Council got £70m Fairfield Halls refurb wrong from the start

CROYDON IN CRISIS: It was ‘insane’ to grant a licence to Brick by Brick for the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls, and that led to the £70m ‘shitshow’. Mayoral candidate VAL SHAWCROSS responds to the auditors’ Report In The Public Interest 

Pricy paint job: There was a lack of project controls and checks on the Fairfield Halls refurbishment

In my years of involvement in the public sector, I’ve come to the conclusion that if a project is to go badly awry – it starts to do so in the first five minutes.

It’s those big early decisions that are taken that lay the groundwork for eventual hard-won success or massive and spectacular failure.

The Fairfield Halls were refurbished, not as well as they could have been, but it was delayed and overspent by £37million. The current council asked for a Value for Money study to be carried out by their auditors. But what has come back in the Report In The Public Interest is a description of a dramatically shoddy process and its complete lack of any competent supervision, management or control by the council.

In this report, it is the abject failure by key senior council officers and an absence of essential and basic internal council systems that shouts most loudly!

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Posted in 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, RIPI II: Fairfield Halls, Val Shawcross | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Commuters start legal case to re-nationalise Southern Rail

Campaign group Bring Back British Rail has today begun a crowdfunded legal action to challenge the Tory government and take the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern rail franchise back into public ownership.

A day in court: Bring Back British Rail is crowdfunding their legal challenge over Govia

Southern has acquired a richly deserved reputation as one of the worst railway services in the country. Recent service cuts, using covid staff absences as an excuse, have seen Southern operate 200 fewer trains this month than they were providing even as recently as December 2021 – yet passengers still get clobbered with high fares and season ticket-holders are expected to foot the bill of an annual increase.

Govia has also recently been subject of a £73million compensation claim for incorrectly charged boundary fares.

Yet the Conservative government plans to award a new six-year contract to Govia Thameslink Railway at the end of March.

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Mayday doctors give backing to porters in covid pay dispute

Doctors at Croydon’s Mayday Hospital have pledged their support to porters’ and cleaners’ fight for covid sick pay.

Industrial action: doctors have added their support to the porters’ and cleaners campaign

The doctors – who represent the British Medical Association on the local negotiating committee – are backing a GMB protest to be staged outside the hospital on Monday.

The workers are in dispute with their employers, outsourcing giant G4S, because they are not receiving sick pay if off work due to covid, or when needing to self-isolate because of the virus. It means some, among the worst paid workers in the NHS, feel compelled to attend work and potentially put patients’ health at increased risk. Continue reading

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Negrini and execs ‘failed to ensure council was acting lawfully’

£70m fiasco: works on the Fairfield Halls remain incomplete and unfinished, despite the £40m over-budget spend by developers Brick by Brick

CROYDON IN CRISIS: An auditors’ report into the ‘shoddy’ deal that handed the Fairfield Halls refurbishment to loss-making builders Brick by Brick hints at potential fraud and accuses senior officials of large-scale negligence.
EXCLUSIVE by WALTER CRONXITE, Political Editor

Some of Croydon Council’s most senior former employees, including Jo Negrini, the one-time £220,000 per year CEO, were responsible for potentially unlawful conduct in the Town Hall’s arrangements with Brick by Brick over the £70million Fairfield Halls fiasco.

That’s according to a Report In The Public Interest, released this afternoon by the council. In their report, the external auditors, Grant Thornton, hint at a potential large-scale fraud over a licensing arrangement under which the refurb project on the arts complex was coupled to a land and development deal on the adjoining College Green for Brick by Brick.

In typical accountancy speak, the report says, “In our view, it is likely that the licence did not reflect the underlying reality of the arrangements.” Continue reading

Posted in Alison Butler, Brick by Brick, College Green, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, Hamida Ali, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Paul Scott, Planning, Report in the Public Interest, Richard Simpson, RIPI II: Fairfield Halls, Shifa Mustafa, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Local Labour party withholds campaign funds in Pelling dispute

CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: There are just 99 days to go until the local elections, but after a members’ meeting last night the party in power at the Town Hall will be forced to campaign with much less cash than they expected. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Rescinded: Andrew Pelling has been a Labour councillor for eight years

It’s been two months since Labour members in Waddon chose their three candidates to stand in the local elections in May, but there’s been precious little campaign activity since, after local party officials decided to get one of the trio – sitting councillor Andrew Pelling – to be “re-panelled”. Effectively, an attempt by Labour officials to de-select him.

And now there’s likely to be even less Labour campaign activity in the only ward that the party holds in the Croydon South constituency area, after a meeting of the CLP – constituency Labour Party – last night voted to withhold their £5,000 contribution to campaign funds in protest at the way Pelling has been treated. Continue reading

Posted in 2022 council elections, 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Andrew Pelling, Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South, Joy Prince, Report in the Public Interest, Robert Canning, Section 114 notice, Steve Reed MP, Tony Newman, Val Shawcross, Waddon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hospital porters and cleaners say G4S is ‘lying’ over covid pay

The GMB trades union is warning private contractor G4S that denying full sick pay to cleaners, porters at Croydon’s Mayday Hospital may result in strike action.

Up in arms: the GMB protest takes place on Monday

The union has also accused G4S of lying over the simmering dispute over terms and conditions of work of some of the lowest-paid workers at Croydon’s largest hospital.

Outsourcing giant G4S – which holds the cleaning and portering contract with Croydon University Hospital NHS Trust – has stopped paying covid sick pay to employees, leaving workers reliant on statutory sick pay.

G4S has issued public denials,  claiming that they are giving sick pay, but porters and cleaners who catch the virus or are forced to self-isolate, say the evidence is in their wage packets. Or rather, that the sick pay is not in their wages.

The GMB is staging a protest on London Road, outside Mayday, next Monday, January 31, from noon. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon NHS Trust, Health, Mayday Hospital | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Brick by Brick calls in ex-Royal Navy officer to sort out the flak

Brick by Brick has announced the appointment of two directors to manage the wind-down of the loss-making council-owned house-builders.

With the publication expected tomorrow of the long-anticipated Report In The Public Interest into the multi-million-pound disaster that was Brick by Brick’s refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls, Andrew Percival and Griff Marshalsay will doubtless also be pressed into service to handle some of the flak arising from the external auditors’ report. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Business, Colm Lacey, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, RIPI II: Fairfield Halls, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

When You’re Young: film makers get the bands back together

RICHARD PACITTI got a phone call recently that struck a chord…

Star nights: Richard Pacitti (right) on stage with The Fanatics in 1979

“Are you free to meet up with a bunch of old punks?”

It was an old pal on the phone.

“I have been talking with someone called Griff who is involved in making a film about the punk/new wave/indie bands from Croydon in the late 1970s early 80s,” he said. “It would be good if you could go along to the meeting to represent The Fanatics.”

In this case, The Fanatics doesn’t refer to diehard Palace fans, but the new wave-Mod band who were part of the Croydon music scene 40 years ago, and “Griff” is Griff Griffiths, who used to be in the Bad Actors.

With nothing else in my diary for that particular afternoon in October, intrigued, I made my way to the Dog and Bull in Surrey Street where all, as they say, would be revealed. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Cinema, Music, Pubs | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Little Women help CODA make covid comeback at the Cryer

CODA comeback: the cast of the production of Little Women, being staged in Carshalton next month

CODA, the Croydon Operatic and Dramatic Association, is back after the pandemic with a run of performances of Little Women at the Cryer Arts Centre in Carshalton next month.

The production had been due to be staged last November, but was postponed due to a positive covid case within the production.

Louisa May Alcott’s moving family story follows four sisters in 19th Century New England, as they slowly leave childhood behind them and start to blossom into adulthood.

When they find their family separated by war, their small gestures of kindness to others can leave them stricken with sickness and self-doubt. As the sisters grow into young members of society, they show glimpses of what their futures may hold… Continue reading

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Fathers’ Forum: Paul Canoville, No Strings Attached, Jan 27

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Boxpark’s £3m+ in council loans and grants under Newman

Multi-million-pound subsidy: Boozepark’s success has been heftily underwritten by Council Tax-payers

CROYDON IN CRISIS: While benefits to the borough’s most vulnerable are being cut, pools are being shut down and public services axed, the council has continued to hand out a juicy annual grant to a multi-million-pound business. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Croydon has provided private business Boxpark with a public subsidy of as much as nearly £1million since the food and booze venue opened in 2016, according to documents being put before the council’s cabinet meeting tonight.

Hamida Ali, the council leader, and her closest colleagues in the Labour-run council will spend the evening rubber-stamping their decision to close Purley Pool and they will agree to remove Council Tax Support from 20,000 households around the borough, on top of dozens of other cost-cutting measures being imposed on Croydon residents as a result of the financial collapse of the local authority in 2020. Continue reading

Posted in Boxpark, Business, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Jo Negrini, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Council wants to turn Battle of Britain Memorial into lorry park

Sutton Council wants to turn part of the Purley Way into a lorry park for at least two years.

Lorry park: Sutton’s logistics plan will see HGVs parked alongside the Battle of Britain Memorial for the next two years

The council’s construction logistics plan for a special school on Sheen Way Playing Fields will see dozens of HGVs parking up on the A23 alongside the RAF Croydon’s Battle of Britain Memorial, before they get called on to the building site.

They will then drive through narrow roads along a route which even the Sutton Council chief executive has previously deemed to be “a danger”.

Apparently, Croydon Council’s highways department has no problem with Sutton’s proposals.

Jillian Green, one of the independent councillors for Sutton’s Beddington North ward, has written to her counterparts in Waddon seeking their help.

Sutton’s construction traffic plan will see HGVs approach along the Purley Way red route from the south, then parking in the lay-by beside the war memorial until the site manager is ready for them. Once the truck drivers get a call they will access Stafford Road via roadss on an industrial estate, Queensway and Kingsway. Continue reading

Posted in Andrew Pelling, Elliot Colburn, Helen Bailey, Joy Prince, Parking, Paul Scott, Purley Way, Robert Canning, Sutton Council, TfL, Transport, Waddon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Party chaos as candidate starts Mayor run as independent

Croydon Conservatives’ campaign plans have been thrown into some minor disarray, after one of their candidates selected to stand in May’s Town Hall elections as a potential ward councillor has now announced himself as an independent candidate for Croydon Mayor.

Croydon Tories announced their 70 councillor candidates for the May 2022 local elections nice and promptly back in September, before the borough-wide referendum that voted overwhelmingly in favour of having a directly-elected Mayor.

Gavin FL Palmer (the FL stands for Francis and Luffa) had been named as one of the Tories’ three hopefuls in Woodside, a Labour stronghold ward which was previously represented by the discredited former council leader Tony Newman, and where his successor, Hamida Ali, is standing for re-election in 101 days’ time. Continue reading

Posted in 2022 council elections, 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Woodside | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Businesses encouraged to pitch for part of £2m Omicron fund

The council is distributing more than £2million in government grants as financial support to local businesses which face uncertainty due to covid-19.

Running on empty: Croydon’s town centre was in poor shape even before covid came along

Unlike the borough’s hard-pressed food banks and voluntary groups, the council is at least giving owners of hospitality and leisure businesses more than a month to submit their bids for these grants.

Omicron grants of up to £6,000 are available for eligible businesses with the amount determined by the business property’s rateable value.

To apply, businesses must complete the online application form before February 28. Continue reading

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The strange case of the church organist and his ‘ferocious’ dog

SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: Controversy surrounded Croydon Parish Church’s professional musician 160 years ago when he got the wrong side of the law, writes DAVID MORGAN

Usually, the organists of the Croydon Parish Church appeared in the local press in regard to the music they created in church or at a concert. Often, they would take out advertisements for teaching music, singing or for playing the pianoforte.

John Rhodes, Croydon Parish Church’s organist from 1857 to 1868, was often in the local paper advertising that he was available on Saturdays for piano lessons as well as for singing and harmony sessions.

However, this tale begins with a piece in the paper that was for an entirely different matter. It was because of his dog.

On March 9,  1861, Rhodes had to answer a summons that he allowed a ferocious dog to roam unmuzzled. Described in the court documents as “organist of Croydon Parish Church and professor of music”, Rhodes pleaded not guilty to the charge. Continue reading

Posted in Church and religions, Croydon Minster, David Morgan, History | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Kerswell gets her fourth council finance chief in 12 months

Council correspondent KEN LEE reports on the latest bit of empire-building going on at Fisher’s Folly

Social worker: Annette McPartland has worked at the council for 27 years

Croydon’s cash-strapped council, which over the past 18 months has been handing out P45s willy-nilly to hundreds of the low-paid front-line workers who grafted through the toughest times in the pandemic, has this week announced the appointments of two “corporate directors” who will both be paid salaries of around £150,000 per year.

And just to make sure no one rocks the boat over either appointment while she builds her little empire in Fisher’s Folly, chief exec Katherine Kerswell has made sure that she’s got the Town Hall’s Conservative opposition to endorse her choices. There are elections coming up in three months’ time… Continue reading

Posted in Annette McPartland, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Jane West, Katherine Kerswell, Richard Ennis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Food banks given just six days to apply for £5,000 grants

Voluntary groups and non-profit organisations, including food banks, face a race against time to apply to the council for grants of up to £5,000.

Food banks: Croydon Council is trying to help voluntary groups, just not trying very hard

The human dynamos in the propaganda bunker at Croydon Council got round to releasing the details of its funding scheme last night, including a note that the deadline for applications is January 31.

That gives the already hard-working volunteers and charity organisers just six working days to get their paperwork and application sorted.

The council has a bit of a reputation for being reluctant to distribute “free money” when it is given grants for local causes and businesses, as it showed during the first covid lockdown in early 2020.

But the low-key manner in which this particular giveaway was announced – in a press release emailed after 5pm on a Friday evening, and therefore unlikely to get much pick-up and missing the dead-tree local papers’ deadlines for next week – seems particularly cheap and petty, even by Croydon Council standards.

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Posted in Charity, Community associations, Croydon Council, Croydon Nightwatch, Manju Shahul Hameed, Purley Food Hub, South Norwood Community Kitchen | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

City Hall and Croydon Town Hall remember the Holocaust

Next Thursday, January 27, is Holocaust Memorial Day, when the world commemorates the lives of those killed in the Holocaust and in other genocides throughout the world.

On Monday, January 24 from 11am to noon, the Mayor of London and London Assembly will be holding a memorial service which can be followed online here.

City Hall is working closely with the Holocaust Educational Trust and The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to create a ceremony that will commemorate victims of the Holocaust and provide time for reflection for those affected by more recent genocides.

On Thursday, the Mayor of Croydon will be hosting an online event, which will be available to watch on the council’s YouTube channel from noon. Continue reading

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The Pirates of Penzance, St Matthew’s Church, Mar 5

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#Macarnage: Planner Slominski returns with a promotion

EXCLUSIVE: Distrust of the council’s planning department, and director Heather Cheesbrough, has reached new highs after it was discovered that they have re-employed a developer-friendly official with blatant conflicts of interest. By STEVEN DOWNES

Patronising: council director Heather Cheesbrough

Representatives of residents’ associations at a meeting this week expressed outrage and disgust with the council’s head of planning over her decision to re-employ an official who has been responsible for recommending approval for some of the most egregious examples of over-development seen in the borough.

The RAs told Heather Cheesbrough that they had serious concerns about clear conflicts of interest that they perceive planner Jan Slominski to have, following his return to a council job after 18 months working for a flashy firm of architects who are behind the designs for some massive, and money-spinning, blocks of flats in the borough. Continue reading

Posted in Business, Chris Philp MP, Community associations, Coulsdon, Coulsdon East, Croydon Council, East Coulsdon Residents' Association, Heather Cheesbrough, Kenley, Old Coulsdon, Planning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mayor Khan settles in for the long-haul and a third term

Campaign trail: Sadiq Khan says he wants to go through it all once again in 2024

Sadiq Khan wants to be London’s first three-term Mayor.

Khan was first elected as London’s Mayor in 2016,  succeeding Boris Johnson. Johnson, like Ken Livingstone before him, the capital’s first Mayor, had served two four-year terms.

Now Khan, who was re-elected to the office in May last year after a 12-month delay in the elections caused by the covid pandemic, has admitted that he wants to stand again in 2024. Continue reading

Posted in 2024 London elections, Boris Johnson, Ken Livingstone, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Neil Garratt, Sadiq Khan, Zac Goldsmith MP | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sutton ‘steamy’ councillor wakes up to borough’s burning issue

Try not to choke as you gasp for air, but as PAUL LUSHION, our environment correspondent reports, big business is about to make even more millions at the expense of your health thanks to weak regulators and craven councils

Going for the burn: Viridor plan to make millions from burning waste from across south-east England

Having created an insatiable, fire-breathing monster, incinerator apologists in four south London boroughs – including Croydon – are now horrified to discover that they cannot rein it back.

Incinerator operators Viridor have submitted an application to increase the amount of rubbish they are allowed to burn at their plant on Beddington Lane, close to the Sutton-Croydon borough boundary.

This 10per cent increase is on top of the 15per cent increase they were allowed in 2021, and will see them burning 385,000 tonnes of waste every year, with all the toxic pollution that goes with it.

Such an increase could see more than 50 additional dust carts visiting the incinerator every day of the year, many of which will drive along the Purley Way and adjoining roads through Croydon, as Viridor offers its lucrative incineration services to local authorities across London and south-east England. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Croydon Greens, Environment, Refuse collection, Shasha Khan, Waste incinerator | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Labour’s disciplinary procedures are all about factionalism

ANDREW FISHER (pictured right), Director of Policy at the Labour Party when Jeremy Corbyn was leader, questions the dubious procedures, the lack of due process and even bullying in the treatment of some Croydon colleagues

As reported by Inside Croydon yesterday, David White, a popular stalwart of Croydon Labour, has been expelled from the party. The process used would slander the term kangaroo court.

Denied a hearing: David White

David has been a Labour member for 51 years, twice as long as I have. He’s been an elected Labour member of the Greater London Council (abolished by Thatcher in 1986), stood as a parliamentary candidate, and for many years was the secretary of Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party.

Last year, he was selected by local members as one of Croydon Central’s delegates to represent the local party at the Labour Party’s annual conference. David topped the poll. The day before conference, he was sent a letter suspending his membership because of some tweets that were apparently so offensive that no one had raised them as an issue in more than seven years.

Despite this, he has been expelled without a hearing, and it’s not clear if he can appeal in person against the decision. Continue reading

Posted in Andrew Fisher, Andrew Pelling, Croydon Central, David White, Jamie Audsley, Robert Canning, Sarah Jones MP | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Poll misery for Perry as #Partygate could cost him council seat

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The latest opinion polls suggest that despite bankrupting the borough, Labour could increase its number of councillors in May’s Town Hall elections. STEVEN DOWNES reports

‘Churchillian’: how the Mirror front page looked this morning

Inside Croydon’s mole in the lawns of Croydon Tories’ suburban Purley headquarters reports complete despair among Jason Perry’s crack campaign team last night, after absorbing the full implications of YouGov’s latest and astonishing opinion poll results.

In the middle of the Partygate implosion of lying Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, with MPs defecting and Brexiteer backbenchers invoking evocative phrases from the darkest days of the Second World War, YouGov’s latest figures give Labour an extraordinary 32 per cent lead in their latest poll.

That kind of voting, if carried through to polling day in the Town Hall elections on May 5, would see Val Shawcross elected as the borough’s first executive Mayor by a 3-to-1 majority which would see her powering to victory without needing second-preference votes.

And that kind of voting would see Jason Perry, the Conservatives’ deeply dull candidate for Croydon Mayor, also lose his councillor seat in true-blue South Croydon ward, while 10 other Tory-held council seats would be lost in potentially the biggest Labour landslide ever seen at Croydon Town Hall. It would be as if Tony Newman, Jo Negreedy and 2020 had never happened. Continue reading

Posted in 2022 council elections, 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Chris Philp MP, Croydon Council, Croydon South, Jason Perry, Maria Gatland, Michael Neal, Robert Ward, Selsdon and Addington Village, South Croydon, Val Shawcross | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Do the right thing’ as Mayor asks Londoners to keep masked

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has set himself on a collision course with anti-vaxxers and right-wing self-proclaimed “libertarians” by insisting that bus, Tube and tram passengers will still be expected to wear masks, even after the government relaxes its so-called “Plan B” precautions against covid-19 next week.

Hold tight: Mayor Sadiq Khan could face a backlash over his insistence on mask-wearing on public transport

Prime Minister (for now) Boris Johnson made the announcement of the easing of the protection measures, which included a legal requirement for mask-wearing on public transport, in shops and schools.

Johnson told the Commons yesterday that the restrictions introduced in December – which included encouraging working from home and “vaccination passports” for some events – would end on January 26. Continue reading

Posted in London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, TfL, Tramlink, Transport | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment