Town Hall chief takes top job with company behind Camden market overhaul
Abdul Hai says there is no conflict of interest as duties are off loaded to cabinet colleague
17 August, 2017 — By William McLennan
The Hawley Wharf redevelopment
A KEY member of the Town Hall cabinet has relinquished a series of responsibilities after taking a job as a director of the company behind the massive redevelopment of Camden Town.
Councillor Abdul Hai, who sits on the Labour leadership’s 10-strong cabinet which has the final say on council policy, has taken a senior role with Camden Market, the firm which manages vast swathes of NW1 bought up by an Israeli billionaire in the middle of the area’s biggest facelift in a generation.
Market Tech, owned by Teddy Sagi, has bought 16 acres of land in Camden. It is behind the ongoing redevelopment of Hawley Wharf, which has divided opinion as fans of the world-famous, canalside market wait to see whether its bohemian, quirky feel will be retained after the cranes are gone.
The company also owns the lease of dozens of restaurants and bars, which led Cllr Hai to relinquish some of his responsibilities at the Town Hall. The change-around comes just months after new council leader Georgia Gould formed her first cabinet – after internal voting – and finalised the duties each cabinet member would take on in the reshuffled administration.
Cllr Hai said: “In terms of noise and nuisance and licensing issues, it’s going to be Councillor Phil Jones. I don’t deal with licensing. I’ve given that up. I’ve basically given up regulatory services now because I want to make sure it doesn’t conflict with my new role.”
He added: “If people have policing issues, I’m here. If there is any licensing issues and noise issues, then they speak to Cllr Jones. There is no conflict of interest.”
It is believed the decision to cleave off the regulatory services role was made after advice from the Town Hall’s most senior lawyer, borough solicitor Andrew Maughan. Cllr Hai, who previously worked as a director of youth services at King’s Cross Brunswick Neighbourhood Association (KCBNA), said: “Like when I worked for KCBNA, if you work in Camden you are always going to have conflict. It’s how you manage them by being open and transparent.”
His title at Camden Market is director of community engagement. He said it will see him serve as “a bridge between the organisation and the community, to support community events, to support local people with job opportunities, linking them up with market stalls, work experience, perhaps mentoring, setting up community groups”.
He added: “It is a way to be an organisation that works with the community to make sure the provisions within the market are utilised by community groups. That’s the primary purpose.”
Mr Sagi founded Playtech, a firm supplying online gambling software to some of Britain’s biggest bookies. Market Tech unified the once disparate markets around Camden Town under one management firm. Among measures introduced was the appointment of Kerb to organise street food stalls in West Yards, which overlook Camden Lock.