Council ‘too quick to pass the buck’ over child abuse claims

Local Government Ombudsman orders Croydon to conduct an audit of child sexual abuse cases going back three years, after the authority’s response to a draft report ‘suggests wider systemic issues’

Croydon’s children’s services department may have “systemic” errors, according to the Local Government Ombudsman, who today accused the council of “being too quick to pass the buck”, after a suicidal teenaged girl was left without support when she reported two instances of serious sexual abuse.

The poor handling of the case by social workers from Kent has left the girl’s mother “emotionally broken”.

The Ombudsman’s report, made public today, is particularly scathing about Croydon Council’s attitude to the problematic case, which dates back to 2018.

The council’s response to the Ombudsman’s report was to state that its children’s services had recently been given a “Good” rating by Ofsted (following nearly three years when rated as “Inadequate”). “It is disappointing,” the Ombudsman’s report states, that, “Croydon appear to suggest this indicates the fault identified in this report is confined to the past.

“We feel this case is an opportunity to learn and make improvements to prevent other children and families experiencing the same issues.” Continue reading

Posted in Alisa Flemming, Children's Services, Croydon Council | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tory candidate for London Mayor accused of campaign fraud

Lawyers acting for the Labour Party have accused Shaun Bailey of a form of fraud ahead of the London Mayoral elections, after his campaign last month distributed leaflets headed with fake City Hall insignia.

Fraud? Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey

The leaflets made the claim that the Mayor’s share of Council Tax is set to increase by 21 per cent. Yet Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, has made no such move to increase the Greater London Authority’s precept by that amount.

Bailey is the Conservative Party’s underwhelming candidate for London Mayor, in elections which were postponed from last year because of coronavirus and which are – for now at least – due to be staged on May 6.

Lagging a long way behind Khan in the polls, Bailey appears to have resorted to a desperate ploy straight out of Croydon Tories’ playbook. Continue reading

Posted in 2020 London elections, Gavin Barwell, London-wide issues, Mario Creatura, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Shaun Bailey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London’s toxic air is ‘a public health emergency’ says charity

London’s polluted atmosphere, with Croydon among the worst affected, has the same impact as smoking 150 cigarettes each year

The health of Croydon residents is are among the worst affected by pollution, according to research conducted for City Hall, with BAME communities and the elderly particularly at risk

Toxic air quality in Croydon increases the risk of death in the same way as smoking 150 cigarettes a year and should be declared “a public health emergency”, according to the British Heart Foundation.

The capital’s poor air quality contributed to the deaths of more than 4,000 Londoners in 2019, according to research conducted by Imperial College’s Environmental Research Group. Croydon, with nearly 200 deaths attributable to the effects of pollution, is listed by the researchers among London boroughs with the highest number of pollution-related deaths. Continue reading

Posted in British Heart Foundation, Charity, Croydon Council, Environment, Health, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Waste incinerator | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Light in the darkness’: council’s Holocaust Memorial service

The council is inviting the borough’s community groups to unite tomorrow in an event of international remembrance to honour victims of the Holocaust and other genocides.

From 12 noon on January 27, residents will be able to join a Town Hall ceremony via an online link.

Maddie Henson, the Mayor of Croydon, will host the hour-long event and will light a candle in memory of victims of genocide and in acknowledgement of this year’s theme, “Be the light in the darkness.”

The day commemorates the millions killed under Nazi persecution and also the genocides that followed in places such as Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Continue reading

Posted in Church and religions, Croydon Council | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sutton councillor investigated for ‘bringing party into disrepute’

A councillor at the centre of the row with more than a thousand residents in the ward he is supposed to represent is now under formal investigation by his own political party over his conduct towards a member of the public, Inside Croydon has discovered.

In hot water: ‘Bogus’ Ben Andrew is subject to an investigation by his own political party

Ben Andrew is a Liberal Democrat councillor for Wandle Valley ward in Sutton, the area which includes New Mill Quarter, where more than 400 “luxury” homes have their heating and hot water supplied by SDEN, the council-owned heating network which has been roundly criticised for being too costly and entirely unreliable.

After two call-outs for the London Fire Brigade in recent weeks and a dozen power outages suffered by the 1,000-plus residents over the past 12 months, the Barratt-built NMQ suffered its latest heating problem on Friday.

The heating system to the development was supposed to have been powered by the controversial Beddington incinerator.

Despite extensive, and expensive, pipeworks to the housing development at Hackbridge, the polluting incinerator has never provided any heat or hot water. Instead, the New Mill Quarter homes have had to depend on three increasingly over-worked gas-fired boilers provided by SDEN. Engineering reports suggest that at least eight such boilers should have been installed for a development of this size.

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RSPB’s Birdwatch weekend offers a perfect lockdown activity

The 2021 Big Garden Birdwatch takes place this weekend, from Friday January 29 to Sunday January 31.

And organisers, the RSPB, hope that even during lockdown – perhaps because of lockdown – it’s going to be the biggest piece of wildlife monitoring ever staged in this country, with the public asked to stay at home and monitor the wild birds from the safety of their window or balcony.

The RSPB has also lined up a series of special guests in online events across the weekend, including live Q&A sessions with experts, feeder cams, how-to guides and live-streamed results as they happen, all available on YouTube. Continue reading

Posted in Environment, Gardening, Wildlife | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Shawcross steps up as Crystal Palace Park looks to the future

The dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park in yesterday morning’s snow

It has been a momentous week for the upkeep and improvement of one of the capital’s under-appreciated gems, writes MARTIN TEMPIA

When a former head of planning at the London Borough of Bromley described Crystal Palace Park as the “unloved stepdaughter of London parks, who never gets her fair share of the sweeties”, he had a point.

People may argue with “unloved”, but no one can deny that compared to many of London’s Parks, Crystal Palace has been starved of funds for decades. Continue reading

Posted in Boris Johnson, Charity, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Crystal Palace Park, Crystal Palace Park Trust, London-wide issues, Martin Tempia, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Val Shawcross | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Addington’s ancient church has a place in nation’s history

St Mary’s Addington, with a thousand-year history, and linked through all the centuries to Croydon Minster

MARVELS OF THE MINSTER: From the Norman Conquest to the Victorian age, Croydon buildings have been important to the Archbishops of Canterbury, as DAVID MORGAN explains

Much is made of the fact that Croydon Minster has six Archbishops of Canterbury buried there. Yet less than three miles away there are five more Archbishops buried within the grounds of another Croydon church, at St Mary’s, Addington.

St Mary’s proudly states that it is the oldest building in the borough still in public use, with a founding date of around 1080. Croydon Minster claims a named priest, Elfsie, from 960, although the Saxon building in which he prayed has long since crumbled. Continue reading

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

Council motion defies Tory minister over referendum date

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The Labour group that controls the Town Hall has placed itself on a collision course with the Conservative Government over moves for a directly-elected mayor, reports WALTER CRONXITE

Like two bald blokes fighting over a comb, the Town Hall’s politicos have been busy drafting motions ahead of Monday’s full council meeting, neither of which will do anything to fix the bankrupt borough’s finances nor make councillors appear any more accountable to the people they are supposed to serve.

Indeed, the ruling Labour group, after spending two years trying to block a residents’ campaign to change the way the council is run, now appears set to take on the Tory Government over the date chosen for the referendum on whether the borough should be run by an elected mayor. Continue reading

Posted in 2020 London elections, 2020 Mayor Referendum, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Jason Perry, Section 114 notice, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Town Hall unions to stage virtual rally against council cuts

Trades unions representing the council’s workers are launching a “Save Our Croydon” campaign to protect jobs and services, with a virtual rally on Facebook this Tuesday.

They will be protesting against job cuts that are being made and express “legitimate concerns” as a result of what a senior union figure has called the council’s “risky financial decisions”.

Unite, Unison and the GMB are working together in opposition to Croydon’s bankrupt council’s wide-ranging cuts, which include more than 500 posts being axed in an effort to claw back this year’s £66million budget deficit. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Croydon Central, Croydon Council, Sarah Jones MP, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rail operator socks it to charities with their feet-warmers

As the covid-19 crisis continues make another crisis – poverty – worse, Govia Thameslink Railway has worked with local charities across its network for its annual Great Sock Appeal campaign, to support homeless people over the winter.

Donation: Spire were grateful for the hundreds of pairs of socks from GTR

In south London, GTR joined forces Spires just before Christmas, and through a series of fundraising activity has raised enough funds to donate 693 pairs of socks to the charity.

The Spires Centre has been working with homeless and disadvantaged people from Merton, Wandsworth and Lambeth for 30 years. Their primary aim is to help people move from a life on the streets to a viable, independent life with sustainable work.

“The collaborative effort from GTR to make this campaign impactful for our community has been truly heartwarming,” said Spires chief executive Nigel Carpenter. Continue reading

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Going cheap: one Mayoral car, one not-so-careful owner

Cash-strapped Croydon Council has been forced to diversify and go into the duckin’ and divin’ world of the used car trade, just like Arthur Daley.

You can imagine the notice in the small ads: “Going cheap: one mayoral limousine, low mileage, one not-so-careful owner, Croydon Council”.

After her Labour council managed to crash the borough’s budgets, this will come as the final ignominy for this year’s Mayor of Croydon, Maddie Henson.

For some councillors – like Henson, you suspect – the mayor’s ceremonial year, cutting ribbons on supermarkets in Thornton Heath or attending church fetes in Coulsdon, is regarded as the highlight of their civic careers. But Henson’s memories of her mayoral year have been blighted by coronavirus. Continue reading

Posted in Addiscombe East, Croydon Council, Felicity Flynn, Maddie Henson, New Addington North, Norbury Park, Sherwan Chowdhury | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Poet’s postcards of hope for publicans across England

A Croydon poet, Nick Makoha, is supporting publicans across south-east England with a heartwarming poem about pubs.

A postcard of hope for publicans across the country

The poem, Botanist, which has been commissioned by Tunbridge Wells-based arts project Inn Crowd, is part of a national campaign called “Winter Warmers”. The campaign aims to help bring some hope to publicans, their staff and their local communities after a miserable 2020 for the pub trade and a wretched start to 2021 under the current lockdown.

Makoha’s poem, and six others, written by poets from across England, are being shared on postcards, on social media and on posters, all in an effort to stay connected with their communities while they are shut out of their local pubs. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Poetry, Pubs | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Hotels do their bit to give festive joy to borough’s homeless

Three of the larger hotels in the borough did their bit over the Christmas and New Year period to give a little festive joy by playing their part in distributing more than 1,000 care bags to homeless families and rough sleepers.

Staff prepare the GAMA goody bags for those staying at the hotel over Christmas

The bags, donated by GAMA Healthcare, contained a mix of infection-prevention products and warm clothing items and were distributed to those who during the covid-19 lockdown have been given accommodation in hotels run by London Hotel Group.

These include the Best Western Plus Croydon Aparthotel, Best Western Queens at Crystal Palace and the Ibis Styles London Croydon.

The Croydon Aparthotel recently became the first hotel in the country to open its doors to covid-19 positive clients for self-isolation, as part of a scheme to ease pressure on the NHS amid the current surge of coronavirus cases. The hotel has received bookings from Kings College Hospital and two London councils to accommodate covid-19 and homeless clients. Continue reading

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Purley campaign demands answers over pool’s lack of funding

Purley Pool and leisure centre have been under seemingly permanent threat of closure for a decade

CROYDON IN CRISIS: With Greenwich Leisure, who operate the borough’s leisure facilities, under intense covid-19 financial pressures of their own, local mum RACHEL GARNETT (pictured left) explains the vital importance of the continuing campaign to save Purley Pool from closure

Every day, staff at Purley Leisure Centre would swing open its doors to enable people to take responsibility for their health – lessening the burden on the NHS and social care.

No matter what your income, you would be able to access a 25-metre pool, a teaching pool and a recently upgraded gym.

It is where tens of thousands of children have learnt to swim, a life-preserving skill – a skill that all children need, not just those whose parents can afford it. Local schools across the south of the borough from Coulsdon to South Croydon came to Purley Leisure Centre for the swimming classes that are part of the curriculum. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Croydon Council, GLL - Better, Leisure services, Oliver Lewis, Purley, Purley Pool | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

‘Best in the business’ Creatura lands new Westminster job

WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on the latest job manoeuvre by someone whose political ambitions exceed his abilities

Gobby fac totum: Mario Creatura’s parliamentary campaign ended up in embarrassing defeat

Mario Creatura, the Tory councillor who sought the help of the SPAC Nation cult church to try to win him the Croydon Central parliamentary seat, has landed himself a new job with a Westminster political consultancy.

Creatura has been hired by Interel, which is described as “one of the UK’s largest independent public affairs and campaigns consultancies”. The Park Hill resident got his new post, apparently, off the back of his working in Downing Street for a couple of years running Theresa Mayhem’s Twitter account. Continue reading

Posted in Coulsdon, Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell, Mario Creatura | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bankrupt borough could leave homeless out in the cold

Millions of pounds have been spent across the country to provide shelter for those sleeping rough, and to get them off the streets during the covid-19 pandemic. ‘Every day is a crisis for those who are homeless,’ according to one charity worker

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Charity workers express their worries that the consequences of the council’s financial collapse could be felt the hardest by some of the borough’s most vulnerable, ELLA HOPKINS reports

At the start of the first coronavirus lockdown in March last year, the Government issued an edict to local authorities to use public buildings as emergency shelters for the homeless, to try to limit the spread of the covid-19 virus.

Although funding for the scheme was withdrawn in June, the Croydon Council was given an additional £635,000 grant in October to continue its work to tackle homelessness.

“It became possible overnight to house homeless people,” said Jad Adams, the long-standing chair of Croydon Nightwatch, the local-based homelessness charity. Continue reading

Posted in Charity, Croydon Council, Croydon Nightwatch, Jad Adams, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

National government needs to take the adult social care burden

CROYDON COMMENTARY: After spending his career working in senior positions in the voluntary sector, RICHARD PACITTI (pictured left) says that if we funded adult social care differently, it would solve a lot of problems

Most people are aware of the dire financial circumstances now facing Croydon Council, but perhaps it’s worth giving some thought to what brought this situation about.

A lot has been written about the “collective corporate blindness” that led to the council’s bankruptcy. The council website has a consultation asking residents to comment on their ideas for saving money.

Adult social care in Croydon could suffer a funding cut of as much as 20%

Suggestions include closing five of the borough’s public libraries, shutting leisure centres and selling-off one or more of its recycling centres. Local people feel they are being penalised and will be losing highly valued local services they have paid for via their Council Tax because of poor governance by the council.

But there is an issue which faces all local authorities, most of which have not bankrupted themselves, but many have had to cut their other local services to meet the ever-rising costs of adult social care. Continue reading

Posted in Adult Social Care, Charity, Croydon Council, Mind in Croydon | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Portland Arms pub opens its kitchen for community service

Portland Arms chef Kate McCann hard at work preparing meals for the South Norwood Community Kitchen in the pub this week

South Norwood reporter JANE NICHOLL on the latest lockdown initiative

Community groups in South Norwood this week welcomed a much-needed additional self-help service, when the Portland Arms pub offered its kitchen and food during lockdown to prepare and distribute meals and groceries.

The publicans’ generous offer means that the South Norwood Community Kitchen can now provide 80 extra hot meals each Wednesday during lockdown, while children are home from school and their parents might be struggling to make ends meet. Continue reading

Posted in Charity, Community associations, Pubs, South Norwood, South Norwood Community Kitchen | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Labour councillor disputes cost savings over referendum

A senior Labour councillor has produced more red herrings than you will find in an EU fishing quota, as he has claimed that staging a referendum in May over the way the council is run won’t save a penny for cash-strapped Croydon.

Meanwhile, the borough’s only Tory MP has said that the decision to force the council to hold a referendum on May 6 means the end of the road for Labour’s Town Hall administration.

The crisis-hit Labour leadership at the Town Hall was clearly caught out by yesterday’s announcement by Luke Hall, the local government minister, that it should go ahead and hold a referendum over whether Croydon should have a directly-elected mayor. Tory minister Hall told Croydon that by staging the referendum at the same time as the London Assembly election, it would provide “cost savings… for your authority”. Continue reading

Posted in 2020 London elections, 2020 Mayor Referendum, 2022 council elections, Chris Philp MP, Croydon Council, Croydon South, Hamida Ali, Jerry Fitzpatrick, Sarah Jones MP, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Residents left empty-handed after seeking £500 covid grant

EXCLUSIVE: More than half of Croydon applicants for a Government-funded isolation grant have been rejected by the council.
CLARA MURRAY reports

Applications to a government-funded self-isolation payment have surged in Croydon over the past two months, but many residents have come away empty-handed.

The £500 grants are intended to support people who have to miss work when they are asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. Only recipients of certain benefits, including Universal Credit and housing benefit, can apply.

As of January 3, 900 people had applied to Croydon Council for the grant, but just 294 have received the cash so far. Continue reading

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If incompetent directors can be banned, why not councillors?

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Outsourcing giants Carillion went bust three years ago, and now the directors responsible face possible bans from the nation’s boardrooms. Likewise, incompetent councillors should also be barred from public office, says TERRY McCARTHY

The news this week that there is a move, in the public interest, to ban former directors of Carillion from senior boardroom positions raises pertinent comparisons to the situation faced by Croydon Council and the borough’s residents.

Outsourcing specialists Carillion – who even ran Croydon’s public libraries (poorly) for a while – went bust in 2018 owing a huge sum of money, more than £7billion, resulting in 3,000 people losing their jobs, others their investments, and 450 public sector projects, including hospitals, schools and prisons, were plunged into crisis. Continue reading

Posted in Alison Butler, Croydon Council, Paul Scott, Section 114 notice, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Internet provider closes digital divide with free broadband offer

Plugged in: an engineer from Community Fibre helps another household get connected

Community Fibre, one of the country’s leading internet service providers and who operate a network in Croydon, has announced that it is supporting communities through the lockdown by providing a free full-fibre 50Mbps internet connection to vulnerable households, to ensure children’s education doesn’t suffer as a result of poor connectivity.

The free service will be provided for 12 months after installation. “There are no strings attached,” the company said in a statement.

“At the end of the free period, households can choose to pay to keep the service or cancel it, completely and simply, by returning the router.” Continue reading

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Whitehall picks McArdle to sort out council’s financial mess

CROYDON IN CRISIS: At Monday’s cabinet meeting, the council leadership repeatedly denied that the appointment of an Improvement Board from Whitehall will amount to a takeover. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Tony McArdle: after two years sorting out one bankrupt council, tomorrow he starts in Croydon

Tony McArdle, who has spent the past two years as the lead commissioner sorting out the bankrupt finances of an English county council, tomorrow begins work as the chair of an Improvement Board being imposed on bankrupt Croydon by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

That vital piece of information was announced by Katherine Kerswell, the interim chief exec of the council, who spent half-an-hour doing a double act with Hamida Ali, the council leader, at last night’s virtual cabinet meeting, outlining the seriousness of the coronavirus situation in the borough before describing the latest moves to fix the bankrupt borough’s busted budget.

Significantly, nothing in Kerswell and Ali’s update on the council finances had been delivered to councillors in a written report ahead of the meeting, as would usually be expected. That gave the strong appearance that this was the  kind of uncomfortable information that the leadership wanted to withhold for as long as possible.

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Posted in Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Improvement Board, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Schools, Section 114 notice, Tony McArdle, Tony Newman, Virgo Fidelis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tory minister orders council to hold mayor vote on May 6

Political editor WALTER CRONXITE reports on the latest massive set-back for the council’s crumbling administration

In what will be a withering blow for the Labour Party in Croydon, the Government has this afternoon ordered Hamida Ali, the leader of the council, to make arrangements to hold a referendum for a directly-elected mayor as soon as May 6.

“I would expect Croydon to take this opportunity to hold the referendum on May 6, if the petition is valid, with the cost savings that will have for your authority,” Luke Hall, the Tory junior minister for local government, wrote to Ali in a letter seen by Inside Croydon.

“This will be a real kick in the teeth for Labour,” a Katharine Street source said.

“Tomorrow, the MHCLG is sending in Tony McArdle and their Improvement Board because they don’t trust the council to run Croydon properly. Now, with this letter, they have basically signalled the end of the Labour administration later this year.”

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Posted in 2020 London elections, 2020 Mayor Referendum, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments