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Council leaders’ junket to housing fair opens Cannes of worms

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Issue 2395
A south London housing estate

A south London housing estate (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Housing campaigners occupied a luxury flat in the Strata Tower in Elephant and Castle, south London, last Saturday. At the same time London mayor Boris Johnson and several council bosses were attending annual property development fair Mipim in Cannes, France.

The schmooze-a-thon goes through more champagne than the Cannes film festival. The best deals are said to be had in the multi-storey yachts hired out for the week in Cannes Marina.

Lend Lease, developers of the Heygate site in Elephant and Castle, paid for Southwark council chiefs to attend Mipim last year.

Southwark council has evicted 1,200 households, mostly council tenants, from the Heygate estate since 2007. It sold it at a loss to Lend Lease who will build just 71 socially rented homes in its place.

The council wanted “a better class of people” to live in the area. They suggested evicted residents could move to the Strata—but only five families have been able to do so.

The building’s architect has said, “Southwark council were keen Strata was not for families” and its developer that “Strata’s ideal resident is an altogether wealthier breed of pioneering urbanaut”.

Protesters held signs condemning the “Strata-spheric rents”. Over 20 places in Britain saw businesses pay for council leaders to join their “teams” for flogging projects at Mipim.

MPs get on their bikes for expenses 

Health Minister Dan Poulter doesn’t cycle. Yet he apparently put a cycling claim, worth £40.80, for the trip from his Suffolk constituency, to London last August. 

The journey is more than 50 miles further than the longest stage in this year’s Tour de France. The claim was among nine he made for cycling, totalling £148.40. 

MPs get 20p per mile for pedalling to and from official engagements. Hugh Bayley made 166 claims worth £205. Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh has made six cycling claims, totalling £11.60.  

Tory MP Robert Goodwill, who was appointed the cycling minister last year, has made three claims, totalling £7.20.

Latest figures show that in October and November 2013 MPs made 33,000 expenses claims with a value of £4.47 million. That’s 541 claims a day for 61 days. An average of £135 per claim or £73,278 a day.

Decorum over Duke’s decorating dosh

Troublemaker is delighted to announce that William and Kate are about to present us all with a new bill of up to £1 million for renovation work on their home. Making the apartment at Kensington Palace fit for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and seven month old Prince George, isn’t cheap.

Last year accounts revealed that £1.1 million had been spent on the five-bedroom home. But one’s sources in the palace suggest that new accounts will reveal that up to a further £1 million has been paid out.

So far the decorating has cost:

  • £600,000 to replace heating, hot water systems and wiring 
  • £400,000 to renew the palace roof
  • £100,000 on fees
  • £400,000 on a trip to South East Asia and the Pacific to look for some  wallpaper 

Ski boss is really taking the piste

Lee Quince is the boss of a skiing company. Its marketing wheeze is to say it will pay the fine of any parent who takes their child out of school to go on one of its holidays during term time.

Asked on BBC Radio 5Live if he was being “irresponsible” Quince replied, “Yes, in one way but also the law has changed to specifically address truancy, especially in the wake of the riots.

“That’s now affecting people who are not in that set.” The ski “set” clearly have different rules.

Slick Tory ex-minister takes oil job

Friend of Troublemaker Tory MP Charles Hendry has been busy since he was sacked as energy minister. He landed a £48,000 windfall from energy giants Forewind. Hendry is a consultant at oil giants Vitol. He will be paid £60,000-a-year for 18 days’ work.

Vitol runs oil exploration projects in Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Hendry is president of the advisory board of the Russo-British chamber of commerce and is the prime minister’s trade envoy to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

The Nazi British National Party (BNP) has been struck down by a mystery illness. That’s according to its national elections officer Alwyn Deacon anyway. He’s been forced to “appeal” for BNP candidates to stand in the European elections as so many have dropped out “due to illness”. How sad.

Innovia Security is to produce the polymer for the Bank of England’s new plastic banknotes. In its former incarnation Innovia Security was known as Securency International, which, in 2011, was charged with bribing officials in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam to secure contracts.


£2,000 – Daily pay former Treasury official Sir Christopher Kelly gets from the Co-op Group to examine how it lost £1.5 billion

£6.6 million – Salary of Euan Sutherland, the Co-op boss who hired him who resisgned last week 

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