Taberner House and the attached offices on Fell Road are approaching the end of their natural life. They are currently costing £3-4 million to maintain and they either need major refurbishment or replacing (many people find this hard to believe because they judge Taberner House on the bit they see - Access Croydon on the ground floor, which was recently refurbished; the rest of the building and in particular the building services lift etc are very dated).
The traditional way to fund a major refurbishment or a rebuild would be for the Council to borrow a lot of money to fund the work, with Council Taxpayers having to meet the interest on this borrowing (not something anyone would have welcomed in the current economic climate). So we have tried to find an innovative way of addressing this problem.
What we have done is to pass the site over to Croydon Council Urban Regeneration Vehicle (CCURV). This is basically a partnership between Croydon Council and a private developer - we put in land the Council owns that is surplus to requirements, they match the value of this land with capital and we share on a 50/50 basis the proceeds of any development. Why have we done this? Partly because it will give us more control over how sites are redeveloped (in the past, the Council would have sold surplus sites to a developer, who would then be able to do what they wanted with the sites as long as it wasn’t blatantly in breach of planning policy) and partly because it should generate income for the Council in the medium term allowing us to reduce Council Tax bills.
Because of the current costs of raising private finance, the Council has borrowed money for CCURV from something called the Public Works Loan Board (essentially an arm of the Government) but we get money back from CCURV to cover the interest payments so there is no cost to Council Taxpayers. In the long term, there is actually a saving to Council Taxpayers because, as noted above, it costs a fortune to operate old buildings like Taberner House and the Fell Road office complex.
In addition, the new building will be more environmentally friendly and (unless you have a taste for 60s tower blocks) more aesthetically pleasing, plus building it will generate some much needed jobs.
Someone has misled you on the details of the scheme. What we are doing is demolishing the Council offices on Fell Road and building the new Council HQ there (this scheme has got off the drawing board - work has started on site). Once that is complete, Taberner House will be demolished and a new building, which will not be used for council offices, will be built in its place. This building will have a smaller footprint, enabling us to enhance the Queen's Gardens rather than enclose or destory them.
Finally, on the issue of Labour council candidates in certain wards not being allowed the Labour Party logo next to their names on the ballot paper, this decision had nothing to do with us. It was taken by the Returning Officer based on legal advice. This wasn't just a Croydon problem - the issue arose in a number of local authority areas. I can understand Labour being annoyed about it, though I don't think it affected the result in any of the wards concerned.