CROYDON’S UNCARING COUNCIL (part 94): As first reported by Inside Croydon, our council has been roundly criticised by the Local Government Ombudsman over its callous treatment of the homeless. Now Dudley Mead, the councillor responsible for housing, has responded. While he’s busy turning homeless mothers and children out on to the streets before Christmas, Mead has managed to find time to bleat that the official criticism of Croydon Council is … no fair! Diddums!
Last month, the Ombudsman ordered Croydon to “review its policy and practice in relation to consideration of homeless applications” after a young woman and her children were left waiting for emergency accommodation 10 times longer than is required under the law, following an attack with a hammer and knives while in her previous council home. There’s more on this case here.
Mead, together with his wife Margaret – the Terry and June of Croydon politics – live in comfortable retirement, supplementing their old age pensions with more than £90,000 per year in councillors’ allowances.
It was Scrooge-like Mead who recently boasted in the Town Hall that the two young mothers and their small children, consigned by his council to Dickensian conditions in a “doubly illegal” council-funded B&B, were to be turned out on to the streets (and just before Christmas, too! Bah! Humbug!), for daring to criticise the squalor that the council had placed them in.
How has Mead responded to the Ombudsman’s latest critique of his shambolic mishandling of homeless people in Croydon? Does he man-up and take responsibility, as a good Conservative should? Or does he turn round and blame the victims of his and the council’s dreadful combination of callousness and incompetence?
Mead says that the latest Ombudsman’s report is a “dangerous precedent”. Yes, it might set the precedent of Croydon, and Mead, having to fulfill their legal responsibilities.
“I’m pretty angry about it, to put it mildly. We have a crisis going on and all the Ombudsman can do is criticise,” said Mead, the poor dear.
“It could set all sorts of dangerous precedents. What I would say is that we will rigorously defend our actions in all these cases because I think we have been given an impossible situation.” So Mead and the council have been found to be wholly in the wrong. And he wants to “defend our actions”? Really? On behalf of whom? The people of Croydon, or himself and his allowance-claiming mates at the Town Hall?
In an interview with the Sadvertiser, Mead demonstrated ably why he avoided appearing on the critical Newsnight investigation into the borough’s housing policy: because he would have been utterly destroyed on camera.
These are the lame excuses he came up with for the local newspaper reporter: “We have very little resources to deal with. What people don’t consider is that we lost 60 houses during the riots. A lot of the stock we had has gone and hasn’t been replaced. We are in the middle of a perfect storm.”
Diddums. Anyone notice how, 16 months on from the August 2011 riots, Croydon Council has done very little to increase housing stock in the borough, while continuing with the building of its £140 million headquarters building? Priorities anyone?
For the poor woman and her family forced to flee their home after the attack (Croydon Council determined that she had made herself homeless), Mead said, “Of course we have apologised, but we feel the criticism is extremely harsh.” Poor Dudley. How tewwibly unfair.
“I feel a great deal of sympathy for officers who are working under a lot of pressure only to have their slightest mistakes reported to the Ombudsman.” Yes, Dudders. You wouldn’t want Croydon to be subject to proper scrutiny for its actions, would you? Has anyone considered how little “service” might be provided by the council if you make too many staff redundant?
The Ombudsman has joined Newsnight‘s criticism of the squalid conditions at Gilroy Court, the B&B establishment on London Road that is paid so much public money by our council to “house” the homeless. The Ombudsman’s report described Gilroy Court as “unsuitable”.
Figures in October showed that of 254 families in Gilroy Court, 189 had been there longer than the law permits, a point on which Don Foster, a ConDem government minister, was particularly strong on the original Newsnight programme.
Of course, it was “Cuddly Dudley” Mead who seemed very keen to appear on television and in national newspapers last year to announce his “initiative” that the borough was going to “export” its homeless “oop north”, where it was cheaper and therefore cost our council less.
This policy has been described as “absolutely wrong, it’s inappropriate, and potentially may even be against the law”, the view not of some left-wing firebrand, but of Tory government minister Grant Shapps.
Is there nothing that Mead can get right?
Expect further complaints about Croydon Council to the Local Government Ombudsman in the coming months.
- Croydon, Christmas 2012: Scrooge is in charge of the Town Hall
- TaxPayers’ Alliance say Fisher is “part of entitlement culture”
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
- Post your comments on this article below. If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- £30m libraries privatisation could be sent for judicial review (insidecroydon.com)
- Homelessness: the growing bed and breakfast crisis (guardian.co.uk)
- Legacy of the riots: Croydon abandoned by middle-class (standard.co.uk)