The deputy leader of the Conservative group that controls Croydon Council has given an undertaking that the consultation period for the Upper Norwood Joint Library will be extended.
Councillor Tim Pollard told residents at Tuesday evening’s council Question Time staged in Waddon that “it would only be reasonable to do so”, following various short-comings and the council’s mismanagement of the consultation process.
One example of the council’s failings with the consultation was the manner in which one of Pollard’s colleagues, Sara Bashford had just a week earlier told the packed audience at a consultation meeting in Crystal Palace how much she would welcome residents’ comments.
Only thing was, Bashford neglected to tell anyone to which email address to send those comments. Nor was the correct address available on the council’s website, nor had council staff been briefed with the information.
Earlier today, one council official confirmed the email address for residents to send in their comments on the consultation (which was originally due to close last Sunday) as UNJL.ENQUIRIES@croydon.gov.uk, although it was stated that this facility will only be available until tomorrow, May 25.
The Waddon QT session at St Andrew’s School was possibly the worst attended since the council began staging these events last year, with councillors and council staff outnumbering residents.
That may, to some extent, be because of the blurred lines between what was supposed to be a council-run event, and the local Conservative party, not for the first time, seeming to take credit for the make-friends-and-influence people exercise, all paid for by the Council Tax-payer.
Another explanation could be that local’ have already seeing through the lip service nature of the Question Time exercise, which seems to be less about listening to the concerns of genuine residents, and more about telling them what the council proposes to do.
According to a council official working on the door at the event, there were just 15 residents in attendance. The rest of the attendees comprised a panel of four councillors, Canon Barry Goodwin, the meeting chairman, two interlopers from Addiscombe (more of them later), the new deputy mayor, Tony Harris, who is a councillor for Waddon, plus two Croydon Council staff on the door, two to man an enquiries desk, two looking after parking, three on safety and recycling, and one to look after a microphone, plus three personnel from Viridor, the contractors who have a £1billion contract for the Beddington Lane incinerator: 21 “officials” out of an audience of less than 40.
At least there were no hired-in security guards, as there had been – at considerable public expense – at the previous week’s Upper Norwood library meeting. Maybe that was because the people of Waddon did not need to be kept safe from “Book Token” Bashford, since she was not at this event.
The Viridor staff was there to give a presentation on the incinerator. If it was meant to reassure the people of Waddon who will be living under its pollution cloud, they failed. According to one resident, “most questions were evaded neatly”.
What did emerge was that the stack – the chimney – will now be “only” 85 metres tall – more than 270 feet – rather than the original plan for it to be 100 metres high. Viridor’s Robert Ryan was adamant that this would be a good thing, since the taller the stack usually means the greater the emissions. What difference those 15 metres might make to the health and well-being of generations of people having to breath the resulting polluted air was left unanswered.
Residents asked about the traffic on Beddington Lane, the air pollution, hazardous waste and toxic emissions. None of this, apparently, will be a problem at all according to the nice men from Viridor: the traffic won’t really increase, and there will be no toxic emissions or radioactive waste.
But the Viridor spokesmen admitted that there will be no sorting of waste at the plant, so anything that people chuck into their bins across the four south-west London boroughs that will be feeding this voracious incinerator seem certain to be burned along with all the other domestic refuse, with all the risks that may entail.
With so few Waddon residents present, it was inevitable that the panel was given a “soft” planted question from someone who called himself Steven George.
George introduced himself as an Addiscombe resident who works in the city and who was sick of being asked “how he survived the riots” (as if). His question was what is the council doing to improve the reputation of Croydon as an exciting and up-and-coming place to live and place to work, and how is the regeneration in Addiscombe going to accompany that (which is a curious line of questioning at a Waddon event, but hey…).
What Mr George failed to mention is that he usually styles himself as Steven George-Hilley, and that he is a right-wing activist infamous for posting racist material on a blog which he edits, who is best known as being the husband of Clare George-Hilley, a Tory councillor for Waddon.
At the meeting, no mention was made of his wife, as Mr George sat through the rest of the meeting alongside a woman dressed in sun-top, shorts and flip-flops and looking, according to another person at the meeting, “ready for the beach”.
Asked after the meeting, Mr George told another attendee that he did not understand the answer to his question given to him by Pollard…
On other topics on a wide-ranging evening, the councillors tried to suggest that the Waddon Leisure Centre, which is still under construction, is part of the £450 million Urban Regeneration Vehicle, although one sharp resident refused to have the wool pulled over their eyes when they pointed out that this project had been in the pipeline long before the current administration was in control at the Town Hall.
“In fact, when pressed on this,” said one resident at the meeting, “they couldn’t actually give any examples of regeneration except the new council headquarters building.”
The resident told Inside Croydon, “Overall I felt it was quite good-natured. We made them squirm, but I guess when you’re paid as much as they are, you should be able to put up with that.”
- Inside Croydon: offering insight and analysis not available in cheap weeklies based in Redhill. Post your comments on this article below. If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, email us at email@example.com
- Council cock-up stops comments on library consultation (insidecroydon.com)
- Wake up Waddon: this really is a £1bn incinerator (insidecroydon.com)
- “Book Token” takes one in the Eye on library closures (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon Council and the cuts: playing a numbers game (insidecroydon.com)