‘Nothing to see here’, police say over Gipsy Hill election case

The police has concluded its investigation into allegations of electoral fraud in Lambeth’s Gipsy Hill ward in May’s local elections, and says it will be taking no further action.

Gipsy Hill's Labour councillors, pictured with local MP Tessa Jowell: Matthew Bennett,

Gipsy Hill’s Labour councillors, pictured with local MP Tessa Jowell: Matthew Bennett, left, Niranjan Francis, centre, and Jennifer Braithwaite, right

The voters of Gipsy Hill elected three Labour councillors, including Matthew Bennett, who as well as having cabinet responsibilities at Brixton Town Hall, also holds the day-job as “Head of Office” for Croydon North’s MP, Steve Reed OBE.

Before opting for Croydon’s safe Labour seat, Reed had been Leader of the Council in Lambeth.

Bennett declined to comment to Inside Croydon regarding his involvement, or non-involvement, in the investigation, which will be seen as a considerable embarrassment for Reed’s former colleagues in Lambeth, where a by-election has already had to be arranged for next month in Knight’s Hill ward because one of the Labour councillors who was elected in May happened to be on the council pay-roll at the time of the elections.

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Posted in Croydon North, Lambeth Council, Matthew Bennett, Steve Reed MP | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Inspired by Glasgow 2014? Get on track with Croydon Harriers

Martyn Rooney: Croydon Harrier in action this week for England at the Commonwealth Games

Martyn Rooney: Croydon Harrier in action this week for England at the Commonwealth Games

Croydon Harriers is hosting six free athletics sessions this August for budding young athletes aged from six to 18.

Taking place at Croydon Sports Arena, a range of events will be on offer, including sprinting, middle-distance running, throwing, jumping and pole vaulting, with the sessions led by qualified coaches.

Sessions will be taking place on the following dates and start at midday:
August 4, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 12.

You can register for one or more sessions by emailing matt.kiernan@croydonharriers.com.

Or you can just turn up from 11.30am on the day to sign in.

The programme of events is thanks to a grant received from the FreeSport programme administered by the GLA. Continue reading

Posted in Athletics, Croydon Harriers, Martyn Rooney, Sport | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More absurdity coming to Croydon – this time on film

The film-makers assured everyone that it really was Michael Fassbender under the Frank Sidebottom mask in Frank.

Michael Fassbender as FrankRegulars at screenings at the David Lean Cinema will be able to form their own opinions next month, when the acclaimed, absurd and more than a little weird, film is among the movies on offer in the Clock Tower’s purpose-built arthouse cinema.

Frank has been described as “surreally comic”. Continue reading

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Herne Hill Velodrome school holiday cycling sessions

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Police launch investigation over Labour councillors’ election

The police are investigating allegations over the conduct of last May’s local elections in Lambeth’s Gipsy Hill ward, where Matthew Bennett – whose state-funded day-job is as the “head of office” for Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE – was elected as a Labour councillor.

Matthew Bennett: head of office for Steve Reed OBE

Matthew Bennett: head of office for Steve Reed OBE

Bennett is now the cabinet member for housing in Labour-controlled Lambeth.

In a statement issued to another hyperlocal website, Brixton Buzz, the Metropolitan Police said, “We can confirm we have received an allegation that a candidate in the recent local elections in Lambeth was ineligible to stand for election. Detectives from the Met’s Specialist Crime and Operations Command are investigating the allegation and enquiries continue.”

In Gipsy Hill ward, which borders Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Bennett was elected alongside Niranjan Francis and Jennifer Brathwaite. The police declined to identify which of the three elected Gipsy Hill councillors may be the subject of their investigation.

It is the second police investigation into the Lambeth local elections, following the failure of another Labour councillor, Sonia Winifred in Knight’s Hill ward, to realise that she could not stand in the council elections while being employed by the council as a teaching assistant. As a consequence, a by-election has been called in Knight’s Hill for next month, at a cost of almost £15,000 to Council Tax-payers. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon North, Lambeth Council, Matthew Bennett, Steve Reed MP | Leave a comment

Keep it quiet: councillors make allowances for themselves

Croydon’s councillors last week opened the way for potential increases in their own “allowances” of as much as 20 per cent, and they did it all without any debate. By STEVEN DOWNES

Croydon’s new council last week passed a range of changes to the way the borough’s business is conducted, without a single question or element of discussion. This all went through on the nod not just at one meeting in the Town Hall chamber, but at two.

And the approved proposals appear to open the way to paying the Council Leader more than £65,000 per year.

Council Leader Tony Newman, left, and his choice of CEO, Nathan Elvery, share a joke at last night's cabinet meeting

Council Leader Tony Newman, left, and his choice of CEO, Nathan Elvery, share a joke at last week’s over-running cabinet meeting

Inside Croydon has already highlighted how a key decision at last week’s full council meeting at the Town Hall – the appointment of the £180,000 per year borough chief executive – was arrived at without discussion or question from any of the 70 councillors.

But last week, a range of measures which alter the council’s committee structure, impact the way in which council contracts are awarded, and which ignored calls from Croydon’s trades unions to scrap councillors’ allowances, all went through without the benefit of any discussion, not only at last week’s full council meeting, but also at the cabinet meeting held the previous evening.

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Posted in Croydon Council, Julie Belvir, London-wide issues, Mike Fisher, Nathan Elvery, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Festival of Code youth competition is coming to Centrale

Children from Croydon with a keen eye for coding are being urged to sign up to a competition taking place across the country between July 28 and August 3.

Festival of CodeThe LNK unit, in Centrale’s Upper Mall, is a host centre for the Festival of Code, which will see under-19s from the area be presented with real world problems which they will be challenged to address through their self-taught computing skills.

The annual Festival of Code is organised by Young Rewired State, a not-for-profit organisation whose aim it is to foster a love of coding and a determination to teach themselves technological skills in every young person. The initiative is being supported by The Met Office and The University of Plymouth.

Those entering will be supported by Young Rewired State’s team of experts to help them create websites, prototypes and inventive applications, alongside peers with the same passion for coding.

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Posted in Centrale, Education, Lives Not Knives, Tech City | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t persecute cyclists as they are forced off the roads

Kristian Gregory on his bikeCROYDON COMMENTARY: Earlier this week, another cyclist was killed on the roads of south London, this time after a collision involving a local authority dust cart. When it comes to traffic control, KRISTIAN GREGORY, pictured left, believes the police have their priorities wrong

Earlier this month, I was pulled over by a PCSO on the New Kent Road while riding a bike along the designated shared pavement and given a £50 fine. The incident was captured on my helmet camera and on seeing the footage, Mark Williams, the cabinet member for transport for Southwark, asked the Southwark borough commander to stop carrying out enforcement there.

Jenny Jones, the London Assembly member, raised my case as an example of over-zealous policing with Matt Bell, the head of roads and transport policing, who has in turn sympathised with my case and suggested that I challenge the fine.

However, the fine has not been cancelled and I face a court case and legal costs ranging from £400 up to £2,000, depending on whether the case is dropped before going to court or not.

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Posted in Commuting, Crime, Croydon Cycling Campaign, Cycling, Environment, Planning, Policing, Transport, Upper Norwood | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Stopped and searched? Contact new monitoring group

stop and searchA new group, the Croydon Stop and Search Community Monitoring Group, was formed in May to provide independent oversight of stops and search conducted in the borough.

If you wish to get involved or to talk about a grievance you may have, please email croydonsands@gmail.com or phone or text the chairwoman, Marzia Nicodemi, on 07940 415532.

“Your voice will be heard. It is a promise,” Nicodemi said. Continue reading

Posted in Policing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Let’s be a borough of old scrubbers, says Captain Sensible

Captain Sensible has called on the people of Croydon to “get up off their arses” and take up their scrubbing brushes, their brooms and buckets, and start to get the borough cleaner, doorstep by doorstep.

Get off your arses, Croydon! Captain Sensible has always been known for his happy, happy talk

Get off your arses, Croydon! Captain Sensible has always been known for his happy, happy talk

The former Damned frontman is due to attend the official unveiling of the Sensible Seat, a park bench named in his honour on a piece of reclaimed waste ground opposite his old school, the one-time Stanley Tech in South Norwood, this Saturday.

And the Captain, also known as Raymond Burns, wants the whole of Croydon to be more “old school” when it comes to taking pride in our neighbourhood, starting with a bar of carbolic on our own doorsteps.

“Despite this event being a bit tongue in cheek, I do believe that people shouldn’t just wait on their local council to keep everything in their area looking nice and dandy,” Captain Sensible wrote on Facebook.

“If folk don’t wish to live in squalor, get off your arses and tidy the place up yourselves,” he said.

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Posted in Environment, Fly tipping, Gardening, Music, Refuse collection, South Norwood, South Norwood Tourist Board, Stuart Collins, Transition Town, Upper Norwood, Upper Norwood Library Trust | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Cancer forced me to dance with the shadow of fear’

Susan Oliver Susan DavisOccasional Inside Croydon contributor SUSAN OLIVER, pictured left, has not written for us for a while. Here she explains why

Winter 2013 was lousy for me.

And then it got a whole lot worse.

The downturn started last November. I became disenchanted with Twitter. I had been an enthusiastic tweeter for a couple of years under the handle of @beesnbeans, so it was surprising when I started to lose interest in it.

I deleted my account. Then in a fit of “What have I done?!?!” I went back and tried to un-delete it, but it was too late: Twitter had taken me seriously.

I continued on living… but around January I knew something was not right. I started feeling massively sad. I underwent a lot of catharsis – a lot of emotional cleansing. Looking back, I think it was a mini mid-life crisis where some unhealed residue from childhood surfaced.

Then, in mid-January I decided to take the small lump that was growing on my neck seriously. Being a modern gal, I had diagnosed myself with the help of the internet and had concluded that it was a cyst, nothing to worry about. When I finally went to the doctor and she started to get panicky, I helped myself to a generous serving of humble pie. Continue reading

Posted in Activities, Education, Environment, Health, Susan Oliver | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tory MP wants election helpers to work unpaid for six months

Croydon Central’s gaffe-prone MP Gavin Barwell is seeking a couple of slaves, or possibly a pair of recent graduates who are gullible enough or desperate enough, and also have well-heeled parents who don’t mind subsidising the Tory MP’s election campaign for up to six months.

MP Gavin Barwell: an expert in offering a pig in a poke

MP Gavin Barwell: an expert in offering a pig in a poke

That’s the nub of the without-scruples deal in what passes for a job ad which was published yesterday. And according to one campaign group, Barwell may even be breaking employment law in seeking to use long-term, unpaid interns.

As a Government whip, Barwell – salary £67,000 per year –  should be well aware that since 1998, it has been illegal to employ someone and not pay them at least the National Minimum Wage. Continue reading

Posted in 2015 General Election, Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell MP, Ian Parker | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Not a single question asked over £180,000 CEO appointment

The French have a phrase for it: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose“.

In England, the tabloids devised a game for their prize competitions: Spot the Difference.

Croydon CEO Nathan Elvery pictured in the office this week

Croydon CEO Nathan Elvery pictured in the office this week

Last week, at the first full council meeting of the Labour administration since winning the local elections, under agenda item 11, namely, “The appointment of a permanent chief executive”, a £180,000 per year position (plus expenses, at least), was decided upon by this meeting of the 70 elected councillors.

The item was towards the end of the agenda, when the meeting was close to finishing and running out of time for any proper discussion. Those making the appointment, and the appointee, may have wanted things that way.

The amount of time, thought and public debate given to the matter may be instructive of the manner in which the business of the council is conducted.

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Posted in 2014 council elections, Croydon Council, Julie Belvir, Nathan Elvery, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fisher’s Folly shows problems addressing council services

Our loyal reader’s been in touch again.

They’ve just received a letter from one of the council departments working in Fisher’s Folly, the country’s most costly borough offices, the £220 million glass palace on Cost A Mint Walk from which all our local “services” are dispensed.

“They don’t know their own postcode,” Inside Croydon’s loyal reader observes.

Council letterThe correct postcode for the council headquarters should be CR0 1EA.  Continue reading

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Fragile feelings are pub theatre’s latest acclaimed offering

The Spread Eagle Theatre’s summer season comes to a close this week with a production of an acclaimed, but also disturbing, new play, Fragile.

FragileThe Katharine Street pub theatre’s partner company, Birmingham’s Old Joint Stock Theatre, presents Geoff Thompson’s chilling new semi-autobiographical drama which charts a broken man’s journey through abuse, reconciliation and redemption. Nigel Francis plays “One” – abandoned and alone, he tells his story to a tape recorder in the hope of finding peace.

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