Grey Day at Alexandra Palace

Grey Day at Alexandra Palace

Part of the long south front of Alexandra Palace, with the former BBC TV mast above the east tower.

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First in a series of photos and comments about Cllr Charles Adje and how he carried out some vital tasks on behalf of Haringey Council.

This one comments on events arising from the First Walklate Report.

► Click here for Part 2 ─ Adje’s Pally.

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In October 2008 Alexandra Palace was back in the news with publication of the first Walklate Report. Martin Walklate’s measured, factual and independent report examined events surrounding the grant of a licence to Firoka (Alexandra Palace) Ltd in May 2007.

With justification, Haringey’s local press focused on the role of former Council Leader, Cllr Charles Adje who chaired the Alexandra Palace Board at the time. ( Click to read the reports and editorial in the Hampstead & Highgate Express 25 September 2008. )

Cllr Adje’s most interesting reply was printed in the Letters page of the Ham & High on 2 October 2008. That week is not included in the paper’s online archive, so here it is.

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(Hampstead & Highgate Express 2 October 2008.)

Charles Adje responds to criticisms over damning Ally Pally report

I read with incredulity your comments on the Walklate Ally Pally report (Call for heads to roll after shocking Ally Pally report, H&H Broadway September 25). To state that the whole deal was done behind closed doors is absurd.

Board members were informed of the financial situation and of contracts being terminated or dwindling. Firoka was becoming impatient and was concerned about this, the unions were concerned about the way their members were being dealt with regarding TUPE negotiations, and staff were also leaving to take up jobs elsewhere due to the continuing uncertainty.

Firoka had the resources to move things forward and the potential to channel business to the Palace.

The Alexandra Palace Trading Company was also being wound up as it was in deficit, and the board ran the risk of trading with an insolvent company (as reported by officers at the time). The two independent non-executive directors had already stood down and liquidators were on standby to wind down the company.

You will be aware that the company has its own accountants and auditors. Council officers were aware of this and I believe provisions had been made to this effect.

In order to ensure the future of the assets and that staff were provided with some certainty for the future and to further lock Firoka in, the Board of Trustees and of the trading company decided to second the staff and grant a licence to Firoka Alexandra Palace Limited for a limited period.

At no time did any board member query this decision or state that they did not understand what was being proposed. The decision to transfer was unanimous. The Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive were fully conversant with the process.

I am certain that the interim licence would not have been granted if board members had been told that the judicial review would go against the Charity Commission or the board. It is, however, regrettable that officers did not seek legal or counsel’s opinion to finalise the licence.

Counsel’s opinion was sought by officers regarding the judicial review and the chair of the Board of Trustees, the council leader and the chief executive were fully conversant with the opinion.

The Walklate report infers that board members were not competent and casts aspersions on their ability, their hard work and good intentions. The report failed to reflect the fact that apart from one board member who had been on the board for some time, the other members, including myself at the time, were new appointees with no previous involvement with the board.

We needed to complete the transfer process and there was no reserve bidder or plan ‘B’. We were faced with a fait accompli. We therefore had to make do with what we inherited.

I should also like to state that I have had no dealings in the affairs of the Palace since I left as Chair. I do not know how Mr Walklate’s service came to be commissioned, nor was I consulted in terms of his remit.

The board’s aim at all times was to transfer the risks and secure the future of the assets and the staff, although this strategy had its critics.

The Walklate report and your lead comment belittle the £50m investment by Firoka, a project which commenced in 2004 and which I believe to have been the second attempt to transfer the risks and secure the future of the assets.

It should be noted that the transfer did not collapse as a result of the licence issue, as the licence was issued for a limited period. The licence should have been terminated immediately after the outcome of the judicial review as the need for it to continue no longer existed.

It should also be borne in mind that Firoka ‘walked’ as a result of the inaction on the part of the board to progress matters, (according to their press statement) which you also published, and not as a result of issue of the licence.

We had never denied that there had been longstanding governance problems with the Palace. The board was faced with a dilemma: whether to spend its energy on the issue of governance as inherited (which is a perennial issue) or to focus on the transfer (which would have resolved the governance issue as the trading company would have been liquidated following the transfer).

The report and your comments seem to infer that this all happened in my term as chair, which is not the case.

My aim and that of my Labour colleagues has always been and remains the same, to safeguard the future of the Palace and lift the burden from the Haringey taxpayer.

Finally, it should be noted that I asked for the whole report to be made public rather than parts of it, as I have nothing to hide.

As ever, I will continue to work hard for the benefit and interest of the people of our borough, not just for the few.

Cllr Charles Adje
Labour Member for White Hart Lane Ward
Haringey Council

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My Comment

I found this an odd letter. To me, at least, it seems to present Cllr Adje as a new chap on the Board who had "inherited" problems he didn’t really grasp. Almost as if he had not been the Council Leader during the previous two years. (May 2004 – May 2006). Nor a member of the Council’s ruling "cabinet" from 2000-04 with responsibility for Finance.

Unfortunately, the mess presided over by Cllr Adje risked obscuring the hard work of the Board and solid progress made by his successor as Chair, Cllr Matt Cooke.

The LibDem opposition on Haringey Council demanded Cllr Adje’s resignation from his (then) role as "cabinet" councillor in charge of "Resources". This may have seemed a bit unfair – given that he’d been off the Ally Pally board for eighteen months. But as they pointed out, Cllr Adje was then responsible for Haringey’s Finances, Property, Council Tax, Procurement, IT, Personnel, and Organisational Development.

The First Walklate Report is long and complex. Even so, I hope as many people as possible download it and make their own minds up.