Talacre debt: see how it can be done
03 December, 2020 — By John Gulliver
A MESSAGE to the Labour leadership of Camden Council:
Send officials to other local authorities like Westminster, run by the Conservatives, to see how much better they are at collecting debts developers owe them.
Developers may owe Camden large sums of money but no one seems to mind. The money may often lie uncollected. Eventually, it is written off as a bed debt.
According to emails received from several local authorities by that imperturbable enquirer after the truth Nick Harding, a Kentish Towner, they showed how, for instance, Westminster Council, collected more than £4million owed by a developer – and all done in a routine manner.
And, as if that, does not irritate Labour councillors, they could take a look at Labour Southwark Council which collected several million owed by developers’ schemes known as “Overage payments” which, in effect, are a part-payment of profits made from private sales.
Mr Harding pointed out these examples this week in an email to the two senior councillors Richard Olszewski and Danny Beales with whom he and a neighbour, Brian Lake, had an online meeting recently in which they had set out Camden Council’s failure to collect a debt of possibly several million pounds owed as an “Overage” payment for the development of the block of flats, known as Prince’s Park, at the edge of Talacre Park in Kentish Town.
Readers who have been following this scandal may know that the land was sold to the developer about 17 years ago for just over £300,000 – a “snip”, as they say, in the property world. How public land could have been sold so cheaply remains a mystery.
In his email to the two councillors Mr Harding pointed out – as he said he had in their original Zoom meeting – that they had maintained it was difficult to chase the debt because the officials who had dealt with it had left. In fact, that was not the case, because at least two senior officials were still at the Town Hall, claimed Mr Harding.
He hopes, as a citizen, the council will begin to take this matter seriously. At one point, officials said, three years ago, that legal counsel had advised them that the debt was a “lost cause” yet later emails suggest they are still pursuing the debt.
Either way, the money is owed to the public purse. Who is going to take responsibility for that debt?