The Independent London Newspaper


LETTERS: Is this Canal Basin’s Lexicon tower the shape of things to come at hospital?

Published: 31 January, 2014

• JUST look at City Road Canal Basin’s Lexicon tower, a product of Steve Hitchins’ reign at Islington Council. It’s a planning cuckoo.

It makes one wonder what he has in store for the extensive land and buildings at the Whittington Hospital site. He’s now chair there.

The tower is now up 25 storeys and has 11 more to go to reach its consented 36. In the background is the Canaletto tower rising to 29 storeys. Both will be about as long as the basin and well out of scale with the basin’s other buildings.

To keep himself busy perhaps after his two-days-a-week stint at the Whittington, Mr Hitchins’ register of interests shows he has assembled a mini-portfolio of appointments, bringing in fees totalling up to £39,130 a year.

He is still a Care Quality Commission (CQC) board member, paid up to £10,000 annually, and is on the Newlon Housing Trust, Shoreditch, board, bringing in £8025 as vice-chair.

Being on the CQC and Whittington boards raises conflict of interest possibilities, particularly as the CQC is investigating whistleblower concerns at the Whittington. However, one can absent one’s self from any board matter.

Mr Hitchins has a direct medical interest. The CQC website states that he contracted type 1 diabetes more than 40 years ago. He is chair of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which raises money for a cure.

As well as looking like sore thumbs, the 201-flat Lexicon and 190-flat Canaletto towers probably will be even less than socially desirable as most likely many of the flats will be sold abroad, inner London becoming a giant safe deposit box for funk money. Whether they actually will be lived in for some time is conjectural.

Dufferin Street, EC1


• MANY residents were shocked to learn that Steve Hichins, once a distinctly unpopular Lib Dem Islington Council leader, had been made chair of the Whittington Hospital board.

Campaigners present at the first meeting of the board under Mr Hichins’ chairmanship protested that he seemed to have been brought in to oversee the hospital’s privatisation after it gained foundation trust status. He admitted that he thought that “if people want to pay for it [medical care] they can”.

How did Mr Hichins, who has been a commissioner at the Care Quality Commission, come to be appointed chairman of the board? It seems crucial to know more about who selects its members.

We know this is the Trust Development Agency, of which many people have never heard, but we don’t know who they are or who selects them.

A couple of years ago I wrote asking the board’s previous chair, Joe Liddane, for information about the appointment of its members. He replied saying this was an interesting question to which he would reply in due course. But he never did. 

It is most important that at this point we should demand this information because the members of the board should provide the democratic leadership of hospital policy. It is highly unlikely that their views would coincide with Mr Hitchins’ personal opinions. We should therefore object to his chairmanship.

We should also know how membership of the Care Quality Commission is selected.

Highbury Hill, N5  



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