‘Some things have really changed for the better at our council’

CROYDON COMMENTARY: It is important that our cash-strapped local authority does not make cuts for cuts’ sake, and avoids incurring unnecessary costs when there might be other ways to conduct its business.
By Councillor ANDREW PELLING

Something better change: protesters made their point on the steps of the Town Hall on Monday night

Some things have changed for the better at the council.

I know that Inside Croydon’s loyal reader will probably find that hard to believe.

But we now have what the general public might describe as a chief finance officer (the third in the space of the last 12 months). He’s new. He goes from one publicly accessible meeting to another to explain in great detail how he is seeking to repair and recover the council’s dire financial position. Such openness is important in delivering change.

Staff and councillors are given a sense of possession of some of the really dreadful cuts that are coming. Many of the cuts will hurt the most needy in our borough. But such engagement by a senior official is frankly a positive transformation to the way the council has been conducting its affairs. Continue reading

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Tories try to make crime pay by misleading over figures

Croydon’s Conservatives have shifted up a gear in their campaign efforts ahead of next May’s local elections, but WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, has been fact-checking their latest video nasty

On the beat: any complaints about cutting police numbers in Croydon lay with the Tories and Boris Johnson

Inside Croydon’s loyal reader has probably already twigged that there are elections on the way: the local Tories have started pumping out nicely polished social media items, intended to mislead and dissemble.

The latest came at the start of this week when Andy Stranack, the Conservative opposition on the council’s shadow cabinet member for “community safety and resilience”, attacked what he said was Croydon Labour’s failures to keep its residents safe.

Citing statistics carefully cherry-picked to show a decline from when their party lost control of the Town Hall in May 2014, Croydon Tories tweeted that sexual offences, what the Metropolitan Police quaintly refer to as “Violence Against The Person” and vehicle offences were all up, “and that’s despite having more Met Police officers!” Continue reading

Posted in 2022 council elections, 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Andrew Stranack, Boris Johnson, Chris Philp MP, Crime, Croydon 8/8, Croydon South, Knife crime, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Policing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The truth will out: ‘Lord’ Barwell turns on old mate Johnson

“Lord” Gavin Barwell, the sometime Tory MP for Croydon Central and former Downing Street Chief of Staff, has this morning turned on his old mucker, Blundering Boris Johnson, and called for “total honesty” from No10 over the mounting Christmas party scandal in the Conservative Party. Good luck with that, Gav.

‘Total honesty’: Gavin Barwell

The Prime Minister and other leading figures in the Tory government have bunkered down this morning, after a video taken 12 months ago was released by ITV News, showing senior aides laughing and joking over the holding of a “cheese and wine” Christmas party within the PM’s official London residence.

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Coulsdon gets cozy glow as Christmas lights are switched on

Lights fantastic: the Culsdon Christmas lights along Brighton Road have been switched on – despite the local Tory councillor

They said it couldn’t be done. Although, as “they” were Tory councillor Mario Creatura, aka the Coulsdon Grinch, nothing should be taken at face value.

But thanks to the generosity and ingenuity of a grouping of local businesses and residents’ associations, Coulsdon has its Christmas lights.

Paid for, installed and plugged in, the lights are now up to brighten up the Brighton Road through into the New Year. And, at the weekend, they even had their special Christmas Shopping evening, with many local firms coming together to offer special Shop Local offers, plus mulled wine, mince pies, and more.

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Posted in Business, Coulsdon, Coulsdon East, Coulsdon West, East Coulsdon Residents' Association, Mario Creatura | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘After so long away, this concert promises to be special’

Two of Croydon’s leading choirs are about to stage their first full public performances since the first covid lockdown began in March 2020.

In good voice: the Croydon Philharmonic Choir will be back on stage at the Fairfield Halls next week

The Croydon Philharmonic Choir is to sing in a Christmas concert at Fairfield Halls on Saturday December 18. The choir is part of an exciting line-up that also includes the world-renowned Trinity Boys Choir and the Croydon Citadel Band.

The “musical extravaganza” is led by the London Mozart Players. It brings a reunion between the LMP and the Croydon Phil, following their acclaimed performance of Verdi’s Requiem at the Fairfield Halls in October 2019. Continue reading

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Spencer saga starts a right royal month at David Lean Cinema

As the soap opera that is the House of Windsor heads into its latest – last? – chapters, with constant and unresolved controversies over Meghan Markle and Prince Andrew, so along comes the latest movie that seeks to feed the national, and American, obsessions with the royal family.

And in so many ways, the tragedy in public gaze that was Diana Spencer represents the fairy story that laid the groundwork for everything that has followed over the course of the last half-century, with Kristen Stewart in the title role in Spencer giving anything yet seen in Netflix’s The Crown a run for its money. Continue reading

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Permission given to convert listed Battle of Britain base to flats

Decay and destruction: the Grade II-listed Officers’Mess at Kenley has seen better, prouder days

A near 20-year saga of neglect and decay to the Grade II-listed Officers’ Mess at the former RAF Kenley could be close to a conclusion after Tandridge Council last week granted planning permission for the buildings to be restored and converted to provide 32 flats.

Eighty years ago, RAF Kenley was on the front line in the Battle of Britain, its Spitfires and Hurricanes providing fighter cover for London, alongside RAF Croydon and Biggin Hill. Continue reading

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150 more councils close to financial brink, government admits

Other local authorities, including Tory-run councils, are also finding themselves  in a slough of despond

Croydon is just one of 150 local authorities that have been in urgent talks with Whitehall over their precarious financial situation following 18 months of covid lockdowns on top of a decade of Tory austerity.

Widespread problems: a parliamentary committee heard last week of the struggles of local government

That’s according to testimony to a committee of MPs at Westminster last week.

Croydon is one of 10 councils that have received bail-outs from the government in the past year.  These also include Nottingham, Tory-run south London neighbours Bexley, Conservative-controlled Peterborough City Council and airport-owning Luton.

Slough, which in July this year issued a Section 114 notice, admitting it had run out of money, last week had its council functions handed over to a pair of government-appointed inspectors, so bad had its financial and governance position become.

Slough has amassed debts of £750million, but with an annual budget of £134million the council found itself short by £111million. Slough is seeking an emergency bail-out of £200million – nearly double the record bail-out negotiated for Croydon earlier this year.

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Croydon Male Voice Choir Christmas Concert, Shirley, Dec 11

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Christmas Carols on the Green, Croydon Minster, Dec 19

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Met Police’s Town Centre Team has started its new beat

Visible presence: the new officers for Croydon’s Town Centre Team started work today

Extra police officers were out on the streets of central Croydon today, as the Metropolitan Police launched the first set of “Town Centre Teams” to try to reduce levels of crime.

The Croydon team comprises of one inspector, two sergeants and 21 constables, part of a  total of an additional 650 police officers who, the Met has said, “will work solely in busy public places and other areas, including those where women and girls often feel unsafe”.

Croydon is one of the first areas of London to receive its dedicated Town Centre Team, which are being placed in areas considered by the public to need a greater, more visible police presence. The Met themselves have referred to “Beat Bobbies”, referencing the more visible style of community policing that was familiar last century.

The additional officers will patrol busy places at times when they will have the greatest impact on crime and public safety. Continue reading

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Woman who conned her way into NHS job jailed for 12 months

A woman who lied and cheated her way to a top public service job in Croydon has been jailed for 12 months and has agreed to pay back the money she was paid.

Please don’t get too excited – this isn’t a case involving Jo Negrini, the self-proclaimed “regeneration practitioner” who somehow was allowed to work as council CEO for four years.

Nor does it involve Heather Cheesbrough, who remains as the council’s planning director despite publishing false qualifications on her digital CV.

For this is the case of Chanelle Poku, who pretended she had a Master’s degree in molecular biology and experience leading a charity in order to land a senior job with NHS Croydon’s Clinical Commissioning Group, and has been found guilty by a jury of fraud by false representation. Continue reading

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Labour councillor’s 20-point plan to reduce service cuts

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Unions are tonight staging a protest outside the Town Hall against the council’s plan for another £38million-worth of cuts.
Here, Labour councillor ANDREW PELLING, pictured left, outlines the ways he believes that the council can avoid causing harm to the most vulnerable in the borough

In these days of strained circumstances at the council, I’ve been hearing a phrase that I have not heard since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister: “There is no alternative”.

Under pressure: council officials have told councillors that cuts are the only way

It was a favourite of the Conservative Prime Minister that was jokingly abbreviated to “TINA”. TINA is today stalking the covid-emptied corridors and Members’ Room of Croydon Town Hall.

You can’t put to one side the proposed cuts, we are told, because there is no alternative.

But actually, there is. Continue reading

Posted in Andrew Pelling, Council Tax, Croydon Council, Katherine Kerswell, Planning, Refuse collection, RIPI II: Fairfield Halls, Section 114 notice, Veolia, Waddon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Mind the gap: finance director warns of £13m cuts shortfall

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Tonight’s council cabinet meeting is to be told that officials are struggling to meet their £38m budget cuts target. And the council’s future is now in the hands of Michael Gove.
By STEVEN DOWNES

Worried look: Richard Ennis has been expressing his concerns in Zoom meetings with councillors

There are growing concerns among senior officials at Fisher’s Folly that they will be unable to achieve all of the £38million cost-cutting required in order to satisfy the bean counters in Whitehall and opportunistic Tory politicians, and therefore lose out on a £25million government loan essential to being able to save the cash-strapped council.

The council cabinet meets tonight for its latest session of sackcloth and ashes, poring over the budget proposals for next year.

Richard Ennis, the council’s director of finance, spent more than six hours in a turgid meeting of the council’s pensions committee on Friday, just to make sure that the councillors and pensioners’ representatives would duly vote through a reduction in the authority’s contributions to the fund worth more than £6million over the next two financial years (2022-2023 and 2023-2024). Every penny, it is clear, counts.

The report placed before cabinet tonight suggests that even with the unexpected help from the pensions fund, the council could miss its cuts target by at least £13million.

Ennis had told an earlier meeting of councillors, “There’s a gap between savings identified and the savings that are needed.” Continue reading

Posted in Adult Social Care, Croydon Council, Croydon NHS Trust, Health, Katherine Kerswell, Landlord licensing, Richard Ennis, Section 114 notice, Steve Iles | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Council’s latest lame excuse: our phones don’t work properly

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Britain’s rottenest borough is now blaming faulty phone lines for needlessly prosecuting residents over Council Tax, when the householders can’t get through to Fisher’s Folly to make their payments.
By STEVEN DOWNES

‘All falling apart’: How Private Eye sees Croydon Council

Last month, on the first anniversary of Croydon issuing a Section 114 notice to admit that they had run out of money, Inside Croydon reported a range of troubling signals that the cash-strapped council was in a state of collapse, after cut after cut after cut had left it unable to perform even the most routine, statutory functions.

Now the council’s excuse for its poor service is that its phones don’t work.

The latest issue of Private Eye magazine picked up on our reporting, and quoted a Croydon councillor as saying, “There comes a point when the council is not fit for purpose. Continue reading

Posted in Council Tax, Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Nathan Elvery, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Monster of a show helps to bring local AmDram back to life

These are troubling times for many, with some of the small, community organisations which form the fabric of local society struggling after going two years without being able to function ‘as normal’. DAVID MORGAN donned his mask (anti-covid, rather than his superhero one) and sampled what a local AmDram group had put together after a long hiatus

“We must return it to life,” Victor Frankenstein said, somewhat appropriately, in the production of Frankenstein 1930 by the Worcester Park Dramatic Society last week.

Getting into character: Jake Figgins (left), Andrew Parsons-Deering as the Creature, and Victor Frankenstein, played by James Canvin

It was the first time since 2019 that WPDS had taken to the boards for a public performance. Amateur dramatic societies the length and breadth of the country will be echoing Frankenstein’s words, but it won’t be easy, especially under new, stricter covid precautions and with Omicron lurking in the background.

The challenge for all local amateur societies moving forward will be to create not only the spark within its own ranks, but create the warmth, comfort and familiarity for the community to come and enjoy them again. The WPDS made some giant steps towards achieving this with a crafted and pleasing production.

The Worcester Park Dramatic Society, as the name implies, is based in Sutton, they performed this play in Epsom and Ewell, and have members based in Merton, Kingston, and Croydon, too. Continue reading

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WI provide festive winter warmers for Old Coulsdon postbox

Christmas cheer: the local WI have done Old Coulsdon proud with this postbox adornment

The usually less-than-festive political editor, Walter Cronxite – catchphrase, “Bah! Humbug!”, even in July – raised a smile when he saw this on a stroll around Old Coulsdon yesterday.

Woollen willy warmers for postboxes seem to have become a “thing” lately, as the country’s knitters have taken on all kinds of adornments to brighten up their neighbourhood.

This particular example is the artistic work of the Old Coulsdon Cupcakes Women’s Institute (nice cupcakes nomenclature… how did that come about?).

Bright. Witty (love the fairy lights round the bottom, by the way). And even got old Walter whistling Silent Night on his way to the next Town Hall meeting.

So, this is where Inside Croydon’s loyal readers come in… Continue reading

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‘The Fold’: former council-owned site takes a gamble with name

Our housing correspondent, BARRATT HOLMES, on the latest laugh-out-loud move by developers working in the centre of Croydon

Blocking off: Bloom House is one of four blocks on the Taberner House site that is finally nearing completion

While this website might be loathe to echo one of the catchphrases of one of the more notorious tabloid columnists, you really couldn’t make this up.

The developers working on the flats on what used to be the council’s Taberner House office site have put in a formal planning application which reveals that they want to call one of the blocks… drum roll please…

“The Fold”.

The four-letter word beginning with F has several benign meanings, including an association with somewhere that a shepherd might keep their flock.

But the chosen name has prompted some to wonder whether it is a sidelong reference to a high-stakes game of poker, and the act of someone forced to quit a hand, or “fold”, after losing their gamble – a bit like Croydon Council’s having bet the house on Brick by Brick and lost hundreds of millions of pounds.

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Posted in Alison Butler, Brick by Brick, Business, Croydon Council, Planning, Property, Taberner House, Tony Newman, URV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

£110,000 director job advertised to flog off Brick by Brick

CROYDON IN CRISIS: While the council CEO lays off dozens more frontline workers just in time for Christmas, she’s still recruiting for six-figure salaried commercial director. By STEVEN DOWNES

Commercial centre: the council is recruiting for a director of disinvestment

Undaunted by the realisation that dabbling in the casino economics of commercial investment played a large part in getting Croydon’s cash-strapped council into the mess it finds itself in, Katherine Kerswell, the chief executive, is still trying to recruit a new “director of commercial investment” on a juicy £110,000 per year.

And this at a time when Kerswell has just written to the authority’s hard-pressed staff to advise them that another 58 front-line workers are about to lose their jobs… just in time for Christmas.

The commercial investment director role appears to be a new one, and was among the tranche of eight top-level vacancies first advertised about a month ago. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Colm Lacey, Croydon Council, Katherine Kerswell | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Southgate and Hodgson honoured at British Sports Awards

Former Palace manager’s career recognised with prestigious award – ‘He made football better’

Gareth Southgate and Roy Hodgson, two Crystal Palace all-time greats, were among the award winners at the 2021 British Sports Awards on Thursday.

Honoured: Former Palace manager Roy Hodgson receiving his trophy at the awards ceremony

England manager Southgate was presented with the inaugural Sky/Kick It Out award,  praised for using his voice and position to promote equality and inclusion in football and in wider society.

Hodgson, one of Southgate’s predecessors as England boss who retired as Palace manager at the end of last season, was honoured with the SJA President’s Award recognise his career in football.

The presentations were part of the 2021 Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards, sponsored by the National Lottery. Continue reading

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Dick and Dom do the Fairfield panto: which one’s the Beast?

Rehearsals are well underway for this year’s Croydon pantomime at the Fairfield Halls, with the curtain going up next Friday at the Ashcroft Theatre on Imagine Theatre’s glittering production of Beauty and The Beast, starring Dick and Dom… though no one’s said which one’s playing Beauty and which one’s The Beast.

TV slebs Dick and Dom – Richard McCourt and Dominic Wood- say they “can’t wait to bring their madcap comedy to this year’s show”.

Starring alongside them at the Ashcroft will be veteran television presenter, actor and “pantomime legend”, Derek Griffiths. Continue reading

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£13m special school in New Addington has now opened

Addington Valley “Academy” (it’s really what used to be called a school) in Fieldway has celebrated its launch, the £13million building being officially opened 16 months after the school held its first lessons in temporary accommodation.

Term time: Addington Valley will provide lessons for 150 SEND pupils

Operated in partnership between Orchard Hill College and Academy Trust and Croydon Council, the special school will provide 150 places for pupils with autism and severe learning difficulties, at ages from two years to 19.

The council says that the school will provide “a learning environment which has been designed to meet [the pupils’] specific needs”.

The council said, “The team of highly-skilled staff at Addington Valley Academy work closely with families and take a therapeutic approach to supporting student’s [sic, in a press release about education], communication, independence and well-being, so they learn, achieve and reach their full potential.” Continue reading

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St Andrew’s Food Bank, Southbridge Road, Weds 10am-noon

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Jason and the Argonauts, Coulsdon, Dec 11 to 19

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‘Managed democracy’ stifles members’ interest in the Mayor

In his latest column, ANDREW FISHER (left) zooms in on the inward-looking and slow process for Labour to choose the party’s candidate to stand for election as the borough’s first executive Mayor

Having stifled members’ options, the selection panel in charge of Croydon Labour’s mayoral candidate race has now stifled debate, too.

The two shortlisted candidates, former Croydon council leader and former London deputy mayor Val Shawcross and current councillor Callton Young, have now taken part in three hustings. The last, held earlier this week, drew fewer than 40 party member participants. Continue reading

Posted in 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Andrew Fisher, Callton Young, Croydon Council, Croydon North, Jamie Audsley, Ken Livingstone, Sadiq Khan, Steve Reed MP, Val Shawcross | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments