Fairfield: £300k council fraud investigation and still no answers

Arts centre of attention: the Fairfield Halls refurbishment project cost at least £67m, but no one, not even special investigators, seems to know how all the money was used

EXCLUSIVE: Council says its specialist investigators have yet to find anything around the £67m botched refurbishment of the arts centre which needs to be reported to the police. By STEVEN DOWNES

An investigation to discover if there was any fraud committed when the £30million project to refurbish the Fairfield Halls ended up costing £67million will not be completed until October, at the earliest, and will cost the Council Tax-payers in the bankrupt borough at least £300,000.

That’s according to a long-delayed council response to an official question about the brewing scandal of the Fairfield Halls, where a two-year refurb project took nearly four years yet was never finished nor the full scope of works completed. Continue reading

Posted in Alison Butler, Brick by Brick, Business, College Green, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, Jason Cummings, Jo Negrini, Property, Richard Simpson, RIPI II: Fairfield Halls, Robert Ward, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Royal Mail Coulsdon sorting office abandons evening service

Sorted: But collecting packages in Coulsdon just got that bit more difficult

In the latest blow to Coulsdon town centre, Royal Mail has decided to remove the evening collection facilities for letters and parcels that can’t be delivered.

A notice of the revised opening hours was posted earlier this month, with just a few days’ notice of the shift in hours. From August 8, the office is open to the public only two hours most days (four hours on Saturdays!).

“This doesn’t help people who are at work all day,” one unimpressed Royal Mail customer told Inside Croydon. Continue reading

Posted in Business, Coulsdon, Coulsdon East, Coulsdon West, Old Coulsdon | Tagged , | 3 Comments

‘Some sightings’ reported in search for missing Owami Davies

Sightings: some members of the public have reported seeing Owami Davies in Croydon

The appeal for information about the whereabouts of Owami Davies, the student nurse who was last seen in West Croydon in early July, has seen some members of the public come forward with potential sightings.

The search now involves two police forces, with British Transport Police joining with the Met, who are using the specialist investigation units at Scotland Yard.

The Metropolitan Police has said the case remains a missing persons investigation. Continue reading

Posted in Crime, Dave Stringer, Policing, Transport, West Croydon | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Part-time Perry’s video nasty leaves out all the gory bits

CROYDON IN CRISIS: This website’s hashtag when describing the choice of a Mayoral system for running the council was #ABitLessShit. In his first 100 days in office, Jason Perry has done his best to prove that having a Tory Mayor is, in fact, #ABitMoreShit. By WALTER CRONXITE, political editor

#ABitMoreShit: the helpful sub-titles mean that video viewers don’t have to listen to Perry’s whining voice

Croydon Conservatives are making best advantage of their control of the Town Hall, marking the first 100 days in office of Mayor Jason Perry with a self-congratulatory video.

First impressions left by the video are good. Often, first impressions are all that count. Most voters will not have time to watch all three and a half minutes of Croydon’s answer to David Brent babbling on about what a good job he’s been doing.

By lunchtime today, two days after Croydon’s Tories posted Perry’s latest little biopic, it had attracted fewer than 600 views. And only 18 of those bothered clicking on “like”. More might have liked it if they’d turned the sound off, to eliminate the nasal whining sound of Perry’s voice… Continue reading

Posted in "Hammersfield", Allders, Croydon Council, Heather Cheesbrough, Mayor Jason Perry, Nick Hibberd, Planning, Whitgift Centre | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waitrose confirms closure plan for its George Street store

The cry went out from horrified shoppers all across Croydon: “But where am I to get my lemongrass?”

Closing down: Waitrose will leave a gaping hole on George Street

Waitrose, the supermarket of choice for all those eager young professionals paying over-the-odds for “executive apartments” in Croydon town centre, this morning confirmed its plan to close its store on George Street, subject to consultation with those working there. Around 70 jobs will be lost.

The closure of the large store puts yet another gaping hole in Croydon Council’s policy of regenerating the dilapidated and run-down town centre, with Mayor Jason Perry gormlessly still expressing a desire to deal with the same Westfield developers who have broken every promise made to Croydon over the past decade.

Continue reading

Posted in "Hammersfield", Business | Tagged , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Council knew housing scheme was ‘unviable’ four years ago

Lambeth Council has known for at least four years that their proposed redevelopment of an award-winning housing estate was “unviable”.

Housing ‘policy’: Cressingham Gardens in Lambeth, where habitable council homes have been closed down to make way for private developers

The eviction of council tenants in Cressingham Gardens and the proposed development of much of the site into private flats is part of a housing “policy” at the neighbouring borough that traces its beginnings back to when Steve Reed was the leader of the council there.

Reed has been MP for Croydon North since 2012.

When he became an MP, one of his key aides in Parliament was Matthew Bennett, a Lambeth councillor and from 2018 until May this year, the council cabinet member in charge of the Cressingham Gardens demolition policy.

Yesterday the Brixton Buzz website reported that details released under a Freedom of Information request showed that Lambeth’s own consultants, Mott MacDonald, deemed the council’s scheme for the regeneration of the Cressingham Gardens estate to be unviable. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Business, Croydon North, Housing, Lambeth Council, London-wide issues, Matthew Bennett, Mayor of London, Mott MacDonald, Steve Reed MP | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Thames Water imposes hosepipe ban but still can’t fix leaks

Soaking it up: Thames Water’s hosepipe ban comes into force next week

Flood warnings one day, a hosepipe ban the next… That’s the reality in Croydon in the climate crisis.

Thames Water this morning confirmed what had been widely expected after two months of drought that has seen the source of the River Thames run dry: a hosepipe ban across London and much of southern England affecting 15million customers, to come in to force from next Wednesday, August 24.

The announcement drew criticism of the private company that’s making millions from running a public utility, with City Hall figures blaming Thames Water for its continuing failure to deal with its leaky infrastructure. Continue reading

Posted in Business, Environment, Gardening, Leonie Cooper, London Assembly, London-wide issues | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Perry in cover-up of £18m budget overspend in first 100 days

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The borough’s new Mayor has already overspent on an agreed budget by £20m – but won’t be producing financial reports until next year. EXCLUSIVE by WALTER CRONXITE, political editor

Doesn’t add up: £81,000 per year Mayor Jason Perry is keeping finance figures a closely guarded secret

Croydon Council is already £18million over its budget forecasts that were agreed less than six months ago, yet the borough’s first elected Mayor is trying to hide the true figures by withholding the detail from councillors and the public.

Jason Perry, Croydon’s part-time Mayor, yesterday appeared in a video celebrating the “achievements” of his first 100 days in office.

It was a short video.

But it did include the claim that his Tory administration is “opening the books” at the cash-strapped council. In fact, the opposite is the case, and it has prompted opposition leaders to ask serious questions over Perry’s brand of financial management, and where the money’s going.

Perry inherited a £2million budget underspend when he took office 101 days ago.

The Mayor is now being less transparent and much less open about the troubled authority’s finances, as he and his Tory colleagues prepare to hit Croydon residents with another £8.3million-worth of increased fees and charges. Continue reading

Posted in Council Tax, Croydon Council, Dr Ola Olasode, General Purposes and Audit Committee, Improvement Board, Jason Cummings, Mayor Jason Perry, Section 114 notice, Stuart King, Tony McArdle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Midwives warn of crisis on maternity wards as staff quit NHS

The Royal College of Midwives has again called on the government and NHS for more investment in maternity services to ensure the safety and quality of care for patients, after recording a fall in the number of midwives working in every region of England.

Call the midwife: the number of maternity specialists is falling

The RCM calculated that there was already a long-standing shortage of midwives around the country – around 2,000 fewer than would be needed for a full complement. But in the past year, more than 600 more midwives left the service.

That includes more than 100 midwives leaving the NHS in London.

Just last month, a report from the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee’s Expert Panel said there was no credible government strategy to tackle the crisis facing maternity services. Continue reading

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Youngsters take to the stage to finish summer with a sizzle

CYTO – Croydon Youth Theatre Organisation, based at the Shoestring Theatre in South Norwood – is presenting its Summer Sizzle, a brand-new programme created by artistic director Andrew McPherson and supported by Arts Council England.

In just two weeks, two groups of brilliant youngsters – aged from eight to 15 – have created two new one-act plays based on the theme of community: Fogged by Maryhee Yoon and The Border Wall by Reuben Massiah. Continue reading

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Environment Agency issues flood warning for River Wandle

Flash floods: drains and water courses may not be able to take the volume of water predicted to fall in rain storms in the next 48 hours

No sooner has the amber heatwave warning in south London faded away in some light rain than the Environment Agency has put the area on alert for flash flooding.

With heavy rain forecast to hit the capital today and tomorrow, flood alerts have been issued in Croydon, Sutton, Merton, Lambeth and six other south London boroughs.

The flood alert covers the entire course of the River Wandle, which rises in South Croydon and wends its largely underground way until it surfaces in Wandle Park before heading off towards Sutton and Merton and on to Wandsworth, with its Norbury Brook tributary also running into parts of Lambeth. Continue reading

Posted in Environment, Lambeth Council, Merton, Sutton Council, Transport, Waddon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kids’ holiday club faces disaster as council withholds grants

With just days to go before the start of the summer holidays, the organiser of an established and council-approved children’s activities centre was told he would not receive any funding. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Food on the table: Mula Cake Kids’ Club has continued this summer, despite the council’s refusal to provide funding

The organiser of a kids’ summer club who has staged council-approved events in Thornton Heath for the past four years – including all through the darkest days of covid lockdown – says he’s been left high and dry this year with bills of at least £5,000 to pay for the Mula Cake Kids’ Club.

Under the holiday activities and food programme, Mula Cake Kids’ Club is one of the providers of decent meals and fun activities, giving breakfast and lunch for local youngsters aged from eight to 13, from Monday to Friday through five weeks of the school summer break.

Inside Croydon reported last year how the club was on the brink of disaster when it was left waiting for the agreed £17,457 grant by Croydon Council. Organiser Dexter Simms was forced to pay for the initial sessions out of his own pocket to avoid disappointing the 40-or-so youngsters that were booked in for the daily sessions of activities and healthy lunches provided throughout the school holidays.

Twelve months ago, the council did eventually make good on its promise under the government-funded HAF – holiday activities and food – programme.

But in 2022, in a letter from the council issued just days before the club was due to begin its sessions for dozens of eager youngsters, Croydon Council pulled the rug from under Simms and refused Mula’s grant application completely. Continue reading

Posted in Children's Services, Croydon Council, Education, Paxton Academy, Thornton Heath, West Croydon | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

SGN ‘donates’ £0.5m to Merton to pay for displaced residents

‘Engineering difficulties’: SGN’s gas pipe repair works on Galpins Road, Thornton Heath, have taken longer than expected

A week on from the horrific blast in Thornton Heath that killed a four-year-old child, destroyed one house, damaged dozens of others, and forced 500 people from their homes, Southern Gas Networks, the company responsible for providing gas to Galpins Road, agreed to “donate” £500,000 to the local council.

SGN announced its “voluntary goodwill contribution” during a public meeting last week. Continue reading

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Track replacement closes tram line to Wimbledon for 10 days

Disruption: the tram network is subject to strikes and closures until the end of August

As part of Transport for London’s programme to renew the infrastructure of London Trams, work to replace nearly half a mile of track between Wimbledon and Therapia Lane will be taking place from next Monday, August 22, until Wednesday August 31.

No tram service will run between Wimbledon and Therapia Lane while approximately 700 metres of track is replaced.

“This work will ensure tram reliability is maintained and services can run smoothly,” TfL says. Continue reading

Posted in Commuting, East Croydon, TfL, Tramlink, Transport, West Croydon | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Regulator Ofgem in legal challenge over soaring energy prices

The Good Law Project, alongside Fuel Poverty Action and the chair of the Highlands and Islands Housing Associations Affordable Warmth Group, has sent a formal pre-action letter to energy regulator Ofgem demanding that it protects at-risk groups from rising energy costs in advance of its increase to the energy price cap due to be announced on August 26.

“One of Ofgem’s core functions is to protect the interests of consumers from energy companies making excessive profits, and it has a specific legal duty to protect vulnerable groups,” the campaign group said in a statement released this morning.

It has been predicted that the energy price cap will be increased to £3,582 from October, a 180per cent increase on the same time last year. While energy companies are currently making record profits, a recent report has found that 35million people in 13million households – almost half the country’s population – are now under threat of fuel poverty, owing to a combination of energy price caps and inflation. Continue reading

Posted in Business | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Police issue apology to residents for Lloyd Park festival

Thin blue line: local police on duty in Lloyd Park issued an apology to residents on Saturday night

Local police issued an apology on Saturday night to residents living around Lloyd Park after the first day of the weekend-long Garage Nation music festival staged in the public park.

The event organisers claimed to have sold out all its tickets to 8,000 “ravers” for its three-stage mini-festival of grime and garage music, drum and bass and jungle, with around 100 acts to perform across three stages, plus fairground attractions, food stalls and bars.

But local residents were angry that they had had little or no consultation from Croydon Council, who licensed the event and stood to rake-in tens of thousands of pounds in fees for the use of the park, sections of which had been fenced off from the public for a week. Continue reading

Posted in Activities, Business, Community associations, Croydon Council, Croydon parks, Friends of Lloyd Park, Lloyd Park, Music, Park Hill and Whitgift, Policing, South Croydon | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Shirley and Mitcham grass fires add to litany of call-outs

Despite a full-on media campaign last week to try to persuade the public to take special care in the capital’s tinder-dry parks and open spaces in the exceptionally hot weather, the London Fire Brigade were called out to “a large number of small fires” at the weekend, including incidents near Mitcham Common and close to Ashburton Park.

The Brigade said it also tackled “significant blazes” in Leytonstone and Enfield, but today issued a statement which amounts to a litany of disappointment, with call-outs to a list of grass fires, many of which might have been avoidable. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon parks, Environment, London Fire Brigade, London-wide issues, Purley, Shirley | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Towering prices leave L&Q with 1,500-plus unsold homes

Brick by Brick was ahead of the trend for building unsellable, over-priced shared ownership homes. By BARRATT HOLMES, housing correspondent

Cash blocks: L&Q invested £62m in two of the ‘Queen’s Quarter’ tower blocks

Croydon’s Brick by Brick is not the only housing business that appears to be struggling to off-load its stock of expensively built “executive apartments” through far-from-affordable shared ownership schemes.

Housing Association L&Q has more than 1,000 unsold shared ownership homes on its books, with 100 remaining unsold a year after they were built, according to their latest results just published.

L&Q has nearly 120,000 homes under its management, including interests in several developments in and around Croydon, such as its £62million investment in 172 homes in two blocks on the site of the former council offices, Taberner House, which they are now calling “the Queen’s Quarter”.

There, three-bedroomed flats are being listed for sale on shared ownership terms at £500,000 full market price.

Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Business, Croydon Council, Housing, Jo Negrini, Queens Gardens, Taberner House, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Vanguards are taking a new turn to keep going the distance

Tough trail: runners in last week’s Vanguard Way Marathon didn’t have time to admire the view from the top of a sun-baked Nore Hill

JOHN JEFKINS reports on the 10th staging of one of the country’s toughest trail marathons, and how a famed route from East Croydon down to the Sussex coast has just taken a different direction

The Vanguard Way is a popular 66-mile trail from East Croydon Station via Lloyd Park, Littleheath and Selsdon Woods to Chelsham, Oxted, Edenbridge and the Ashdown Forest to the South Downs and on to Seaford, with coastline views of the Seven Sisters cliffs. It is one of the finest long-distance trails in southern England – a rural walking route all the way from south London to the English Channel.

The North Downs section includes the Vanguard Way’s highest points and steepest hills, with great views. It’s also the route of one of the country’s toughest marathon runs, the Vanguard Way Marathon, which this year took place last Sunday. Continue reading

Posted in Activities, East Croydon, Lloyd Park, Walks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Part-time Perry sends distress signal with upside-down flag

Pole dunce: the Pakistan flag, the wrong way round, outside the Town Hall yesterday

Jason Perry’s attempts to pander to the borough’s various communities back-fired yesterday, when Croydon’s part-time Mayor presided over a ceremony in which he and an assorted clutch of dignitaries and hangers-on hoisted the Pakistan flag outside the Town Hall – but upside down.

The Pakistan flag was, in any case, only up the Town Hall flag pole for no more than a few hours (Sunday is independence day in Pakistan, which became a nation state on August 15, 1947), before it was removed to be replaced by the rainbow colours of the LGBTQ+ community.

It seems most likely that the irony of this civic flag swap – replacing the emblem of a state which criminalises homosexuality with a flag celebrating gay communities’ hard-won freedoms – will have been completely lost on Perry. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, History, Mayor Jason Perry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Council rejects private school’s planning scheme for Heathfield

Rooms with a view: these are the views from Heathfield House’s terraces which would be fenced off from the public if Cressy College gets its way with its cheap lease from the council

A planning application from a private education business to make extensive alterations to Heathfield House, a listed building owned by Croydon Council, has been refused.

As Inside Croydon reported in June, Cressey College has been renting the building from the council since the first covid lockdown in 2020, initially on a temporary basis.

But as they seek to extend their tenancy with a longer lease, they wanted to make a number of adaptations to the grand, Italianate villa on the top of Gravel Hill, including erecting a nine-foot security fence that would have blocked access to the gardens that have been enjoyed by the Croydon public for decades.

Continue reading

Posted in Business, Croydon Council, Croydon parks, Education, Gardening, Heathfield House, Nicola Townsend, Planning, Property, Sarah Jones MP, Schools, Selsdon and Addington Village | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Old Bailey murder trial date set for Norwood Junction case

Police name and charge third suspect one week after dead body was discovered on Station Road

Agash Jeyanandam, the first man arrested on suspicion of murder following the discovery of a dead body on Station Road, Norwood Junction, last Sunday, has been remanded in custody after appearing at the Old Bailey yesterday.

He is expected to stand trial at the Central Criminal Court in July 2023.

Two other men have also been charged with murder, and today the police named the third as Vijay Pethuru, 23, of Elgin Road. He is due to appear at Croydon Magistrates’ Court today. Continue reading

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Selsdon Park’s golfing paradise looks lost under new owners

Buggies off: the new owners of the Selsdon Park hotel might not have any use for the 200-acre parkland golf course’s fleet of buggies

It is looking very likely that the last 18-hole round of golf at Selsdon Park was played some time at the end of 2021.

The new owners of the Selsdon Park Hotel and its accompanying 200 acres of parkland released a statement last week about their ambitious plans for the place.

And there was not a word about any golfing activities at the latest addition to the Birch hotel group.

“Real estate investor Aprirose will reopen Selsdon Park Hotel next year as a joint venture with Birch Hospitality,” the property trade press reported. Continue reading

Posted in Business, De Vere Selsdon Estate, Environment, Golf, Property, Selsdon and Addington Village, Selsdon Vale and Forestdale, Sport | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tram workers to join Tube staff in strike action on Aug 19

More than 1,000 Transport for London and London Underground workers will take strike action next Friday, August 19, in a dispute over pay, pensions and jobs. They include workers on the Croydon Trams.

Up the junction: workers on Croydon’s Trams will be on strike next Friday

The workers, members of the Unite union, will go on strike at the same time as their colleagues in other unions employed on London’s Underground and Overground. More than 1,600 Unite members employed by the London United bus company will also stage pay strikes over the same period.

This is all in addition to tomorrow’s planned strikes by ASLEF, the train divers’ union, which will affect services on South Eastern and London Overground, with potential for “knock-on effects” for other services. Continue reading

Posted in Commuting, London-wide issues, TfL, Tramlink, Transport | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

BID splashes out on town centre street art for a wacky week

‘Wacky’: one of the art-washing installations parked on buildings around the town centre for less than a week in ‘unexpected’ Croydon. Pic: Angie Leibovitz

A multi-coloured octopus on an office roof in South Croydon. Fairfield Halls being daubed by a giant paintbrush. A beanstalk growing up alongside the Town Hall…

These are just some of the inflatable 3D street art that has appeared overnight around the town centre as part of a Croydon BID-organised “Unexpected Croydon” exhibition, which is offering a £100 Boxpark giftcard prize for the best photos of the installations.

From today until August 18, what the business suits at Croydon Business Improvement District call “wacky installations” have been placed on eight buildings around the town centre. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Boxpark, Business, Croydon BID | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments