Letter sent to Leader of Haringey Council
23rd January 2019
Dear Cllr Ejiofor,
I see from the Haringey council website that you have already announced what appears be a decision to use the CPO powers now granted. Why has Haringey council decided to make a public statement that it will go ahead with the CPO and the demolition of the market, and for a housing development with no affordable housing, before the Housing & Regeneration Scrutiny Panel has had a chance to gather any evidence for their review of Wards Corner.
It also isn’t clear what you are referring to when you speak of engagement with traders as you have ignored us and failed to engage with us other than meeting with us once for an hour back in July which your former colleague Stuart McNamara suggested we do after he convinced us that you were a progressive new council leader and would be willing to listen to us and have an open mind. Sadly that hasn’t been the case and whilst you have on one hand been publicly telling people, including your own councillors and party members, how you’ve engaged with traders and that you’ve been working hard behind the scenes to get a better deal for us, on the other hand you haven’t replied to any of our communications to you or engaged with us at all since July. Our request to meet with you again was ignored. Our request to meet with your Chief executive was also ignored.
As you of course already know, Jonathan Owen, Director of Quarterbridge/Market Asset Management instigated disciplinary proceedings against me on a series of trumped up charges and with a view to taking away the licence for my market unit, and in the process, my livelihood after we made contact with you and raised concerns over the bullying and mismanagement at the market and protested about the steering group at the market which has done very little to help traders since it was set up. That same steering group, which a council officer has also sat on for the past couple of years, has known about the mistreatment of traders by Quarterbridge/MAM and the state of the market infrastructure such as flooring, drainage and basic cleaning that Quarterbridge/MAM committed to investing in, yet has sat by and tacitly condoned their unacceptable conduct and failures.
I represent the majority of the traders at the market and the punitive action taken by Quarterbridge/MAM is quite possibly a result of me and other traders simply speaking out on their behalf and attempting to raise awareness of what has been going on there. Your actions could also have indirectly emboldened Quarterbridge/MAM to increase their pressure on us as traders, yet I doubt you’ve thought about that or that was included as a possibility in your glowing reports about your own involvement, appearing to take credit for things you haven’t done whilst flatly refusing to be transparent about what deal it is that you may or may not have arranged with the developer behind closed doors.
To put it simply, here is a direct question for you-
Have you come to arrangement with Grainger that you and Haringey council assist, or at least commit to not opposing, the fast tracking of the CPO decision – which includes the demolition of the old market and Wards Corner building – in exchange for them agreeing to let Haringey council replace Quarterbridge/MAM as the market operator?
We have constructively communicated with the council through the proper channels at every turn since the elections in May and since your election as Leader of Haringey council. We have made numerous respectful representations to you and the council you lead on the treatment of Latin traders at Wards Corner. We deputed to the July cabinet meeting on the Fairness Commission, complementing your new cabinet for taking such a progressive step. We also outlined specific details of the treatment traders have been subjected to since Quarterbridge/MAM took over the lease on the market in 2015, an arrangement that sees them rake in over £360,000 in rental income per year whilst only paying Transport for London £60,000 and investing virtually nothing in the market infrastructure.
We wrote to your cabinet, as well as to backbench councillors and included presentation documents on the Latin Village at Wards Corner. We had meetings with you and four other members of your cabinet, at which we requested that you support a scrutiny review on Wards Corner, agree not to take any major decisions on Wards Corner until such a review was finished, including on the CPO, and agree to ongoing dialogue. You refused to agree to any of those three simple requests. You argued strongly against a scrutiny review taking place. You refused the offer of ongoing dialogue. However you now continue to state publicly that you are engaging with traders. How is it that you feel this adds up when you haven’t engaged on any meaningful level with us? If you have engaged with Grainger and Transport for London then you have done it without our knowledge or our involvement and with no feedback on what you’ve apparently said or who you’ve come to any private deal with.
There is a sense of injustice felt by market traders that our opinions are just not considered as valid, and whilst the council continues to talk over our heads via the press about how committed they are to helping us. We simply requested an objective review of the running of the market on a day-to-day basis and of the options for the future. However, just like Claire Kober did with the HDV you are now attempting to undercut your own backbench councillors and the scrutiny process, probably increasing the legal risk to the council in doing so.
We made it plain that we are suffering as a result of the conduct of Quarterbridge/MAM, an organisation with an appalling track record of running markets across London and up and down the country, and that we need help. We had hoped that the situation would change when the new administration at Haringey council was formed, yet eight months later nothing has really changed. Sadiq Khan promised in 2016 to assist the traders at Elephant & Castle and protect their market yet just before Christmas he agreed to the demolition of their market. In May 2018 you promised to listed to traders at Wards Corner yet today you confirm that the Wards Corner building will be demolished and with the insincere sweetener about a promise to now engage, eight months after we first requested it and after what might be some deal worked out behind closed doors.
We had a lot in faith in how you were going to be different to Claire Kober yet sadly you are in many respects actually worse as at least she was honest about what her agenda was and was always professional enough to reply to letters and requests to meet when constituents and community groups made such requests. Neither George Meehan, god rest his soul, nor Charles Adje acted like this. This plan you are green lighting will divide traders, cause huge concern in the community, reward a developer who has presided over a despicable market operator and looked the other way as they bullied and harassed us and see the demolition of a building that could have bee tastefully renovated and all for a development without a single affordable housing unit it. The worst past of this shabby situation is that you are trying to convince people that you are the hero in all of this. Shame on you for doing this and treating people this way, especially your own Labour councillors who I imagine have every right to feel very let down by you over what you have done and how you have decieved us all about what you may have been planning all along.
Where did the man that gave that speech at Alexandra Palace on election night last year go so quickly as although you look just like him you are fast turning into your predecessor – a heedless and ruthless politician willing to cut deals behind closed doors and deepen the already entrenched mistrust of Haringey council which it only has itself to blame for and which you promised to fix yet clearly aren’t really that interested in.
With a huge sense of disappointment.