Council set to lend more money to failing Brick by Brick

CROYDON IN CRISIS: When in a hole, stop digging? Not Croydon’s bankrupt council, which is ‘damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t’ according to a senior Tory councillor over plans to throw more cash at its loss-making house-builder. KEN LEE reports

Monday night’s council meeting is expected to recommend more money for Brick by Brick

Good money after bad… The “London Borough of Croydon is likely to lend more money to its cash-strapped housing company Brick by Brick,” according to a report on the website of CIPFA, the association of civic accountancy professionals.

The council’s loss-making house-builder is nearly six months late in publishing its annual accounts for 2019-2020, and senior sources working at Fisher’s Folly suggest that this continued delay may be because auditors cannot sign off on the accounts to say that Brick by Brick is a “going concern”, unless there is some kind of financial guarantee in writing from the council.

Such letters of assurance have been made repeatedly for Brick by Brick since it was formed in 2015, before the council was forced to declare itself broke, issuing a Section 114 notice in November. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Lisa Taylor, Report in the Public Interest, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

South Norwood library needs £900,000 more to be fit to open

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Mounting repair bills has seen the bankrupt council earmark five public libraries for possible closure. But they are not saying how much they might make if they sell the properties.
Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, reports

Another disaster for Croydon, delivered courtesy of Brick by Brick

More than three-quarters of a million pounds worth of repair bills, plus nearly £900,000 to kit out an unfinished building, are the reasons being put forward by Croydon’s bankrupt council for its money-saving proposals for permanent closure of five of the borough’s 13 public libraries.

The eye-watering capital costs of maintaining libraries in a state where the buildings do not become a danger to those who use them make the £540,000 annual costs of staffing and operating the five libraries pale into relative insignificance.

Libraries in Sanderstead, Shirley, Broad Green, South Norwood and Bradmore Green are being lined up for possible closure. It is the hugely costly blundering over South Norwood Library, with its replacement part-built by Brick by Brick, which underscores the closure plans, and which makes that library’s fate seemed sealed.

It means that Croydon Council is effectively announcing the closure of a library it has never actually opened. Continue reading

Posted in Broad Green, Coulsdon, Croydon Council, Libraries, Old Coulsdon, Patsy Cummings, Sanderstead, Sarah Jones MP, Shirley, South Norwood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Everything in the garden waste is rosy, as service resumes

Well, that bit of the coronavirus emergency, with staff off sick or isolating, didn’t last long.

Back on track: service resumes after a very brief covid-related emergency

Just a week after suspending the rubbish contractor Veolia’s garden waste collection service, Croydon Council yesterday announced that the service is to resume.

The announcement can surely have had nothing to do with the bankrupt council having it pointed out to them that, when you take payments of £65 per year from thousands of households around the borough, you enter into a contract with them which demands that you provide that service. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Refuse collection, Steve Iles, Veolia | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Merton seeking replacement for long-standing CEO Curran

Ged Curran, the chief executive at Merton Council for nearly 17 years, is set to leave his £220,000 per year job.

Exit: Merton CEO Ged Curran

There has been no formal announcement from Merton of Curran’s departure, but the council is holding an appointments committee meeting at their Morden offices next week, with a vacancy for a chief executive on the agenda.

Curran’s exit from Merton comes less than four months after Stephen Alambritis, the long-standing Labour leader of the council, stood down from his role.

Curran has worked in local government for nearly 35 years, and is close to retirement age. He took up the Merton job, where he is in charge of 5,000 paid staff, in March 2004. He joined from Lambeth, where he had been an exec director for eight years, following a previous spell as the borough solicitor in Newham. Continue reading

Posted in London-wide issues, Merton, Outside Croydon | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

I don’t want to see a headline saying “Hodgson must go”

EXCLUSIVE: As part of a wide-ranging interview about his new book and football, one of Palace’s best-known fans, Kevin Day, says it could be time for change. By ELLA HOPKINS

Roy Hodgson: says he’s not ready to retire yet

Roy Hodgson, the Crystal Palace manager, has said ahead of tonight’s Premier League game at Arsenal that he would like to continue in the job beyond the expiry of his contract in the summer.

The future at the club of the 73-year-old former England boss has been a talking point among Eagles fans for months, with Palace’s sometimes cautious playing style causing growing disquiet.

And in an exclusive Under The Flyover podcast interview with Inside Croydon, Kevin Day, one of the club’s best-known celebrity fans, has added his voice to that debate.

“I don’t want to see an Inside Croydon headline saying, ‘Kevin Day says Hodgson must go’,” said the comedian and TV comedy writer, while adding that he “wouldn’t be upset” if the club were to find a new manager.

Continue reading

Posted in Comedy, Crystal Palace FC, Football, Roy Hodgson | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Croydon children given out of date bread in their food parcels

Bungling Boris Johnson was forced yesterday to admit that his government food parcels for hungry children are a “disgrace”. But Inside Croydon has discovered that state-funded packages distributed to some children in this borough have distributed with even less in them to eat than has been shown in pictures that have caused a national storm.

And one Croydon package included a loaf of bread which was already two days past its sell-by date.

Children got better fed when there was rationing during WWII

The packages are supposed to be in place of the free school meals that schoolchildren might receive were the nation not in the current coronavirus lockdown. The government has commissioned private firms to deliver £30-worth of food per child.

But Johnson and the Tories have been shamed by photos posted on social media by parents angry after taking delivery of the food parcels. The Tories’ idea of what £30-worth of food amounts to appears to be a cruel joke on the “deserving poor”.

Most reasonable estimates suggest that the food contained in the packages is worth no more than a fiver. Continue reading

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Schools and businesses deal with Croydon’s ‘digital divide’

As hundreds of families in the borough struggle with expensive broadband connections or are having to use shared laptops for homeschooling, community groups have rallied round to help. ELLA HOPKINS reports

Plugged in: Croydons businesses, schools and charities have stepped in where Boris Johnson’s government has failed

It was little more than a year ago that John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour election manifesto pledge of providing free broadband for all was being derided as “communist”.

Just days into 2021, and the need to urgently address Britain’s “digital divide” has become an urgent national issue with schools closed and children forced to learn at home during the latest coronavirus lockdown.

After reports that the 1.8million children in the UK who do not have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home, the government added pupils in England without laptops to the list of “vulnerable children” that can go into school for face-to-face learning, to avoid them falling behind their peers.

That digital deficit is being felt keenly in Croydon, too. Continue reading

Posted in Business, Charity, Education, Oasis Academy, Schools | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

George Street’s wind tunnel is causing dangerous problems

CROYDON COMMENTARY: There could be a towering reason for the second closure in a year of the area in front of East Croydon Station because of damage to the building’s glass canopy, according to DAN MAERTENS

Windy city: the new 44- and 38-storey towers have blown up problems for East Croydon Station

In some ways, the closure of parts of the tram network last weekend while repair works were carried out at East Croydon Station is a metaphor for the state of planning in the borough over the last few years.

Apart from an early failure of a couple of the glass roof panels in the station concourse area early in its life, East Croydon Station is a building that has withstood all the slings and arrows that weather can throw at it for the best part of 30 years since it was opened in 1992.

Now it is suffering from the misfortune of being situated downwind of the new 44- and 38-storey residential towers of Tide Construction’s development on the former site of Essex House on George Street.

The glazed canopy of East Croydon Station covers the eastbound tram platform and was always meant to flex in high winds as an inherent part of its design, being cantilevered out and supported from above on cable-tensioned brackets. Continue reading

Posted in Dan Maertens, East Croydon, Environment, Planning, TfL, Tramlink, Transport | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Binmageddon!: Council blunders again over garden waste

The borough’s garden waste collection service has been suspended because of covid-related staff sickness. Only the council failed to communicate that clearly to customers

The serial incompetence of the propaganda department at Labour-run Croydon Council has managed to hand another (albeit minor) political victory to the Tory opposition, this time over the suspension of the borough’s garden waste service.

As Inside Croydon was first to report earlier this week, residents who pay £65 a year for the additional service discovered an abrupt message stating that they wouldn’t be getting their expected fortnightly pick-up from the council’s rubbish contractors, Veolia. Continue reading

Posted in Business, Croydon Council, Refuse collection, Sean Fitzsimons, Steve Iles, Veolia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Confused councillor in roads row after he ‘likes’ vandalism

The council’s traffic management committee meeting tonight has provoked a row between Labour politicians, some of whom have been associating with questionable characters in their opposition to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.
PAUL LUSHION, our environment correspondent, reports

Labour councillor Pat Ryan: has given assurances to the anti-LTN group

The intervention of MPs and a current Labour councillor in concerted efforts to scupper Croydon’s Labour-run council’s efforts to reduce car use and implement Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in Upper Norwood and South Norwood has caused an internal party row.

The council’s Traffic Management Advisory Committee meets tonight to deliberate on proposals which include replacing planters with a system of CCTV cameras on some Crystal Palace streets, with one member of that committee having already given written assurances to opponents of the LTN. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Croydon Council, Croydon North, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Cycling, Muhammad Ali, Pat Ryan, South Norwood, Steve Reed MP, TfL, Transport | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TfL considered cancelling tram contract after 2016 crash

A rescue worker at the tram crash site at Sandilands in November 2016

Transport for London considered cancelling its operating contract with Tram Operations Limited to run the Croydon tram network in the aftermath of 2016’s fatal crash, City AM has reported.

City AM says it has obtained TfL documents showing that they received legal advice on whether it could cancel the 30-year deal while carrying out an audit of the network.

The derailment took place on the morning of November 9, 2016, on a curve in the track close to the Sandilands tram stop. Dane Chinnery, 19, Philip Logan, 52, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, Robert Huxley, 63, Mark Smith, 35, and Donald Collett, 62, were all killed in the crash. The crash left 61 people injured, after the worst tram disaster in Britain for a century. Continue reading

Posted in Sandilands derailment, TfL, Tramlink, Transport | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Binmageddon!: Veolia provides consistently rubbish service

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Purley resident PENNY SCOTT says that she has not had her household refuse collected on schedule since 2018

Purley resident Penny Scott’s recycling collections work fine. But her waste bin has never been emptied on schedule

We did receive the council’s leaflet detailing the changes to our household refuse collections over Christmas. But my general waste bin was not only not emptied on the right day over the Christmas period, it is never – and I mean never; I’m not exaggerating – emptied on the right day.

I am on what is laughingly referred to as an “assisted collection”, although how Veolia or Croydon Council imagine they’re assisting me in any way is hard to fathom. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Purley, Refuse collection, Veolia | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Covid-hit Royal Mail is struggling to deliver in Croydon

Residents across the borough are becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of a regular service from their local postie – as Croydon and South Norwood sorting offices and their delivery staff have been hard-hit by coronavirus.

Royal Mail has today admitted it is struggling to deliver post in the middle of the covid lockdown

There’s particular concern from some older residents that their delayed post deliveries might mean that they miss their appointment from the NHS for the covid-19 vaccine.

Some addresses in Croydon report that they had no postal deliveries at all from the week before Christmas until the middle of last week – in some cases meaning that cards or presents despatched via Royal Mail in good time for the big day never arrived until the New Year.

Postal staff contacted by Inside Croydon have confirmed that there has been a high number of colleagues off sick or self-isolating because of the virus in their sorting office. The Communication Workers Union is calling for its members to be added to the priority list of people receiving coronavirus vaccinations. Continue reading

Posted in Business | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

MP Reed tells ‘disingenuous’ council to remove LTN scheme

Steve Reed OBE, the Progress MP for Croydon North, has accused the Labour-run council of being “disingenuous” over its handling of the results of a public consultation for what he describes as the “controversial” Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme in Crystal Palace.

Critical of council: Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE

“I trust the council will follow the clearly expressed views of local people and remove the current scheme,” Reed wrote in a letter addressed to Councillor Muhammad Ali, who will tomorrow night chair a crucial meeting of the council’s Traffic Management Advisory Committee.

The LTNs – introduced to reduce use of motor vehicles and encourage more people to walk or cycle,  while ridding areas of “rat runs”  – have over the last six months seen the council threatened with a High Court Judicial Review and propelled into a border dispute with neighbours Bromley. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Croydon North, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Environment, Muhammad Ali, Steve Reed MP | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ali announces Labour U-turn over staging of mayor referendum

Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, on the latest potentially costly change in position performed by the cash-strapped council

The council’s Labour leadership today confirmed a massive U-turn on its previous opposition to having a referendum for a directly-elected mayor – in a move which could land the bankrupt council a bill for as much as £1million.

Inside Croydon reported last month that Labour’s 41 councillors had agreed to stage the referendum. And today, Hamida Ali, the old-new leader of the council, informed Labour Party members in Croydon that her administration will move to stage a referendum on the issue of a directly-elected mayor this autumn.

Given that the borough is supposed to be going to the polls in May for the London Assembly and Mayoral elections, that means the cash-strapped council will incur a second set of costs. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Paul Scott, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Council bins garden waste collections – but offers no refunds

Croydon Council has abruptly suspended all green garden waste collections, despite having received payment in advance of more than £1million for the service from thousands of residents.

Bin and gone: the council has provided little information about the suspended garden waste collections

Some householders, who have paid the £65 annual fee, have contacted Inside Croydon to say that they have had no direct notification about the service suspensions from the council or Veolia, Croydon’s rubbish contractors. Nor have they been informed of any refunds they might receive for the lack of service.

A notice has appeared on the council website since the New Year, saying that the service is suspended indefinitely. No reason is given for this halt in service beyond “to prioritise key services”. This could be because of coronavirus, or it may be because the council is broke. If it is the latter, the council will probably blame the former. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Fly tipping, Refuse collection, Veolia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Borough’s open spaces and parks are facing cruellest of cuts

TCV perform vital works around the borough’s green spaces, such as coppicing and clearing overgrown woodland, complementing the efforts of the council’s parks department

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The borough’s parks and open spaces have been a lifeline for many during lockdown, but they are now under a new threat as a result of council financial cuts, as ELLA HOPKINS reports

The Conservation Volunteers in Croydon, which has been running for more than 30 years, has seen record numbers of people flock to the borough’s parks, open spaces and woodlands during lockdown to help with projects since the start of the pandemic last year.

But Croydon’s bankrupt council’s funding freeze is making TCV’s vital work on biodiversity and public access tougher by the day. Even before spending cuts bite in the coming year, as a consequence of the £66million covid-shaped hole in the council’s current budget, TCV say that they never received 40 per cent of the funding they were supposed to get from Croydon Council in 2020. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Croydon Council, Croydon parks, Environment, Peter Underwood, The Conservation Volunteers | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Addiscombe Donation Centre, Canning Road, Weds & Sats

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Grand designs: Wake’s daughter and her Yorkshire pile

MARVELS OF THE MINSTER: The last resting place of six Archbishops, what used to be known as Croydon Parish Church was also the burial site of members of the church leaders’ families, as DAVID MORGAN’s latest research has discovered

Ormesby Hall, the former home of Dorothy Pennyman, is one of the jewels of the National Trust

For many families in the 18th century, marrying your daughter off to man with good prospects was very important.

One conversation between father and daughter in Croydon Palace in the early 1700s may have gone along the lines of:

“Dorothy, my dear, that rather pleasant and personable young man James who has dined with us on several occasions recently, came to call on me this afternoon.”
“Oh, papa, that was very kind of him.”
“He was the one, my dear, whose family have an extensive estate somewhere up north.”
“I remember him telling us all about it; how it has been in the family since the 1500s and how they…”
“Dorothy, I’ll come straight to the point. He has asked for your hand in marriage and I have given him, and you, of course, my blessing.”
“Oh papa, I am so happy, even if I do have to go and live near Middlesbrough.”

Continue reading

Posted in Church and religions, Croydon Minster, David Morgan, History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Upper Norwood’s street battle could be settled this week

After a rushed consultation, the council’s Traffic Management Advisory Committee meets next week to discuss two of the borough’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Our environment correspondent PAUL LUSHION reports on the gathering storm

Reducing traffic on the streets has stirred controversy for the past six months

When Councillor Muhammad Ali was promoted to the council cabinet in October, he inherited one of the most hotly contested policies introduced in Croydon.

On Tuesday, he will chair a virtual committee meeting which will determine the future of the borough’s controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes which in the last six months have seen the council threatened with a High Court Judicial Review and propelled into a border dispute with neighbours Bromley.

A handful of road closures were implemented in the Crystal Palace area and around South Norwood in the middle of last year, in part in response to the need for greater social distancing during the first coronavirus lockdown. The measures have been paid for from grant funding from the Conservative government, and have the enthusiastic support on the board of Transport for London from Andrew Gilligan, the transport adviser to Boris Johnson.

The road closures are a deliberate attempt to discourage the use of motor vehicles for shorter journeys, and therefore reduce air pollution. They also block off residential streets from the bane of many neighbourhoods, rat-runners.

But a small band of vocal protesters in Upper Norwood have objected long and hard. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Croydon Council, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Cycling, Environment, Muhammad Ali, Pat Ryan, South Norwood, TfL, Transport | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

East Croydon’s canopy repairs see tram services disrupted

The glass canopy at the front of East Croydon Station has shown itself to be fragile in high winds

Works are to be carried out by Network Rail at East Croydon Station overnight and through Sunday to repair and replace damaged parts of the glass canopy over the pedestrian area on George Street.

It is the second time in less than a year that the canopy has needed significant repair work, after storm-force winds last February broke the glass panels.

The repairs will see tram services disrupted from 8pm tonight until “start of traffic” on Monday, January 11. Continue reading

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Mayor declares covid emergency as 1-in-30 Londoners infected

5pm UPDATE: ELLA HOPKINS reports on the rapidly worsening situation around the capital’s hospitals, including Croydon, as the death toll rises to a record number

The number of hospital admissions due to covid-19 is overwhelming London’s hospitals

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has declared a major incident, as coronavirus cases continue to rise rapidly and the city’s hospitals become overwhelmed.

“The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control,” Mayor Khan said at lunchtime.

The Mayor was responding to the latest official estimates, which suggest that 1-in-30 Londoners have been infected with the virus.

In Croydon, according to the Office for National Statistics, the infection rate is higher still, at 1-in-20.

The Mayor’s emergency announcement comes after The Health Service Journal reported that the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill yesterday declared a critical care level alert of 4 – the highest possible. In Dartford, the Darrent Valley Hospital is at 173 per cent occupancy of its beds for critical care and may have to refuse or withdraw critical care to patients due to resource limitation.

Croydon has averaged more than 600 new covid cases every day this week, rising to 19,064 cases in total yesterday. There were 244 people receiving treatment for covid in Mayday Hospital on January 6, according to an email sent to councillors from Rachel Flowers, the council’s director of public health, who called the situation “extremely serious”.

Continue reading

Posted in Health, London-wide issues, Mayday Hospital, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jenrick issues ‘strongly-worded’ warning over property deals

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Government minister targets bankrupt borough when he tells LGA conference ‘Councils shouldn’t make investments for which they are not well-equipped’. By WALTER CRONXITE

It seems increasingly likely that Whitehall will insist on Croydon flogging off many of its commercial property assets and some Brick by Brick sites, following what has been described as a “strongly-worded” speech by government minister Robert Jenrick yesterday.

Tory minister Robert Jenrick: your council’s future is in his hands

In November, Croydon became only the second local authority in 20 years to issue a Section 114 notice – effectively declaring itself bankrupt, unable to deliver a balanced budget.

Last month, Croydon submitted a detailed proposal to Jenrick’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in a bid to secure finance to see the council through its £66million covid-shaped hole in its budget for 2020-2021.

But as more than half of the council’s financial shortfall this year is down to Brick by Brick’s failure to make loan repayments, interest payments or hand over any profits from its house-building projects, it seems unlikely that the government will be sympathetic to any deal unless Croydon makes its own contributions through flogging off some of its controversial commercial assets. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Business, Colonnades, Croydon Council, Croydon Park Hotel, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Council paid £1m compensation for unfinished Fairfield Halls

EXCLUSIVE: A year-long investigation has uncovered multi-million-pound payments by the council on its arts centre, largely because of the bungled refurbishment managed by Brick by Brick. And it is now suggested some payments may have been unlawful. By STEVEN DOWNES

After a three-year closure, the Fairfield Halls have remained mainly empty following the costly refurbishment

Between July 2019 and August 2020, Croydon Council spent an additional £3.5million on the Fairfield Halls – even though the borough’s flagship arts centre was closed for almost half of that time.

Those figures include nearly £1million paid as “liquidated damages” to operators BHLive – effectively an admission by the council that the refurbishment of the Halls, which took three years and cost £43million-plus, were handed over incomplete and unfinished.

These latest figures emerge as it is being suggested that some payments made during the council’s bungled refurbishment of the Halls may have been unlawful. Continue reading

Posted in Ashcroft Theatre, BH Live, Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, Hamida Ali, Oliver Lewis, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

#MakeSchoolsSafe: The NEU advert the Mail banned

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