Conservative Communities Secretary Sajid Javid today announced a government cash boost of £66.06 million for Coast to Capital to help create jobs, support businesses and encourage growth. This sum includes over £14 million earmarked for the Fairfield Halls/College Green project.
It now leaves Croydon Labour with no excuse for not getting on with this vital project. Onlookers have been struck by the lack of activity on site and Labour’s apparent lack of urgency to deliver the new Fairfield.
Given that the outgoing Conservative administration in 2014 left a healthy contribution of £14 million in cash ready for the Fairfield regeneration and the government has now doubled that, Labour now has nowhere to hide. It is only planning to spend a couple of million more than it has now been gifted, so there is no excuse for inactivity.
As well as enabling the project to proceed without delay, it also offers the possibility of doing additional works which were on the council’s ‘wish list’ but which were dependent on strong sales of the surrounding flats to deliver. The financial pressure on the scheme has just been sharply reduced.
Ironically, it is now clear that the council could have afforded to keep the Fairfield open whilst doing a phased refurbishment, instead of closing it. The Labour council claimed that the phased refurbishment would cost an extra £4.8 million, a figure hotly disputed by those in Croydon’s arts community who had planned for this scheme for years. As it stands the council’s ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ approach now looks increasingly unfortunate, risking as it does the long term financial stability of the venue. Other venues which have closed for extended renovations have taken years – and in some cases decades – to get back up to financial viability, as their audiences have got used to going elsewhere during the closure.
Croydon Conservatives Leader, Cllr Tim Pollard, says: “I am delighted that the Government has come forward with this money to bail out our lazy Labour Council. After months of inactivity, the scheme needs a kick start and I hope that this government funding will provide that.
“Thanks are clearly due to the Secretary of State for this announcement and I am sure that Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell – also a Minister in DCLG – has been influential in ensuring that this investment comes forward”.