Thursday 29 May 2014

Told you so!

How ironic that in the week when three new Labour councillors take up their seats in Underhill ward, Barnet Football Club chairman Tony Kleanthous announces that he plans to sell the old Underhill stadium.

Lest anyone has forgotten, it was the last Labour Administration, propped up by the LibDems, which secretly approved the sale of Underhill in 2002 for a price of just £10,000. The High Court subsequently ruled that the council had acted unlawfully, and even though the Judge called one of Barnet F.C.’s directors an “unreliable witness”, he was powerless to reverse the decision.

Due to the incompetence of the council’s legal department, errors in the sale contract meant that Mr Kleanthous was free to sell the land after 10 years to whoever he wanted, for whatever price he could get, without have to share one penny with the taxpayers of Barnet.

Mr Kleanthous was forever moaning about the council not supporting the club – something Harrow Council has now discovered for itself.  But this was nothing more than bluster. The sale of Underhill will return a very handsome profit on the purchase price.

For years, Don’t Call Me Dave told anyone who would listen (and a good many who would not) that Mr Kleanthous would find an excuse to sell the land just as soon as the contract allowed him to do so, without having to share the proceeds with the hard pressed taxpayers of Barnet, whose land was sold from under their feet without their knowledge or consent. And, lo, it has come to pass.

This sorry saga is a useful reminder as to why Labour should never be trusted with high office again.


Anonymous said...

Such a twisted, smug point of view.
If the Council had continued to support the South Underhill plan as the GLA had advocated then this land would still be providing sporting facilities for Women's and youth football plus the Council would've had decent revenue from business rates, state of the art sports facilities and plenty of employment opportunities. Not forgetting the boost to local businesses and the benefits of encouraging involvement in sports for our youngsters. Long term the Council and the area would've benefitted hugely but those who came to power were more interested in short term self interest and wasting tax payers money on expensive investigations.
By scuppering this opportunity to allow a sporting team to stay and evolve in the area they have forced Barnet Football club to look elsewhere and Barnet is a poorer place for it. At the same time Harrow now have a state of the art facility that will shortly include a specialist head injury medical centre that will assist local hospitals.

If the Council want to see this money reinvested in Barnet and therefore to continue benefitting Barnet residents then it should re-open dialogue about the future of South Underhill rather than be bitter about the mess it created when it reneged on the plan drawn up before they came into power.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

As you have posted anonymously, DCMD is forced to conclude that either you are (or were) an official of Barnet Football Club, or you were a member of the last Labour administration, or you were one of the incompetent officers involved at the time. Or perhaps you are just one of the many deluded football supporters who think your club has a God given right to financial support from the taxpayer.

This blog highlighted a specific legal point. Whether councils should use public resources to support sports teams is a quite separate matter. It is interesting to remember, however, that Mr Kleanthous moaned that the last Labour administration didn’t do enough to support BFC. He complained that the Conservative administration didn’t do enough to support BFC either. In this regard, he is an equal opportunity moaner. You only need to read the Harrow local press to see that, once again, the words “Barnet Football Club” and “Planning Dispute” are almost synonymous.

During the 2002 council election campaign, the Conservatives supported the local residents campaign organised by BRASS – Barnet Residents Against (the) Second Stadium. This was a pressure group set up by residents of all political colours (and none) to oppose BFC’s plans to build a second stadium on the green belt. In a democracy, you expect politicians to respect the will of the people.

It is amusing that when the Conservative Administration is found to have broken the rules, the Barnet Bloggers are on them like a rash (and rightly so). But when Labour is found to have broken the rules, that doesn’t seem to matter so much.

Anonymous blogs will no longer be accepted on this site. If you have something to say, be man enough to reveal your identity.

Steve said...

BFC Official : Not guilty
Labour Member : Not guilty
LBB Officer : Not guilty
Deluded BFC fan : Not guilty

"You only need to read the Harrow local press to see that, once again, the words “Barnet Football Club” and “Planning Dispute” are almost synonymous."

Aah yes!!, a minority Tory administration making an unlawful decision and having to back down when they realise you can't refuse something you approved 6 years ago and need good cause to refuse amendments that are made to comply with current law. You will also find Bob Blackman trying to take credit for the site in his 2010 election leaflets. It's another example of a Tory admin making political decisions in order to get at an opposition party and then coming unstuck.

Additionally you will find people praising the site, it being used for charity games, being nominated for architectural awards etc. But you continue to support your Tory colleagues who have now had to back down because the planning inspectorate were likely to award costs against them and they are unable to find a planning expert prepared to defend the decision. Interesting that you complain about Conservative Administrations being criticised for breaking the rules and then highlight an issue that shows a Conservative Administration breaking the rules.

We both know that recent changes mean Underhill will in all probability be redesignated and no longer be greenbelt should a developer al la welsh harp come along. I wonder how those few residents of BRASS will react then? I still remember the scaremongering leaflets of BRASS that were full of inaccuracies and lies.

I'll list some for you:
1. The proposed stadium will have a capacity of 10,000
Fact: The actual figure is 9212.
2.The stadium will be rebuilt on 15 acres of Green Belt land
Fact: The correct figure is seven acres
3. There will be twenty concession shop units
Fact: These are catering units inside the stadium for the sale of food and beverages to supporters.
4. Some of the present stands at Underhill will be refurbished or rebuilt
Fact: There will be NO rebuilding or refurbishment. In fact, all stands and terraces will be removed, other than the main stand which will stay to accommodate changing facilities and family spectators.
5. The stands will be 40 feet high (about four storeys)
Fact: The overall height of the stadium is consistent with that of the existing housing adjacent to the stadium at approximately 26 feet, about two storeys.
6. The land is currently public.
Fact: The area in question is currently private land (leased to Barnet Cricket Club), not public, and in the new proposal there would be half an acre more of public amenity space than at present.
7. The Scouts and St John's Ambulance Unit will be made homeless.
Fact: The club will want to use the area underneath the stands to re-house the Scouts and St John Ambulance.
8. The stadium will be used for parties, concerts etc.
Fact: No plans for parties and concerts over and above what is currently held at Underhill. i.e. None.

It was a convenient vehicle for the Torys getting into power to use for bashing the previous Lib\Lab admin but now the alternative has started to come to pass I think some may come to regret their actions at the time.

Don't Call Me Dave said...


Given that the BRASS campaign was over 12 years ago, you do seem to have amazing powers of recall for someone who claims not to have had any official involvement in this matter. Or perhaps you are a regular fan, rather than a deluded one! It doesn’t really matter. Your comments are welcome, even if I disagree with your point of view.

I am going to restrict this reply to one point only because I have commented on the substance of this issue far too many times already.

You refer to the likely prospect of de-designation from the green belt. This is precisely the point why this matter was so controversial. As far back as 2011, council officers produced a report stating that the land would “not endure” as green belt and they recommended de-designation. Less than a year later the council sold the land for £10,000 on the basis that it was green belt and valued on that basis. One the one hand the council was arguing for de-designation and on the other, it was completely ignoring the prospect of de-designation taking place.

It was obvious twelve years ago that the green belt designation would not survive an application to the Lands Tribunal. My complaint was not that the council sold the land, because the law allows them to do so. Rather, my complaint was that the council sold the land far too cheaply, without adequate safeguards to ensure that the taxpayers would share in any future development value. The mistakes in the contract were so basic that a first year law student could have spotted them. I remain of the opinion that at least two council officers should have been sacked.

Rog T said...


Just to make one point. You state that bloggers don't ctiticise Labour but are all over the Tories like a rash.

Lets be charitable and say you haven't read my blog yesterday. The BFC sale was conclded years before I started writing a blog. A fact that you conveniently overlook.

A complaint by your good self initiated a long running investigation which the Tories started when they assumed power in 2002. Remind me how much that cost and what the conclusions were.

Just for clarity, can you state whether you believe the cock up (yes it was a cock up) was a political act by Labour or an act of incompetence by officers? I happen to believe the latter, The problem is the same with every cock up in Barnet. The elected representatives both left and right let officers run rings around them. Your argument that the BFC Underhill sale is a reason that Labour should never be trusted with power. This is an outrageius statement, given the fact the One Barnet cock up is a hundred times bigger than Underhill and was clearly a political act.

I don't know what the Essex air has done to you, but you seem to have left your common sense behind when you emigrated.

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Hello Rog

First, to clarify the sequence of events. The public (and Conservative councillors) were not aware that the freehold had been sold until after the election in May 2002. This information had been kept secret from everyone. You can argue that the mistakes in the sale contract were due to incompetence by officers, but the decision to sell this land secretly was clearly political. Had the matter gone before a scrutiny committee, there would have been several opportunities for councillors to look at the detail and see something was wrong.

I was shown a copy of the contract by a councillor, because the council would not let the public see it. It was quite obvious to me where the problem was. Unlike you, I am not clever enough to be an astrophysicist, so if I could spot the mistake, why didn’t anyone else? The investigation showed that political pressure was being exerted by Alan Williams to get the deal done. Whether this pressure caused officers to be sloppy in their workmanship is a matter of opinion, but on the basis of cause and effect, this was a political problem.

As to the cost of the investigation, the Barnet Times made the same allegation as you and were forced to print an apology. I was one of three members of the public (two Conservative, one Labour) who complained to the Auditor. But this did not initiate the investigation. For two years, the Auditor did nothing. He only launched his investigation once the council formally asked him to do so, and it was at this point we were then invited to give evidence.

It is rumoured that the cost of the investigation came to around £1m, which I believe includes the cost of the council’s failed legal claims against BFCH. The people who criticise me conveniently forget that I opposed the legal action because the case the council tried to argue was never going to succeed. I even gave the then leader a legal opinion from a qualified Solicitor not to fight the case, but this was ignored. The Judge, correctly in my view, ruled that the council had had numerous opportunities to correct the defect in the contract but chose not to do so. Nonetheless, the Judge ruled that the council had sold the land unlawfully. Of course, nobody was held to account. No councillors were censured. No officers lost their jobs. That’s the way it works in Barnet. Even when you prove that the council has acted unlawfully, nothing happens. Nothing changes. That is why I long since came to the opinion that political blogging is good for letting off steam, but otherwise is a complete an utter waste of time.

Rog T said...

Thought I'd post a comment David left on the local paper website for the enjoyment of his readers

"Rog, you are really full of yourself these days. You told Dismore off about his expenses. Well that's all right then. The Oracle has spoken. No need for anyone else to comment."

The irony !