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This day we had intelligence, that 60 able Citizens of London were in the beginning of this weeke summoned to appeare at Habberdashers hall, who being requested to lend £500 a man, answered, that they had lent, given and contributed according to their abilities and therefore desired now to be excused, which so discontented the Publike faith men, that they said openly, if a good bargaine or purchase should offer it selfe to them they would quickly finde monies, but the wise Cittizens perceived the reigne of these members begins to expire, and this over earnest scraping for mony is a shrewd signe they are packing up, to carry all they can to their Publique cheat beyond sea, where such vast summes are laid up in bance, for the future maintenance of the banished Members.

6th July 1643 edition of Mercurius Aulicus, a Royalist newspaper published during the Civil War.


At a December 2014 emergency meeting of the NEC were told about the prospective sale of Falconcrest to Brockton Capital, a property developer that, according to its blog “invests in direct property, operating businesses that are heavily asset-backed, and property-related capital markets securities”.

They were told that Falconcrest had been put on offer sometime last year. They were told that Brockton Capital had offered £25 million (some £2.5 million higher than anyone else). They were also told that Brockton Capital had agreed to allow PCS to remain in Falconcrest for a further year rent-free in the building that they intended to replace with a new office block rather than a residential scheme that the other bidders were planning. The NEC was told not to reveal any of the details of the deal or even the name of the potential purchaser as the report, clearly marked “Private & Confidential For Circulation to NEC and SFTOs Only” was commercial in confidence and should only be read by the chosen few.

What we were told in a PCS bulletin of 12th December 2014 was:

“As one of a number of measures, the NEC has authorised the sale of the union’s Clapham Junction building. Discussions with a major developer are now at an advanced stage. The favourable terms being discussed would achieve a very substantial sum together with a rent free period of continuing occupation. This would provide us with the ability to maintain our financial stability during this challenging period and a platform on which we will go forward to build the union and grow into new areas”.

Falconcrest leaks like a sieve at the best of times and news of the sale was on the grapevine in January much to the fury of the grandees who accused their Socialist Worker allies on the NEC of circulating the document which, they claimed, could lead to adverse publicity that could jeopardise the sale.

The report eventually fell into the hands of one of the fronts of the Independent Left who published in full online here:

This did not go down well with Mark Serwotka or Janice Godrich who issued a statement saying:

“Following the notification to branches of the NEC decisions, a private and confidential report which had been provided to the NEC was obtained by an anonymous PCS rep or reps and published on the internet alongside criticism of the decisions. The report contained highly sensitive information about the sign up to DD campaign…
…It is any rep’s absolute right within our union to criticise NEC decisions publicly and to seek to challenge them through our democratic processes. The recent decisions of the NEC will be held to account at ADC in May. However, it is an act of gross irresponsibility to publish information that will aid the government in its attack on the union. To present the Cabinet Office with internal data on our sign up campaign is severely damaging. It is an unjustifiable act and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms”.

Whether the SWP NEC members did perform the public service of releasing the document is another matter. There are half-a-dozen ways for such self-styled “secret” papers to get out of Falconcrest. There are just as many ways of tracing them. Every photocopier leaves a faint but distinct “trademark” on the copies it produces -- largely because the scanner glass is rarely cleaned and often gets scratched. A photocopy can therefore be often traced to the machine that produced it, though, obviously not to the person that made it unless each original is numbered accordingly. A more direct way to create a paper trail is simply to plant unique typographical errors on each individual document distributed which works only if a record is taken of what has been given to whom. Curiously enough there’s an obvious one on the front page. Can you spot it?

Still, so far, so good. The cash-strapped union, facing a short-fall due to the black hole of the staff pension fund and the check-off crisis, had found a buyer who not only generously gives us a year’s grace to help us cope with relocation problems but says it’s going to replace Falconcrest with another office complex which would meet local pressure group demands for continued job opportunities in the locality – a point upheld by PCS in the past (see PFL passim). And to cap it all the grandees were going around telling all and sundry that the buyer had paid PCS an advance of £3 million – which may have paid for essential and long overdue repairs at Falconcrest like the new light fittings and the renovated heating on the top floor.

Now we’re told the deal’s off. A PCS statement on 3rd February says:

“We have previously reported to branches that the NEC had agreed the sale of the Clapham Junction building and that discussions with a major developer were at an advanced stage.
There have been recent developments in the process of consultation over the route of Crossrail 2, a major infrastructure project involving tunnelled rail connections across the capital.
This has introduced additional uncertainty both for the current developer, who planned to knock down the building and rebuild, and for PCS, as it is also clear that the value of the building could increase significantly if the Crossrail 2 project goes ahead.
We do not now intend to proceed immediately with the sale but will take further advice, including advice on realising the potential value of the union's building in Victoria, which is currently rented to tenants, as part of our longer term planning.

The question is what are the “recent developments” over the route of Crossrail 2 and why would Brockton Capital pull out of a deal which could give them even more money in the longer term?

Crossrail 2 can hardly have come as surprise to either side in the negotiations for the sale. The proposed rail route in South East England will run between Surrey and Hertfordshire providing a new rail link across London on the Crossrail network. It would connect the South Western Main Line to the West Anglia Main Line, via Victoria and Kings Cross St. Pancras, intended to alleviate severe overcrowding that would otherwise occur on commuter rail routes into Central London by the 2030s. It would, by necessity go through Clapham Junction as routes from London's south and south-west termini, London Waterloo and London Victoria, funnel through the station making it one of the busiest in Europe.

The plans have been on the drawing board since the 1970s and the implications of deep tunnelling would also be known to any architect. It doesn’t affect the existing buildings like Falconcrest in the Clapham Junction railway complex but it would have to be taken into account if high-rise towers were to replace the existing shopping mall as was proposed in a speculative plan that was dropped by property developers when the slump began in 2008.

In fact there’s already a plan to redevelop across the nearby Grant Road. According to the Clapham Junction Action Group it will be dominated by huge luxury residential tower blocks. They say:

…there is no longer ambiguity about the height of the new proposed towers. A council official at the exhibition admitted that they would be about the same height as the remaining towers – around 26 storeys.
When it was pointed out that the Junction area was mostly a human-sized, largely Victorian five storeys or so, and that the local people had decisively rejected the plan for the Junction towers – “Oh, you mean the 42-storey ones” – the official said: “Well, the mayor of London has a different policy now.”
Apparently Network Rail plans to buy the Grant Road railway arches and develop them as chic restaurants, delis etc. The image on Page 4 of the latest Brightside appears to show this with what may possibly be the back of one of the proposed towers.

There was a suggestion during the exhibition that the council has a specific policy to develop this area as a “hub” with a “buzz” to cater for increased traffic from the Nine Elms development and the forthcoming Battersea Power Station Tube station. An official said that the first four floors or so of the towers would be commercial and above that one tower might “possibly be a hotel”. There might also, apparently, be interest from a dance company looking for studios. The towers would have to be tall to be financially attractive.
The site is at present occupied by a bus terminal, a church, an old people’s home and a pub, the Peacock, currently being renovated. “I don’t really know why they’re doing that,” said an official. “We’d have to buy it and demolish it.” The council, it seems, already owns the old people’s home, so would have to build a new one (at what cost?) elsewhere”.

And you can read the full report here:

Why Brockton Capital pulled out doesn’t directly concern us. There may be all sorts of financial reasons behind it but we do need to know if they really did pay us £3 million in advance and whether that has now been forfeited or whether PCS will eventually have to repay it.

We also need to know what is going to happen to Falconcrest regardless of whether or when the decision to go-ahead with Crossrail 2 is given.

Usually reliable sources say that the grandees have opted to stay and they are thinking of letting “dead space” in the building and part of the PCS car park to outside concerns for extra money – an idea first floated by Keith Mills 20 years ago during the Ramsbladder era.

But the potential revaluation of Falconcrest because of Crossrail 2 suggested in the last PCS statement , of course, won’t bring in an extra penny unless the building is mortgaged (and that is a decision only the Pension Fund Trustees can make) or if it is sold. As for the old Inland Revenue building in Victoria – that is still tied to a short lease which still has some years to run and buying out the tenants would, at current prices, be prohibitive.
So many questions, so few answers…

No one rises so high as he who knows not whither he is going
Oliver Cromwell
1599 – 1658

Little known fact. Did you know that all the male members of the current NEC and Mark Serwotka were previously Roman Catholic altar boys?