Poplar Town Hall sale ‘lawful’ says independent report

Old Poplar Town Hall today

Old Poplar Town Hall today - Credit: archive

An investigation into the sale of Poplar Town Hall as a result of an emergency motion has found no irregularities or maladministration in the sale.

But the report reveals papers and documents of the decision-making process and the bidding race have gone missing and there were shortcomings in the record-keeping of the deal.

Conservative councillor Peter Golds proposed the probe after the building – which is steeped in East End social history – was sold to developer Dreamstar for £867,000 in 2011.

He raised concerns about it being priced too cheaply and questioned the final contract race and bidding process, which saw the second-highest bidder complete the sale with a bid that was, in the words of the report, “not received by the bid deadline”. Tower Hamlets Council considered a report last week by independent auditor Mazars but the investigators found no unlawful activity.

Instead they recognised there were considerations around the highest bidder’s finances, whereas the bid from the second-highest bidder was unconditional.

But Mazars was highly critical of the council for not sticking to procedure where a written record of actions must be taken and said: “This element of the council’s own policy has not been followed.”

It confirmed financial services company BNP Paribas was appointed as the agent for the sale and estimated the value between £750,000 and £950,000.

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Dreamstar has now been granted a change of licence that will allow it to turn the building into a “boutique hotel”. When the bidding process opened it was licensed for use as a temporary school.

The council said the auditors found no evidence the building had been undervalued.

A council spokesman added: “Some records which ought to have been available were not found. It would be right for the council to review its procedures to improve the quality of its document keeping.”

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