Council leader hits back at criticism over relationships with developers (From Haringey Independent)
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Haringey Borough Council leader Claire Kober hits back at criticism over relationships with developers
Haringey Borough Council’s leader accused opposition politicians of "doing the borough down" over accusations that the authority is in the pockets of big business.
Councillor Claire Kober rebuked opposition councillors Katherine Reece and Richard Wilson during a council meeting on Monday after they raised questions about the authority's decision to send a delegation to the high-profile developers’ conference MIPIM in Cannes.
The Liberal Democrat councillors had accused the authority of lying to the public after an investigation into the trip revealed it had cost £22,000 and not £16,000 as the council originally stated.
Of that amount, £3,200 was spent on the accommodation and travel expenses for Lyn Garner, the council’s director of regeneration, and Cllr Alan Strickland, the cabinet member for regeneration.
Haringey council’s chief executive Nick Walkley also attended the conference but paid for his travel and accommodation himself.
The remaining £18,800 was spent on the cost of exhibiting at the conference.
Sponsors such as Tottenham Hotspur, Wards Corner developer Grainger and Tottenham Hale developer Lee Valley Estate paid £13,000 towards the cost of the trip, with taxpayers’ money making up the other £9,000.
During the meeting Cllr Reece said: “I was incensed that taxpayers’ money was used to send a delegation from this council to the developers' feeding frenzy known as MIPIM.”
She added: “It’s a worry that the cabinet member for regeneration and ward councillor for Noel Park can afford time away from work and accept sponsorship from developers when really he should be an adversary on negotiations with these developers to ensure the best deal for Haringey.
“What worries me is that it may look like we are in the pockets of these developers and I really wonder if Haringey is in the pay of developers.”
The authority has maintained that the trip was to showcase Tottenham in order to attract international investors and developers as part of plans to regenerate the area.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Wilson said: “I think what this controversy has shown is this cabinet are not really in tune with the residents of Tottenham or Haringey.
“Clearly spending time on a yatch in Cannes is not what residents expect their councillor to be doing – not when they are sitting at home in their council house with repairs that need to be sorted.
“It’s a slap in the face for local residents and what it shows is that when we hear these slogans about a ‘cost of living crisis’ – they are just that – spin doctor slogans.”
Both Cllr Reece and Cllr Wilson also questioned why the first time they heard about the council’s decision to send a delegation to Cannes was when they read in it the Haringey Independent.
In an impassioned response, Cllr Kober accused the opposition of trying to “do the borough down”.
She defended the delegation’s trip to the conference in the south of France and said one in three councils across the country had attended the event.
Cllr Kober said: “It [MIPIM] is a place where councils meet investors and developers to secure inward investment in their area.
“I would argue that it is right that we are there and it is also right that we are transparent about what we do.
“I have no problem with being transparent but what I have a problem with is a group of people who seem intent on doing this borough down and who can’t see the benefits of going to the conference and engaging to secure a better future for our residents.”
Supporting Cllr Kober, Cllr Strickland said: “If you want to secure investment you have to speak to investors. If you want to get homes built you have to speak to house builders and if you want to bring jobs to the borough you might have to speak to some employers.
“And it is for exactly those reasons that we joined 42 other councils at the property conference and spent three days promoting Tottenham and saying Haringey is the place that they most come to bring their business, bring their homes and bring their jobs.”
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