Senior Westminster Council officer under investigation a second time

The Westminster Council officer responsible for the councils property portfolio Alastair Rudd has been suspended whilst the Council conducts an internal investigation.

In 2004 Alastair Rudd was the driving force behind the disastrous proposals for the regeneration of Berwick St in the heart of Soho.

Mr Rudd enthusiastically captained a team at Westminster Corporate Property which proposed a massive development bounded by Berwick Street, Hopkins Street, Peter Street and Broadwick St in the very centre of Soho.

Mr Rudd and the commercial agents Nelson Bakewell promoted the outlandish scheme on the basis that the area was untidy, badly managed, had a deteriorating physical environment and encouraged anti-social behaviour.

It was chutzpah on a breathtaking scale as the very problems outlined to justify the scheme were as a direct result of failures by WCC and their contractors Nelson Bakewell.

Unbelievably, unknown to Councillors, Westminster Corporate Property was actually preventing repairs and improvements to the area so that it would decay and provide justification for the scheme.

It was deeply worrying that two of the parties promoting the scheme and who could financially gain from it – WCC Corporate Property and their managing agents Nelson Bakewell – were partly responsible for the problems that they themselves identified.

Indeed, WCC Corporate Property council officer Alastair Rudd, the energetic Westminster officer behind the scheme, stated in a meeting with the Met Police Crime Prevention Officers on 6 January 2004 that no additional money would be spent on the area until the commencement of development. This was a clear admission that Alastair Rudd together with Nelson Bakewell hoped that by exacerbating the problems their lucrative and out-of-proportion ‘solution’ became necessary.

After a David and Goliath battle between plucky local residents against the might of Westminster Corporate Property, Nelson Bakewell and CGMS (Planning consultants) , on the 28th July 2005 the planning committee deferred the application at a meeting  with barely concealed contempt for officers such as Alastair Rudd. They went on to describe the scheme as ‘disgraceful  and greedy and ripping the heart out of the community. The leader of the Council Sir Simon Milton was forced to issue a public apology to the residents and community who fought so hard.

However, the real problems for Alastair Rudd and corporate property were just commencing.

Officer Rudd had stated that the cost of the scheme to bring it to planning stage was approx £250k. This was expenditure agreed and signed off by our old friend Danny Chalkley. Unbeknownst to him however, the actual cost spiralled out of control as the agents and consultants all took their cut of the cake. The final ‘official’ figure was a whopping £580k spent on Alastair Rudd’s watch. There were plenty at the council who suggested the figure was far higher, with a seven-figure sum not being unrealistic.

Peter Rogers (then Chief Executive of Westminster) was urged to carry out an investigation and as a result of that Alastair Rudd was demoted to handing out licences to film companies, Joe Duckworth, the deputy chief executive was forced to resign and Nelson Bakewell were removed from their position as managing agents.

Over the last five years, Alastair Rudd has clawed his way back up the Corporate Property ladder. Lately Rudd has been responsible for several high profile property sales and leases for the Council, the sale off of North Wharf Gardens and the disposal of the Councils car parks. One car park in particular is of interest to Nutsville, the Chiltern Street Car Park near Harley Street. Property Week state that “the sale process was completed in April 2010 and is the subject of a judicial review to be heard later this year, in which the bidder for the site, Welbeck Land, claims the council withheld information about the disposal from bidders.” Yet in a Freedom of Information request back in October 2009 the Council were stating that “The Leicester Square and Chiltern Street car parks are now under private ownership.“ In a separate Freedom of information request (December 2009) Westminster Council confirmed that only two separately owned companies were assessed for the bid, Managing Partners Ltd., Overix 2 Ltd. Overix 3 Ltd.

When asked if the Council had any future plans to lease or sell off its remain car parks in October 2009 the reply in a Freedom of Information request was “There are currently no plans to transfer/sell/auction off any of the remaining twelve car parks listed above.” Denying there were any plans to sell off its car parks the Council were able to use this to sweeten the introduction of the motorcycle parking charge to the High Court. But by February 2011 Q-Park were able to announce something that both Alastair Rudd and Nutsville had known for years, that was that all of the Councils 14 remaining car parks had been awarded to Q-park on a 25 year lease.

At present Westminster Council are remaining tight lipped as to why Alastair Rudd has been suspended. In the meantime Nutsville continues to discover many Westminster Council contracts operating illegally, details of which we hope to bring you next week.


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J BFebruary 27th, 2012 at 11:28 am

This is ridiculous.

Mr Rudd is a cracking commercial agent who is simply trying his best to drive commercial results for the Council. Councils have long sat on wasting assets which cost far more money than any of those petty figures quoted in your report. I think that many people genuinely believe that there is a bottomless pit of money from which social projects and sympathetic consultations can be payed for. The fact is simple …. councils own assets which when the time is right need to be released to cut costs and drive money into the central government pot. Without this process there will be an eventual implosion when cost outweight budget and ultimately it will be websites such as yours which then criticise Mr Rudd and his piers for “not doing enough” to sell off assests when they had the chance.

Please do not be ignorant enough to believe that councils have some sort of forcefield around them which prevent the commercial market from scuppering any deal. Confidentiality in any sale is absolutely key and the FOI is unlikely to have required the full disclosure of the Q Parks deal as such information would be financially damaging to the council and therefore exempt from disclosure. I would actually question where the FOI really came from …. sounds like a bitter bidder / jealous developer to me!! Grow up people, time marches on any everyone must adapt including Councils and their property stock. If you want to live in a stagnant city then move to bradford.

NutsFebruary 27th, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Since when have Westminster City Council started carrying out ‘sympathetic consultations’, you seem unaware as to the conduct of Rudd and the council in the Soho development?

We have stacks of documents to back this story up, so we have no doubts as to its validity or you can just ask Cllr Danny Chalkley.

Nick LeemingMarch 8th, 2012 at 12:18 am

It may be true that “Mr Rudd is a cracking commercial agent who is simply trying his best to drive commercial results for the Council.” But it has been proved that he has done this at the expense of the residents, whilst misleading the Councillors.
Cast your mind back to 2005 and the ‘Berwick Street Project’. Those with memories of Alastair will remember that he and the commercial agents deliberately ran down an area by prohibiting any repairs or improvements. They did this in order to justify the redevelopment of that area.
This is a fact.
Furthermore, Alistair Rudd was possibly principal in concealing the burgeoning of costs of that project. From the figure agreed with Councillors of £250k, expense rocketed to over £580k – a figure which some believe should be nearer £1m.
The whole affair (which was driven by him) caused the loss of some key Westminster officers, his demotion, an apology from Sir Simon Milton and the ‘resignation’ of the then deputy Chief Executive Joe Duckworth (see below).
So, why bother with worrying about the assets when Mr Rudd can waste at least £580k on a wasted project that was ill thought-out, inappropriate to the area and was described by the planning committee as a ‘disgraceful application’.
And, just in case you are thinking this may be tittle-tattle and nonsense, consider the words of the auditors whose interim report condemned the Corporate Property department of Westminster Council and presented evidence that there was an “overall lack of compliance with the City Council’s financial and contract regulations, leading to a high risk of error, mismanagement and/or fraud”
And just who was in charge of the project – step forward Alastair Rudd.

::West End Extra 4th April 2006::
A SENIOR officer in City Hall’s Corporate Property department has been dismissed following an investigation by independent auditors, writes]oel Taylor.
Their probe follows the West End Extra’s revelations that City Hall spent £580,000 on a proposal to redevelop Berwick Street market, before they were thrown out by Westminster Council’s planning committee where it was described as “a disgraceful application”. . The interim report condemned the Corporate Property department of Westminster Council and presented evidence that there was a high level of “error or fraud”. There was an “overall lack of compliance with the City Council’s financial and contract regulations, leading to a high risk of error, mismanagement and/or fraud”.

::West End Extra 21st April 2006::
Mr Duckworth is leaving as investigations continue into Westminster’s corporate property department and the abandoned Berwick Street redevelopment, Mr Duckworth became involved in the saga when he wrote letters of apology to 300 residents and businesses who were worried by the plans, later branded a “disgrace” by the council’s own planning committee.

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