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Report on the Bloomsbury Masterplan Public Meeting

Prof Grant gave a thirty second introduction for Mr. Lifschutz from the UCL consultancy mountain, during which he talked about the importance of reforming UCL’s ‘Space’ and the need to spend lots of money. He then left.

Mr. Lifschutz from the UCL consultancy mountain began by saying that, in fact, Prof Grant was wrong about spending lots of money (it was OK to say this because Prof Grant had gone), that ‘big ticket’ items weren’t required to to change UCL’s environment from the bottom up. He then talked for about thirty minutes about circulation systems, about ‘hubs’ where students could work and obtain ‘light food and drink’ and experience ‘serendipitous’ meetings (no doubt also mysteriously ‘enhanced’), about a new student centre, about removing a ceiling in the library, about the division of UCL campus into six ‘villages’, about removing all the offices to the top floors of buildings, and about other things I can’t immediately recall.

Lots of questions were then asked to Mr. Lifschutz and the remaining smattering of UCL senior management (most of them were there, actually, including Mr. Andrew Grainger). It was suggested that if the masterplan is truly about planning not just for ‘space’ but also for ‘environment’ and ‘community’, then outsourcing all the Estates & Facilities staff might perhaps be counterproductive. Mr. Lifschutz said that UCL was in competition with the Architectural Association (where he also worked) and that UCL was beholden to spend money on its buildings. Mr. Andrew Grainger said that workplace relations weren’t on the agenda for today but that he was happy to speak about them ‘offline’. It was suggested very forcefully that all the deeply felt words about ‘honesty’ in architectural design were empty, when the students were being turned into bundles of assets to be exploited and the cleaners were being newly subjected to the poorest working conditions. Mr. Lifschutz said that there was a lot of rubbish [architecture] on campus that needed removing. A member of the audience sitting in the front row wondered out loud if this meant him, i.e., support staff. Mr. Lifschutz didn’t respond to this. Mr. Grainger shook his head and said, as if shocked by the very idea, ‘Oh no, Oh no’. All the UCL managers made their ethical face and did some synchronised head shaking. It was inquired when exactly UCL management intended to start running serious consultation with its students and staff, when it’d so obviously decided to schedule this meeting during an exam period. A well-spoken lady near the front shouted ‘hear, hear’. A member of UCL academic staff repeated the question. Mr. Architect said that his plans were all very ‘vague’ and that it was up to ‘you’ [UCL] to decide what to do. The men in suits in the front rows remained very quiet. The question was re-iterated from somewhere else in the room. Very quiet.

Sometime during all this someone asked a polite question about a staircase. After the meeting Mr. Grainger said that he didn’t think that staff pensions were the main priority for Estates & Facilities; that he was aware that TUPE often incentivised contractors to make their workers redundant, but knew that the private contractor that he picked would do nothing so nefarious; prevaricated and squirmed when asked about a public meeting with students; denied that he’d cancelled or deferred meetings with affected staff; and then said that he really had to be off.

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Bloomsbury Fightback

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