The Ritblats....father and son, have huge power in the Royal Borough.
Their 'education vehicle', Alpha Plus Group has numerous private schools in the area and Delancey, run by Ritblat Jnr is in the midst of the controversial re-development of the Odeon Cinema in Kensington. They have fingers in many pies and they like their own way.
The deal they struck with the council over the Bassett Road site was an example of their ability to finesse good deals....
The Dame was keen to air this excellent rebuttal by a local resident.
It's hard hitting and cannot be ignored!
"We are a publicly funded organisation, here to serve the needs of our community, and committed to fairness, openness and transparency in all our activities."
This unambiguous sentence graces the pages of the RBKC website and concisely summarizes the role of the Council.
It also memorializes the commitment of the broader community to fund these efforts. The committee, in making its recommendation to award the INC lease to the Alpha Plus Group, has set aside the needs of the broader community in favour of a small, profit seeking, minority. The Council has also undermined the very funding on which their ability to serve the community is founded by recommending a bidder, with a British Virgin Islands parent company, which has paid no tax in the UK in over a decade.
In arriving at this recommendation the committee has:
- Ignored the near parity of the final three bids and the fact that they all likely achieved “best consideration” given the debatable differences between them.
- Ignored the very substantial additional consideration offered by Notting Hill Preparatory School when valuing its bid(expansion of current bursary program, free facility usage for local community groups, sharing of resources with the youth centre, etc - things NHP can credibly offer as they already provide them to local students and groups) .
- Ignored published Government guidance which allows disposal of land for less than best consideration and instead invoked this sole requirement as a justification for ignoring community needs. Specifically, Government Circular 06/03: Local Government Act 1972 general disposal consent (England) 2003 provides for disposal of land for “less than the best consideration that can be reasonably obtained in circumstances where an authority considers it appropriate to dispose of land at an undervalue”.
- Ignored their duty to serve the needs of the community in structuring the process. Rock Fielding-Mellen, Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration, stated explicitly in a recent letter that “the Council has made clear that community benefits were not part of the evaluation criteria” and further stated that “The council does not have a duty to consider community benefits”.
- Disregarded the implications of locating a second school less than 100 feet from the most dangerous intersection in the ward.
Rock Fielding-Mellen specifically stated “Traffic was not a consideration in seeking best rent”.
The committee has compounded this error by selecting a group with a significant number of students from outside the immediate ward and one that has been the subject of many complaints over their handling of traffic at other less complex locations. NHP, in contrast, is a recipient of the TFL Gold standard for school travel plans and has pupils who overwhelming commute on foot.
- Chosen a counterparty which has paid no tax in the past decade (and yet over this period Director’s compensation totaled £6.1 million and interest and management charges paid to shareholder’s and related parties totaled £17.8 million).
What more flagrant violation of the Council’s duty to “serve the needs of our community” could be envisioned than running a process in which “community benefits were not part of the evaluation criteria”?
This Council has not only the duty to base its decision on the broader needs of the community but also the luxury of being able to make that choice. It would be foolish to assume the community is best served in awarding a lease to a group with a BVI domiciled parent which has paid no tax in a decade and which saw it necessary in their most recent annual report to state that they had made no charitable donations during the year. That ethos runs entirely counter to the values the counsel purports to espouse.
This property can provide tremendous benefit to the community. I hope you will give the development of the space the careful consideration it warrants.
p.s. Please find a summary of figures from the Alpha Plus Group Financial Statements (2004-2013):
Financial Year Ended August 31
Directors Emoluments, Pension Contribution and Other Director’s Compensation (£000s)
Interest on Parent Company Loan or Related Party Loan Note Interest (£000s)
*note negative amounts represent receipt of funds by Alpha Plus Group rather than tax payments