A councillor from a neighbouring borough is demanding answers from Croydon Council over the use of public money to pay for private security guards at Wednesday night’s Upper Norwood Joint Library consultation meeting.
Around 200 locals attended the meeting, where cabinet members Sara “Book Token” Bashford and Tim Pollard’s presentations received an often hostile reception over Croydon’s withdrawal from a joint arrangement with Lambeth over the running of the historic library.
No one contacted by Inside Croydon who attended the meeting considered there was ever any threat to anyone’s safety.
Bashford and Pollard insisted that no recording or photographs were allowed at the meeting at the request of the owners of the hall, the Salvation Army. The owners of the hall have dismissed this claim as untrue.
And last night, Matthew Bennett, a Labour councillor for Gipsy Hill ward in Lambeth, submitted a Freedom of Information request questioning the presence of the security guards.
Bennett’s FOI says:
Dear Croydon Borough Council,
At the Croydon Council UNJL public consultation at the Salvation Army Halls on Westow Street, Crystal Palace on the evening of the 16th May 2012 there were several private security guards in place.
I would like:
1) All documents relating to the decision to procure private security for the above event, including a breakdown of any costs for the evening.
2) Copies of emails either from elected members to officers, from officers to elected members or between officers requesting or discussing the decision to procure private security for a public meeting.
3) A clear breakdown of cost for the security guards for the duration of the meeting.
Croydon Council, as a matter of policy, delays answering FOIs for the maximum period, so it may be mid-June before Bennett receives any form of answer.
Of course, no number of security guards can protect “Book Token” Bashford from the deserved public ridicule she receives over her mismanagement of the borough’s library provision and her inability to provide cogent or credible answers to residents’ questions on her conduct.
Bashford receives nearly £70,000 per year in allowances and payments from the public purse from her roles on the council and as a paid constituency worker for Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell.
Inside Croydon understands that at least one resident video’d Bashford’s less-than-assured performance, and it is expected to soon be a YouTube hit, alongside her recent starring appearance in Private Eye.
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