, although the website says it should only take 25 minutes.  I think that gives us some indication of what the government think will be the outcome i.e. that everything in the garden is rosy and people will be ticking all the positive boxes.

But as Frank and Daniel indicate, there is a different view!

There is the option to exercise your democratic right and highlight Heritage Lottery Fund’s failings in its dealings with Lewisham Council.  For most options where you tick a negative, a text box will open up for you to add a comment (with a word limit).  It took me an hour and a half, but you can do it in stages.  Deadline is 6th April.

I copied my comments on to a word document.  I have pasted below.  Unfortunately it was impractical to copy the questions as well, but you will get the gist.

Starts:-

This may be correct in most cases. In the example I know of the asset has been lost and a different asset imposed.

The one example I have a close association with has obliterated one heritage in favour of another heritage. A subjective judgement on the part of the funders was made in conflict with wishes of local people.

Heritage Lottery Fund work to a tick box formula which leaves little room for thinking outside of the box.

Except that a tick box formula is followed which means some assets of national heritage are lost.

The one project I am familiar with is early stage work in progress, hence I have ticked the “don’t know” option; outcomes remain to be seen. Where I have ticked “not well at all” this is because heritage that has been destroyed cannot be better managed. Nor will it be in better condition and the interpretation, explanation, identification and recording will, in fact, be a case of virtually air brushing the heritage from history and existence in favour of HLF’s preferred heritage. The local authority with whom HLF are working will not be more resilient because there is nothing in the documentation produced by the local authority or HLF to suggest this will be so. In fact, they are relying on an optimistic statement from a council officer that council elected members are committed long term.

I’m sure HLF do all of the above very well. But the heritage sector they promote is subjective and it supports a self-serving heritage gravy train.

HLF do not seem to care about negative impacts its funding makes. The example I have based my comments on so far is Beckenham Place Park. HLF are very well aware that a large number of local people object to their funding of a scheme which has led to the removal of a popular, viable, accessible, inclusive & diverse public golf course. A golf course which is of heritage value itself, in favour of recreated 18th Century landscape which is of no relevance. They have ignored evidence presented to them that Lewisham Council lied in their application form about key issues of usage and financial viability of the golf course and the rigged consultation. See Verita report on HLF website. In addition, in awarding a £5M grant to the Council, they have saddled them with another £3.6M of costs & rising.

In the case of Beckenham Place Park and Lewisham Council it is difficult to identify how HLF funding makes the 240 acre site more resilient. Removing 90 acre public golf has led to loss of income, but maintenance costs are largely the same as most is staff and staff numbers will not be cut but increased. The new income coming into the park is untested and does not equate to what has been lost, let alone what was the true income potential had Lewisham Council not deliberately undermined the golf operation. The financial sustainability of the site relies on the stated long term good will of elected representatives to commit the necessary funds from annual budgets. The council also have to find (as at end of 2016) an extra £3.6M to complete the project i.e. 43% which will probably rise.

In the case of Beckenham Place Park, HLF have colluded with Lewisham Council to remove a heritage public golf course because it does not suit HLF branding and tick box culture. In doing so they have destroyed networks of friends, golfers and non-golfers alike, in favour of an experiment and the heritage of the golf course will be air-brushed from existence. The previous community of users was ethnically and socially diverse and was a good base on which to build a bigger diverse community of users (bearing in mind golf only too up 90 out of 240 acres). So far, although it is only early days, this diverse community has left behind a largely white dog walking community as the main users. The targeted new community of users could have coexisted very easily with the community that has been lost

The most important thing HLF can do is listen to the concerns of local people. It must be open minded instead of closing out evidence of wrong doing by a council that was determined to railroad through a scheme which had little support from local people. It needs to be flexible, to think outside of the box instead of being fixated on which boxes have been ticked. Beckenham Place Park Community Trust sent HLF a pre-action letter advising that it would seek judicial review of their decision to award funding to Lewisham Council. Ultimately it did not do so because of raising the necessary funds and running out of time, after having waited for HLF to take the maximum time to respond to Freedom of Information requests. It may be in the future that their high handedness will attract a challenge.

Seems like HLF working with Lewisham Council meant working to close out opposition and covering up mendacity, so they succeeded there. As for organisations working in the natural environment, it seems that heritage is just a self-serving gravy train and that companies like Land Use Consultants do very nicely, to the detriment, in the case of Beckenham Place Park, to the local community and existing community of users.

In the case of Beckenham Place Park HLF have not considered the financial resources needed to sustain the questionable benefits of its funding. It has gambled and placed too much reliance on a statement made by a council employee that elected members of the council are committed to long term sustainability of a 240 acre site, which had previously been neglected and marginalised for decades.  HLF have been complicit in Lewisham Council throwing away a viable income stream into the park and ignored all the evidence presented by campaigners with regard to that viability. Much of the new activity identified as coming to the park will be subsidised by the council. Commercial sources of income stated are untested, other than a café

Too big a list – too many tick boxes. Vague and patronising. Define an enjoyable experience? Changing attitudes and behaviour shouldn’t be part of a heritage remit. The first five are important, plus resilience and environmental considerations.

HLF has a duty to scrutinise. In the case of Beckenham Place Park they 1) failed abjectly to do so 2) when members of the public did the job of scrutiny for them they failed to engage in a positive manner. Their attitude was to sweep inconvenient truths under the carpet rather than address the issues brought to their attention. An arrogant attitude of “we know best”. In early interactions they responded promptly to Freedom of Information requests. As time went by, they used the full statutory 20 working days response time to respond to even the simplest of request. The level of redaction for FOIs from Stage 2 documentation submitted by Lewisham Council was tantamount to an abuse of the FOI Act, which they are now reviewing on being advised that a complaint will be submitted to ICO.

Leadership is predicated on closing ranks & protecting the backs of staff. There is a reluctance to accept that staff have been unprofessional and that there are very good reasons for a scheme they are supporting is highly controversial. Please see Verita report on HLF website, especially comments about lack of impartiality of the Grant Officer’s Stage 1 Case Paper. Also note that the Verita report & recommendations was not referenced at Stage 2. It appears that the 3 stage complaints process is a façade, going through the motions, rather than a learning and improving exercise. HLF were dismissive of a paper petition of 8,000 people presented to their London office because no mention was made of it at the Board meeting of Trustees and the Case Paper merely referred to some local opposition

They are skilful at deflecting criticism, experienced and knowledgeable in their subjective opinions and attitudes. Otherwise they seem naïve in not being able to see the holes in Lewisham’s application.

The scheme HLF agreed with Lewisham Council for Beckenham Place Park is highly controversial. HLF has been provided with reams of evidence about Lewisham’s mendacity, but have overlooked it. HLF appear only to be accountable to themselves. Seems like if they like the look of a scheme, they will endeavour to ensure the scheme goes ahead, despite the level of opposition and in spite of the grave concerns and issues to which they have been alerted. There is a reluctance to engage positively with anyone who crosses their vision. It is part of HLF remit to work with applicants, but not to such a degree that they actually collude to railroad through a controversial and unpopular scheme and that they resort to being obstructive with regard to Freedom of Information requests

Ends

N.B. ICO referred to above is Information Commissioners Office.  I have previously successfully complained to ICO about Lewisham Council’s obstruction tactics with regard to Freedom of Information requests.  For example, when I asked for details of the “targeted work” they claimed they had done with schools, referenced in their Stage 1 application form to Heritage Lottery Fund, they quoted the Data Protection Act as a reason for not providing the information.  ICO said they had to answer my question.  Turns out it was only one school, not schools plural and only eight children.  The work was not targeted for children as they were given the same materials to work with as adults.  Their survey returns were included in the 175 Lewisham collected and on the basis of 175 surveys Lewisham claimed to have the overwhelming support of local people for their preferred plans for Beckenham Place Park.

By the way, only 62 said get rid of golf, not that Heritage Lottery Fund were “bovvered” by this shocking disingenuousness – because it was their preferred plan too!

Here is the Verita report mentioned above:-

https://www.hlf.org.uk/file/21441/download?token=pRcF1TUV69w5lUf85dziwUGexKtq3GuJgUoqcyEIWlE

As the government survey is about the Heritage Lottery role in particular, rather than just them and Beckenham Place Park, let’s have a quick look at some other issues.

There is HLF London’s contentious funding for Tooting Common which involves removal of trees in Chestnut Avenue.  Campaigners and Friends of Tooting Common dispute that all the trees are diseased and the need to remove rather than conserve:-

FOTC

Just like campaigners and Friends of Beckenham Place Park objected to closure of the viable, accessible, inclusive and diverse public golf course.  They even submitted their own robust survey, unlike Lewisham’s, to HLF London, which indicated the majority of people welcomed regeneration of the park, but not by taking away golf.

But of course in both cases, Beckenham Place Park and Tooting Common, Heritage Lottery Fund knew better than the Friends Groups.  Strangely, HLF claim to set great store by the involvement of Parks’ Friends groups in their projects.  When it suits them.

And look at a project the we-know-better-heritage-experts decided not to fund:-

HMS President

Rejected because of available budget.  What the Trustees of Heritage Lottery Fund mean is that they deem lottery players money is better spent getting rid of a popular heritage public golf course, in favour of the history and landscape of an obscure 18th Century rich gent, rather than on restoring a ship in the firing line of the defence of this nation, with all the human stories that involves.

Here is what some historians on Facebook think about it.  But what do they know, compared to the know-it-alls of HLF:-

IMG_1435[1]

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IMG_1437[1] - Copy (2)

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Language Timothy!

While I’ve been writing this I have received communications from Heritage Lottery Fund about the level of redaction in their responses to my Freedom of Information requests.

Hooray!

Just about the only concession they made was that it was unnecessary to redact the headings to tables contained in application documentation.  So, for example, I – and you – am/are now allowed to see this:-

Work schedule

So, we can see this is a proposed annual work schedule, but we are not allowed to see the actual details of schedule.  Can anyone think of any conceivable reason for such secrecy?

Then there is this gem – a Public Interest Test:-

Public Interest test

Yep, they got that right “HLF is required to ensure that their grant-giving and grant-management processes are robust, fair, impartial …” but something they refer to as “undue public scrutiny” gets in the way of that.  Anyone like to suggest how public scrutiny of a park’s annual work schedule compromises HLF’s processes?

No one asked to see sensitive financial data.  The work schedule is just a description and schedule of jobs.  How does that fall into the “undue” category.

It just confirms that Lewisham Council are allergic to scrutiny.  I wonder why?  And why would Heritage Lottery Fund collude with them?

Not fit for purpose if you ask me.  If you agree, please take some time to complete the online questionnaire via the link above.

 

Strange Relationships

Is it just me?  Strange?  Well probably!

Maybe after reading this blog post you might think it’s not just me that’s strange!  LOL 🙂

Lewisham Council do seem to specialise in “strange” e.g. that strange contract with Glendale Golf.  It also seems to me that they do strange relationships with *suitable* charities too.  Suitable charities being two where their involvement applies a veneer of respectability to contentious land issues.

Firstly, the creation of Surrey Canal Sports Foundation seems to have been the acceptable face of what otherwise appears to be a grubby Compulsory Purchase Order land grab. I mean, why create a sports foundation right on top of Millwall’s community project, why not just support the latter?

But that seems to have backfired anyway.  In the news of late (national as well as local) has been the issue of Lewisham Council’s recommendation of a £500,000 grant to Surrey Canal Sports Foundation, of which Sir Steve Bullock, our powerful executive mayor, was until recently a Trustee.  He resigned from the Foundation in strange circumstances.  So strange is this and connected issues that the Council has been forced into commissioning a judge led public enquiry.

Secondly there is a strange looking relationship with Wide Horizons, who are to have a new base in Beckenham Place Park.  Someone on Twitter recently implied that I was a bit of a meanie because he thought I begrudged Wide Horizons from *happening* to benefit from the *regeneration* of Beckenham Place Park.  Not true.

I am simply pointing out that a very expensive new landscaping scheme, including the construction of a lake, has been set up especially for them.  In order to do so, the popular and viable public golf course has been closed.

Hypocrisy is a word that could have been invented for Wide Horizons.  Here we have their Trustee, John Russell, retweeting solidarity with Millwall’s legitimate complaints about land grab.

Millwall Lion.JPG

Yet Wide Horizons are party to a land grab in Beckenham Place Park, grabbing land away from an established community of users for the exclusive benefit of Wide Horizons.  Just to rub salt into the wound, here he is again retweeting the LibDem leader’s article about the heart break of Millwall having to move.  Tell that to the public golfers of Beckenham Place Park who have had to move.  More specifically, tell that to the ones who have had to give up playing after closure of the course at Beckenham Place Park, for accessibility reasons, because it is to become, instead, a huge adventure playground for Wide Horizons.

Heartbreaking

Of course, closure of the public golf course has changed the status of the land from formal recreation to informal recreation, thus stripping away a layer of protection of the land.  I expect that’s just a coincidence.

Remind me, what’s happening with the Mansion House in the park?  Does anyone know?

The decision to close the golf course was made solely by Sir Mayor; a decision that by-passed adhering to the recommendation made by Lewisham Council’s Sustainable Development Select Committee, 14 January 2016, that “an analysis of the true profit potential of the golf course” be examined before a decision was made.

As for the Mansion House, seems like it’s proving more tricky than those clever Lewisham officers expected to relocate the car park from in front of the mansion, so why don’t they just leave it there?

The Planning Officer has commissioned more archaeological reports on the new car park site, thus taking money from the budget to get things done to funnel into the hands of consultants.  Easier to just redesign the current car park in front of the mansion.

Hmm. I wonder why they don’t do that?

OK, you can accuse me of being a conspiracy theorist.

Moving on.

Do other councils “support” a particular charity in the same way as Lewisham and Wide Horizons?  Is it normal for a council to source a large amount of money in order to set up a charity in new premises and make radical changes to a park’s landscape?  And in so doing saddle itself with approximately 75% of the costs (or the headache of sourcing other external funds)  OVER AND ABOVE the grant already secured?

hlf-57

And from where is that extra £3.6M going to be sourced?

This is what Wide Horizons say about themselves:-

Adventure model

They are “now an independent charity”.  An independent charity dependent on Lewisham Council to set them up in new premises.  Hmmm.

They serve other London boroughs as well as Lewisham (and Greenwich) but Lewisham are, effectively, underwriting their expansion.  Odd?  Strange?   Anyway, they already have two centres in London Borough of Greenwich and have used Beckenham Place Park for activities prior to the closure of the golf course.  This from their report attached to their last accounts:-

Achievements

No one begrudges Wide Horizons a base in Beckenham Place Park in order to increase the use they have already made of it.  And, of course, an education room is an eminently sensible idea.

ABJ

In fact, wouldn’t most people like the idea of kids participating in learning sessions/ adventures in the woods and meadow areas of the park, whilst older people enjoy the sport which occupied just 90 acres out of the whole 240 acre site?  Young, old and not so old mixing together in the same space. But no, Wide Horizons don’t want to share.

They do not want to share with golf, neither do they want to share with another outreach organisation like the Golf Trust.  In fact, perish the thought of Lewisham Council or Wide Horizons using a fantastic sporting asset to get kids involved in golf as part of their activities!  Unlike other local authorities:-

James and Tonbridge

I am also wondering about the children Wide Horizons’ outreach programmes actually reach. I can’t see anything on their website to indicate that any parent with young kids, on a make-ends-meet budget, could actually apply to the charity for a free adventure learning place for their kids.

OK, so it’s facilitated through schools.  But schools are charged.  And do schools pass most, if not all, of the costs on to parents?  I don’t know – someone help me here.  But what I do know is that school budgets in Lewisham have recently been cut and there is uproar about it.  Indeed, John Russell is in uproar:-

Sydenham School

Anyway, look at a couple of extracts from a document forming part of Lewisham’s Heritage Lottery Fund second stage rubber stamping exercise – oops, I mean application.

First:-

Charge schools

Yep!  Wide Horizons would be charging schools for programmes for their pupils.  Or maybe the beneficiaries will be just those school kids whose parents can afford any charge passed on by the school?

And notice that despite being an independent charity, Lewisham will be underwriting Wide Horizons’ rent.  I wonder what the 60 odd NGOs who have just had their funding from Lewisham Council cut by 25% think of such favouritism?

Seems like there will be enough schools with enough money in their ever reducing budgets to bring kids into the park five days a week, 39 weeks of the year.  By year 5 that will be 7,800 per annum. Wow!

Seven thousand eight hundred lucky kids for whom a budget of some sort (school or parent) will stretch to enable them to participate.  That is 200 per week, which is 40 a day.  Impressive, eh?  And 40 kids a day can’t coexist with revenue generating public golf and an established community of park users who have been pushed out elsewhere.

Then there’s this:-

Charges

Another 5,000 children will take part in holiday programmes over just ten weeks of the year i.e. 500 children per week or a hundred a day, although we have to wait until 2021/22 for that.  Costs will be £15 per day per child (albeit a concession of £10 will be available) and they will have to bring their own lunch too.  Presumably that’s 2016 costing when the rubber stamping document was lodged, with no allowance for inflation to 2021 costs.

I suppose all of Wide Horizons’ Charitable objectives fit into this scenario somewhere, but I’m struggling to identify where.

Charitable objectives

Can someone please advise this dimwit where the relief of poverty fits in with charging £10 concession, £15 otherwise, plus cost of packed lunch, per child?

Whatever, I am sure the kids that do take part in Wide Horizons’ activities benefit, but I still don’t understand why they can’t coexist with golf.  On which note, did you spot that two salaried posts are to be created to encourage people to use the park, one of whom is a Business Development Manager.  Strange (that word again) how revenue generating golf was deemed unacceptable but that other businesses may be acceptable.  Definition of acceptable?

And that salaried posts are needed to get people into the park after pushing regular paying visitors out (despite the presence of Wide Horizons!)

Austerity, eh?

Anyway, I have tried asking Wide Horizons’ CEO, Alex Brooks-Johnson, and the Trustee, John Russell, why they could not co-exist with golf.  Strangely, after initial engagement with me, they ceased responding.  But, but …. look at this from Mr Russell:-

Anyone reply

LOL, he’s endorsing Lewisham LibDem’s complaint that Lewisham are not responding to questions asked about Millwall.  Yet he has done the very same to me about Wide Horizons’ use of Beckenham Place Park!

Then there’s this:-

Unacceptable

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, LOL!!!

Mr Russell is very well aware of the dirty tricks Lewisham used to obtain closure of the golf course because I told him.  Seems like the indefensible for the benefit of Wide Horizons is OK!

Turns out Wide Horizons  just don’t want to coexist with golf. Here’s a paragraph of a letter they sent to Heritage Lottery Fund:-

Limiting factor

Such a lot going on in that one paragraph!  The oft repeated mantra (so it must be true if you say it enough times) that the park is underused and that people consider the park to be a golf club.  A golf club!  Not even a public turn-up-and-pay-to-play-open-to-anyone golf course!  Another insidious trick of Lewisham and their mates in creating the impression of the golf course being a private club. Wide Horizons admit that they have had hundreds of participants in the park in the last two years i.e. when the golf course was operational.  But, poor loves, the golf course is a limiting factor.  So why did they bother?

Why not just wait for Godot to arrive?

Limiting factor?  That would be because the participants would have to walk a couple of hundred yards from the Homesteads building end of the park to access woodland and meadowland where their activities took place.  No wonder there’s an obesity crisis!

How about if Wide Horizons started off from the Old Bromley Road car park in the east of the park instead.  Indeed, look at this:-

East of river

They appear to have used Old Bromley Road end!  As do other peeps who aren’t fussed about the golf course:-

BPP 046

 

That’s where I came into the park as a kid from Downham and the golf course never stopped my enjoyment of the park, as I told ABJ and JR, but it fell on deaf ears.  Plus, part of the masters’ master plan involves new adventure play equipment, skateboard park upgrade and BMX track in the east of the park, which also has a river and easy access to the woodland, so why do Wide Horizons need the golf course as well?

By the way, what’s that about supporting Lewisham and being a key partner?  Methinks it’s the other way round!  And it’s Wide Horizons who are the, largely, financially sleeping partner!

You know what I think about this “limiting issue”. The limitations are that with the golf course in place they would not be able to have outdoor jolly japes messing around on the water i.e. that expensive lake that’s being constructed for them.

Kayaking

And they wouldn’t have as many choices of cycle routes so coveted by the mates who have set up this self-serving scheme.

Best if you look the screen snip below up on Wide Horizons’ website and scratch your head trying to make head or tail of it.

Favoured few

Wannabe Beckenham Place Park kayaker and all-things-bike from rural middle class West Country upbringing, Mr Brooks-Johnson, opines:-

“for too long this park has been enjoyed by the lucky few”. 

Really?  So Wide Horizons didn’t bring kids into the park after all?  Golfers didn’t golf, dog walkers didn’t walk, other walkers didn’t walk, runners didn’t run, cyclists didn’t cycle, a dementia group never visited to sit and have coffee and commune with friends and nature every week, people with newspapers and books never sat reading in the fresh air on benches, bird watchers never watched, nature photographers never photographed, no one used the skate park or the kids’ playground or the open fields, Foxgrove social club members never enjoyed the park, visitors didn’t visit the mansion on a Sunday to go to the visitor centre run by the Friends of Beckenham Place Park and the Friends never ran any activities – walks, talks or volunteer gardening sessions.  And 8,000 people didn’t sign a paper petition on site against closure of the golf course.

Blimey those people really were a “lucky few!”  So pleased that *his* years of planning have paid off and Wide Horizons will just *happen* to benefit from the regeneration of the park, complete with bespoke lake.

Finally, look at this retweet from ABJ’s sidekick, JR:-

No real Qs

and his own tweet:-

Chair of O&S

For “Scheme ‘For Sale’ with no real questions” read “park use handed over and expensive landscaping agreed with no real questions”.  Mr Russell was alerted to the issues of lack of overview and scrutiny (not to mention dirty tricks with regard to Beckenham Place Park) but it was “nuffink to do wiv me, guv”!

How very convenient. And how very disingenuous.  I’m sure Liberal Democrats must be very proud of his “pragmatism” (also known as hypocrisy).

Strange!

The Blame Game

Sir Mayor of Lewisham really is on a sticky wicket!

And no, I’m not referring to the strange shenanigans regarding the Millwall FC CPO issue.

Should I feel, for once, a degree of sympathy for Sir Mayor?  After all, other councils find themselves in the situation he describes in the letter that came with my council tax bill this month.  He says, it’s all the fault of the government that Lewisham is “increasing council tax in order to protect the most vulnerable …”

Bollox2

And, of course, they “will continue to do our best for you and your family in these very difficult circumstances”.  (That bit is below the screen snip above).

What I’m trying to work out is – how does losing golf income from Beckenham Place Park, retaining the same maintenance costs (largely staffing) and incurring substantial extra project costs, help me and my family, let alone protect the most vulnerable?

Or was it the government who forced Sir Mayor into a vanity project costing (at last count in 2016) £8,368,938, of which there is a £3,639,938 shortfall from Heritage Lottery Fund grant?

Who is to blame?  Not Sir Mayor, surely?

hlf-57

 

And what a result for Heritage Lottery Fund!  Their grant for the “regeneration” of Beckenham Place Park only forms 57% of the projected costs, which means if things go pear-shaped belly-up they won’t be to blame.

Percentage1

Percentage3

Then there’s the assurance from Lewisham Council that the balance of 43% i.e. £3,639,538 is secure.

Percentage2

Except that I’m not sure partnership funding necessarily equates to the whole £3.6M (as at last count in 2016).  In fact, HLF Case Paper says this:-

Shouldering

The Council are “shouldering much of the increase”, which equates to exceptional value for money!  Apparently.

Tell that to the Lewisham NGOs supporting the vulnerable and who recently had their funding slashed by 25% i.e. total of £1M, whilst the council is committed to finding £3.6M to turn Beckenham Place Park into a replica of a rich 18th Century man’s estate.

This blame game, blame the government, is beginning to unravel, don’t you think?

And Lewisham said this in their 2014 application form:-

Capital funds

But, but … doesn’t that confirm some “partnership” funding comes from, uhm, erm … Lewisham itself -Lewisham Capital funds!  Really?  Who authorised that?

As for Section 106, seems to me that the Lewisham officer who completed the application form has put the cart before the horse.  I can’t get my head round Section 106, but I do know it forms part of statutory planning policy and that there is a level of consultation required involving councillors and the public in the process

What a shambles – only from Lewishambles!

Must be the government’s fault.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heritage Hypocrites

Is Heritage Lottery Fund a bunch of hypocrites, or is it simply that their left hand doesn’t know what their right hand is doing?

Or to put it another way, do Heritage Lottery Fund manipulate their way to their preferred outcomes or are they merely incompetent?

This statement is taken from their Annual Report attached to their accounts 2015-16 for year ended 31 March 2016, published 13 July 2016.

public-involvement

Really?  Strange, then, that members of the public had been writing to Heritage Lottery Fund, for two years prior to this statement, about their concerns regarding Beckenham Place Park and the Parks for People application by Lewisham Council, yet HLF just fobbed us off.  They didn’t want anything to do with our concerns then, or subsequently.  Wrong kind of “public” I suppose.

Whilst accepting that the statement below (from the same report) relates to administration of a grant, surely the claim that HLF “learn our lessons, improve our processes” must apply to ALL their processes?

fraud-write-off

But it would seem not.  Round about the same time that the Annual Report and Accounts was published, the independent adjudicator, Verita, published a report into a complaint that had progressed to Third Stage against Heritage Lottery Fund’s handling of Lewisham Council’s Stage 1 application.  It’s on HLF website in the Corporate Information section.

This is what the Verita adjudicator said about (so called) consultation relating to Lewisham’s Stage 1 Parks for People scheme for Beckenham Place Park:-

v7-consultation

It is worth repeating: “The information provided in the application is, however, weak and does not justify the wording … This should have been immediately obvious to anyone reading the application and should have put the case officer on guard and encouraged them to look more closely at the data.”

So, what happened when it came to assessing Stage 2 in December 2016, five months after the Verita report?  First of all, the Verita report was not referenced in HLF’s Case Paper to its Trustees.  Strange!

And it seems HLF Trustees were oblivious not only of the Verita report, but also the statements made in its own Annual Report.  But then, I suppose the period between July and December is such a long one.  The attention span of a gnat springs to mind!

This is what the HLF Board’s December meeting Case Paper said about consultation:-

assuage

So, let’s get this right.  HLF’s annual report in July said it needs to involve the public and it needs to learn lessons and improve processes.  In July Verita said HLF’s quality assurance process did not identify consultation weaknesses of Lewisham’s Stage 1 application.  Yet in December, at Stage 2, HLF Case paper says “further consultation would not have assuaged objectors to the scheme”; so in other words this is carte blanch to just:-

  • ignore Verita
  • ignore identified weaknesses
  • ignore the public who HLF’s Annual Report claims to want to involve.

And here we have one of the conclusions of the Verita report about Stage 1:-

v9-conclusion

Seems pretty clear to me that five months later that HLF were guilty once again of not giving sufficient weight to any alternative point of view and was not sufficiently objective.  It’s not surprising the Verita report was conveniently overlooked:-

v5-emotive

Returning to HLF’s Annual Report and Accounts, there is other interesting stuff such as the statement below that applicants should set out their applications in a business like format.

business-plan-format

They want to protect their investment through better long-term management.  That being the case, it’s a shame they choose to redact from their responses to Freedom of Information requests all information to indicate that the Beckenham Place Park “regeneration” will achieve this.

Oh, but remind me, what was that thing about “involve the public and local communities in making policy, setting priorities and distributing money”?

When one requests documents under Freedom of Information Act 2000 one expects a certain level of redaction. Obviously there are commercial sensitivities, but Heritage Lottery Fund have taken things to a whole new level. Not only have they redacted the figures from financial tables, they have also redacted the descriptive headings which top the tables and the descriptions in the first column of all the tables. Then there are other redactions in the main body of text, which seem to relate to a shyness on theirs and Lewisham’s part to admit to what some of the plans are for the park. Some of the redactions have been made citing Data Protection Act i.e. hiding the identity of individuals.

In the Management and Maintenance Plan (produced by Land Use Consultants) there are twenty redactions in the main body of the report, in addition to those redacting financial tables. There is a coyness about what the plans are for the mansion house and the Foxgrove; references are made to future income generation from them, but what and how? 

There is a separate buildings paper produced by Lewisham and it is all waffle. It just refers to an expression of interest exercise back in the summer. We know that as a result of that exercise Sydney Thornbury has taken a short lease on the mansion and has done a great job to get some of it into use again. But no one knows what’s going to happen beyond expiry of her lease and any clues in the M&M plan have been redacted.

Back to HLF’s Annual Report and Accounts, it refers to:-

more-resilient

How so?  Whilst allowing for redactions, I can see nothing in the Maintenance and Management plan to indicate Lewisham will be more resilient with respect to financial sustainability of Beckenham Place Park.

The main new stakeholders in Beckenham Place Park appear to be charities and NGOs.  Wide Horizons, whose outgoings always match their income, will benefit from a peppercorn rent for the education room in Beckenham Place Park and will only be passing on 10% of any profit margin they make from park activities to Lewisham Council.

Rushey Green Time Bank, the majority of whose funding is from Lewisham Council, and who is one of 63 NGOs whose funding has been cut by Lewisham Council by 25% in response for the need for budget savings, is another NGO who will stretch their resources to activities in Beckenham Place Park. Apparently.

Sweeping statements are made about how fairs, events and licenced activities will contribute to upkeep, but not one concrete targeted example is quoted, case study referred to or examples from other parks.

events-and-fairs

The only areas in which Lewisham seem to have done any identifiable homework is the café and a cycle hire scheme, citing those at Dulwich and Battersea parks.  What a surprise!

Yet staff costs, which constitute the vast majority of upkeep costs, will remain the same.

Oh, but wait!  I nearly forgot!  There’s this:-

onikosi

LOL – I nearly fell off my seat laughing, did you?  (By the way, it’s Onikosi, not Onokosi).

In case you can’t read it on your device, this is what the fairy tale clause 9.9 says:-

“Lewisham Council is committed to the ongoing success of Beckenham Place Park as a key resource for local communities to enjoy for generations to come.  The Director of Customer Services, (Kevin Sheehan) and Cabinet members for the Third Sector (Cllr Joan Millbank) and for the public realm (Cllr Rachel Onokosi (sic)) are thoroughly committed to ensuring there are sufficient resources for the management and maintenance of Beckenham Place Park for many years beyond the HLF’s investment.”

But, but …. don’t all councils set an annual budget?  Or do Lewisham do things differently?  Hasn’t the recent budget just cut 25% off the annual funding for 63 NGOs?  What authority do the Director of Customer Services, plus Cllrs Onikosi and Millbank have to, allegedly, give such an assurance?  Aren’t the councillors subject to re-election every four years, and isn’t it the case there is a local election next year and the possibility that they won’t be re-elected?

Sheer comedy gold.  No credibility whatsoever.

And, of course, Cllr Rachel Onikosi is well known for memory lapses about statements she has made about Beckenham Place Park in the past. LOL.

And what a totally ludicrous claim for HLF to believe!  But then, Beckenham Place Park suits their desire to increase their portfolio and branding, so why let little details such as their Annual Report or the Verita report get in their way.

I’ll look forward to the next Annual Report attached to accounts ending 31 March 2017 – and reading how everything in the heritage garden is lovely!

P.S. the scheme for Beckenham Place Park needs an extra £3.6M over and above the grant from Heritage Lottery Fund.

(P.P.S. to the troll who thinks I will write a blog about him so that he can broadcast to his four Twitter followers.  I’m not sorry to disappoint).