Phil Thomas, the Croydon cabinet member in charge of the borough’s highways system, has broken a promise to meet with residents in Waddon to discuss progress on the area’s pedestrian underpasses – which were often ill-lit, covered in animal excrement, and which even members of the Metropolitan Police have admitted privately are dangerous places to go in the dark winter months.
Because while Thomas has claimed that there is no money available to pay for CCTV cameras to provided pedestrians with greater security in these often intimidating public areas, the Conservative council cabinet member has allowed £10,000 of public money to be spent – all on painting a wall mural.
As Inside Croydon reported in the summer, Thomas had a meeting with concerned residents by the Jubilee Bridge underpass, a vital link from Waddon through to Reeves Corner avoiding one of the urban motorways which divide the town centre.
After hesitating for at least 10 minutes, sitting on his own in his posh red German sports car with its cherish number plates, Thomas eventually emerged to hear the residents’ concerns.
He happily signed a pledge form handed to him by someone wearing a giant pigeon outfit.
“And that’s a promise from me,” Thomas said as he signed the card that promised to clean up the underpasses, have their drains cleared and lights replaced and improved, and agreed to meet the group of residents organised by the local Labour party again to update them on progress.
That was when he was face to face.
Two months on, and in response to the local action team’s urgings, a great deal of progress has been made with the maintenance work on the neighbourhood’s previously neglected underpasses – the lighting is being replaced and improved; cleaning and pigeon-proofing has been undertaken. But Councillor Thomas has broken at least one of his “promises”, by refusing to meet the group again.
In a letter, seen by Inside Croydon, sent to one of the lobbying local residents last month, Thomas claimed that he had had a meeting with local residents, and he said that the Waddon councillors had also consulted in the ward. Waddon residents contacted by Inside Croydon, including those who met with Thomas in August and who all live just a short walk from the underpasses, have no knowledge of any such meetings. So there’s no way of knowing if these meetings actually took place.
The walls of the Jubilee Bridge underpass have now been cleaned, the pigeon shit replaced by a pastel-coloured mural themed for the River Wandle – and all at a cost to the public purse of £10,000.
The Croydon Old Town Business Association, a relatively new organisation in the thrall of Croydon Council’s favourite PR spinners, the very-well rewarded White Label, has somewhat belatedly taken all the credit for the underpass work being carried out, saying that the mural-painting is being funded by money from the Portas Project.
“COBA and the Portas Town Team have put up the fund of £10,000 to get this project off the ground,” they state on their website.
Now Inside Croydon welcomes the appropriate funding and support for the local arts. It also believes that market traders in Surrey Street need all the help they can get.
So it is with massive surprise that we discover that one-tenth of the overall fund made to Croydon earlier this year by Mary Portas, the government’s High Street tzar, who is seeking to revive the nation’s ailing retail offerings, is being used to decorate a subterranean walkway instead of more practical projects. Like the CCTV cameras requested by locals, for instance.
As Inside Croydon discovered previously (click here), £30,000 from the Portas £100,000 has already been earmarked for out-sourcing the market management and running a council committee. With the £10,000 spent on underpass murals, this leaves just £60,000 for real practical measures to help get Surrey Street market business off its knees. It is not known how much is being used to pay White Label, for instance.
We wonder what Mary “Queen of Strops” would make of the decision-making over the spending of her fund in Croydon.
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