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Council boss livid about £40+ million new HQ leak

Important St James' Palace debate held in secrecy

Report and photographs: Paul Janik
Council leader's very open and constructive debate
denounced as a lie after some councillors were banned.

A council leader's very open and constructive debate about the £40+ million St James Palace was denounced as a lie after some councillors were banned from attending the meeting.

Slough's most notorious councillor is complaining his very open and constructive debate was leaked to the Slough Times.

  • If the meeting was truly open why the big cover-up ?
  • Why shouldn't all the councillors know what is going-on ?
  • Why shouldn't the public know what is going-on ?

Cllr James Swindlehurst (Labour, Cippenham Green), who stopped pensioners and disabled residents using their bus passes before 09:30, and who created the open-air Slug bus station, has threatened councillors not to tell the public.

In a meeting held at the council's Curve building, William Street, on Monday evening, 21 May, Cllr Rob Anderson (Labour, Britwell) told invited councillors that James Swindlehurst was about to make:-

The biggest decision taken by the council in 80 years.

Resembling a Communist-style democracy and certainly not open or even a tiny bit transparent, Cllr Swindlehurst & his poodles banned the public and the press from attending. They also banned every opposition councillor too.

James Swindlehurst's ban on opposition councillors is surprising as three senior council officials were present and participated in Labour's secret meeting. Sources say they were:-

  • Joe Carter, council director
  • Steven Gibson, council's long-time, and well-paid, contractor
  • Neil Wilcox, council finance director

No wonder the public were locked-out. A council mole told the Slough Times that Cllr James Swindlehurst revealed to astonished Labour councillors the cost of the council buying St James' Palace in Windsor Road was a staggering

£39+ million plus VAT = £46.8+ million.

Plus another £5 million could be spent adopting the building for the council's use. The total cost could be £51.8 million.

When some councillors became uneasy about spending a massive amount of the public's cash, especially with Council Tax increases because the council has no money, Deputy Council Leader Sabia Hussain (Labour, Central) is said to have shouted loudly at Cllr Mohammed Sharif that St James' Palace was the best option. A colleague later explained Cllr Sharif could not hear properly.

Some claim Cllr Hussain never provided written details of alternative office blocks and their acquisition costs. One person said:-

We are being pushed into agreeing. With all the money recently spent improving St Martin's Place, we can't understand why we must move. Why we have this big rush now ?

A pro-Swindlehurst source claimed the £39+ million plus VAT was a cheap price and was £10 million below the current market value for the building.

The Slough Times invited Cllr Swindlehurst's comments but he has not responded.

The building's original cost


2014 plan of St James' Palace site

A Slough Times investigation revealed the building's current owner is Observatory House (Jersey) Limited, a Jersey based tax-free company.

On 6 June 2014 it brought the office block and a lease on parts of the council's Herschel car park, from another Jersey based tax-free company Forthright Property Investments (Slough) Limited.

Forthright Property Investments (Slough) Ltd was created as a Jersey tax-free company, number 88546, on 17 September 2004 and closed-down, without trace, on 10 June 2016.

The price paid by the current owner was £10,575,000 and was financed by a loan from suspected tax-dodging Greenoak UK Secured Lending SARL, a company based in tax-avoidance Luxembourg at 51 Avenue John F. Kennedy. source: Land Registry BK274896.

A source says the building's current owner, Observatory House (Jersey) Ltd., is owned by a tax-free company in the Cayman Islands and that company is owned by people living in Morocco, North Africa – another source says the people actually live in Monaco, the secretive tax-free principality, 38km (24 miles) from Cannes and 49 minutes on the train.

Seller's Profit

The owner paid £10.5 million. Sources say £2.5 million was spent on a face-lift comprising external cladding (hope it is fireproof), new windows and cosmetic internal changes. That makes a total cost of £13 million.

If Slough Unitary Authority pays £39 million + VAT, it means . . . .
the seller's profit is £26 million on an investment of £13 million..

The seller doubles his money with the generous help of Slough's Labour councillors.

With so many expensive property experts at the council, and external property consultants instantly available, one inevitably wonders:-

  • In 2014, when James Swindlehurst was deputy council boss, why didn't Slough Council buy the building and save £26 million ?
  • What are Slough's expensive senior staff doing, apart from walking around the offices chatting and working at home ?
  • Why is Cllr Swindlehurst so desperate to complete the sale as quickly as possible, when the building has been empty for 2 years ?

Hanky-Panky ?

Four new Observatory House tax-free companies have recently popped-up in Jersey, Channel Islands. The current bunch of companies are:-

  • 23 April 2014 : Observatory House (JERSEY) Ltd, number 115562
  • 23 April 2018 : Observatory House Ltd, number 136748
  • 23 April 2018 : Observatory House Holdco Ltd, number 136749
  • 23 April 2018 : Observatory House (SLOUGH) Holdco Ltd, number 136750
  • 23 April 2018 : Observatory House (SLOUGH) Ltd, number 136763

This happened after Slough Council showed an interest in buying the building's freehold.

Cllr Swindlehurst's email to Labour councillors



Wednesday, 23 May 2018.

Dear all,

I just want to thank you for taking part in what was a very open and constructive debate about the re-location of SBC's HQ.

As Cllr Anderson said, it probably is the biggest decision taken by the council in 80 years and one that will have a highly positive impact on our town centre.

It's right we have these frank internal debates and come to an agreed decision - which we have with the vast majority of Group members and more than half of the Council voting for the proposed move.

We know that our investment in the bus station £13 million and The Curve £24 million has brought investors to Slough - Catalyst Capital - the representatives of the owners of the shopping centres, have said as much - they wouldn't be here without the investment we have made into our town centre. I fully expect our office move to have the same impact.

However, I must remind all members that group meetings are confidential and information shared is for councillors only - it is clear that information from this meeting has been leaked by individual(s) in the room. This is unacceptable and will limit the kind of information that can be shared with the Group in the future.

I have asked the Chief Whip to look into this.

James

Cllr J C R Swindlehurst, Esq.,
Leader of the Labour Group of Councillors,
Leader of Slough Borough Council.
Aspirant Member of Parliament.