You’ve probably heard of the revolving door where local councillors quit their roles and re-emerge working for a consultancy that’s in the pockets of property developers and their ilk. Well, Cllr. Gavin Callaghan (Labour) who represents the Pitsea North West ward on Basildon Council is going one better by combining his role as a ward councillor with that of being a director for Cratus Strategic. This is how Callaghan is described in the Our People section on the Cratus website. Who the heck are Cratus Strategic you may well ask? Let’s take a look and see what kind of outfit Cllr. Callaghan is working for.
Cratus Strategic is one of a number of divisions of Cratus. In their words, this is how Cratus describe their activities:
At Cratus our ethos is ‘our world is local’, this defines us and drives everything we do. We recognise the importance of decision making at local level and our primary goal is to help clients navigate the process to secure results. We are a political engagement and community consultation company. Established in 2009, born from our Chief Executive’s dedication to local government, Cratus is committed to creating and improving partnerships between local authorities, the private and third sectors. Cratus has brought together a powerful cross-party team from the top of local government to provide insight and counsel to our clients as they work with emerging local government structures, as well as the wider public sector.
This is the usual corporate bullshit where you have to read between the lines and do a bit of digging to find out what they’re really about. They have left a significant clue in referring to ‘partnerships between local authorities, the private and third sectors’. The private bit more often that not means property developers, housing developers, construction companies and the like. Have a look at the client list of Cratus and you’ll see what we mean.
You can tell what a consultancy is like by the people working for and associated with them. Let’s start at the very top with the executive chairman of Cratus, Sir Merrick Cockell. He was leader of the council at the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea from 2000 until 2013. The ‘refurbishment’ of Grenfell Tower with the cladding that effectively turned it into one massive flaming torch killing 72 people was initiated in 2014. Rydon, the construction company who ‘refurbished’ Grenfell Tower are a client of Cratus. That’s something to think about isn’t it?
Redrow PLC are a another client of Cratus. Redrow are the developers of the controversial development of 725 executive homes at Dry Street to the south of Basildon. Homes that many locals feel are unaffordable for them and are aimed at affluent people moving out of London: 725 home development in Dry Street, Basildon ‘made for Londoners’. The Dry Street development is part of a long, troubled chain of schemes which involves the re-location of what will be a downsized campus of South Essex College to the current site of the market in Basildon town centre and the re-location of the market to St. Martin’s Square: You seriously couldn’t make this up! So, Callaghan, a local councillor and former leader of Basildon Council is one of the directors of a company that has Redrow as a client. Let’s just say that for some people in Basildon, this could prompt them to start asking awkward questions.
We’ve written a lot about the social cleansing of London in the name of ‘regeneration’. There are many villains in this sorry saga. One of them is the deputy chairman of Cratus, Chris Roberts. The former Labour leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich who stepped down in 2014 to join Cratus. When he was leader of the council at Greenwich, among the ‘regeneration’ projects Roberts oversaw, one was the demolition of the Ferrier estate and it’s replacement with a development largely made up of private homes branded as Kidbrooke Village. As for the former tenants of the Ferrier estate, they have been scattered to the winds. The estate was used to house a large number of refugee households and vulnerable tenants, so predictably given the way people like this are demonised, tragically their fate doesn’t really seem to have caused a great deal of concern.
One of the founders of Cratus is Kevin Davis who subsequently left to resume his role in local politics as a Tory councillor and for a while, as the leader of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. He is now leader of the Tory opposition on the council. Private Eye had a field day with him and others over the issue of transparency: Transparency row over Tory MP’s role with lobbying agency. It hardly needs saying that councillors, consultancies and the revolving doors they pass through are always going to be problematical.
Let’s move onto the Associates of Cratus. Let’s take a look at Stephen Dorrell. He was a Tory MP for Loughbrough between 1979 and 1997 and then for Charnwood from 1997 until 2015. In November 2015 Dorrell became Chair of the NHS Confederation. He is also Chairman of Laing Buisson Ltd, a healthcare market intelligence company, and of its sister company Public Policy Projects Ltd which provides public policy advice. Take a look at them and it soon becomes clear they have an interest in the increased privatisation of healthcare services.
Another Associate is Hannah David, a former Tory councillor on Hertsmere Council, a former Harrow West parliamentary candidate, a former property lawyer and currently, a co-director of another bullshit spouting consultancy, Planning Futures. As you can see from the image on the splash page of their website, Planning Futures enjoy a close relationship with Cratus. On the subject of relationships, there’s one that must be causing some considerable embarrassment for Hannah David and that’s the one with her husband, Freddy David. Let’s face it, being jailed for fraud is embarrassing: Borehamwood Ponzi cheat Freddy David jailed.
We get the feeling we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to lifting the lid on what to some people would appear to be the can of worms that’s Cratus and those associated with them. So, let’s just view this piece as stage in a process rather than a definitive expose. We actively encourage people to start doing their own digging on Cratus to look at the role Cllr. Gavin Callaghan has in that consultancy and the relationships he has with their people, associates and clients.
From what we’ve seen so far, we can understand why there are people in Basildon asking searching questions as to what Callaghan is doing with an outfit like Cratus who, as indicated above, have people with questionable aims, associations and records. Given Callaghan’s involvement with Cratus at the same time as being the councillor for Pitsea North West, we can see why some people might be questioning his agenda. With the areas of interest that Cratus have which will be seen by some as being sharply at variance with what they perceive as socialist values, it’s understandable that there are people in Basildon Labour who have serious doubts about Callaghan. Suffice to say, we are going to be keeping a close eye on all of this.