A council-funded organisation that is supposed to assist voluntary groups across the borough is being accused of unseating the chairman of a community association in the area worst hit by the 2011 riots.
Croydon Voluntary Action – or CVA – stands accused of being “undermining”, “unprofessional” and “non-democratic” by Clive Locke, who was displaced as chairman of the West Croydon Community Forum at a meeting last week.
The meeting and elections were organised by CVA’s full-time staff without having bothered to consult with or first inform community volunteer Locke.
WCCF was founded by residents and local business people in the immediate aftermath of 8/8 riots 18 months ago. Not unreasonably, in its formative days, it sought guidance and help from CVA, the off-shoot of the council which is supposed to assist the voluntary sector in the borough.
Some of the guidance received, according to Locke, now seems to have been done with a hidden agenda to dominate and takeover the community group.
In a letter from Locke, seen by Inside Croydon, the local businessman who had spent much of his spare time in the past 18 months working to co-ordinate and organise the local community to help re-build their lives and businesses following the riots, is highly critical of CVA and its chief executive, Steve Phaure.
“Throughout my chairmanship, the covert manipulation of the CVA was naively taken by myself as support and guidance from them and as promoted in their website literature and I presume is their remit guided by the Charities Commission.
“…The behaviour of the CVA voiced through its CEO, Steve Phaure was a sight to behold, undermining my elected position with disregard and unprofessionalism, in short, attempting to railroad the election process and therefore the community to follow the CVA agenda.”
Before he got his grand title at CVA, Phaure was a committee clerk at Croydon Council, and council staff relate that he remains a frequent visitor to Taberner House.
Locke, who was elected chair of the WCCF steering group in September, believes that last week’s elections are invalid. There is evidence to suggest that CVA managed to publish two conflicting versions of a WCCF constitution, again without the agreement or approval of the WCCF’s elected officers; and that the 2013 voting process was mishandled throughout.
Locke was so marginalised in the run-up to the meeting that the CVA would not permit him to put forward a nomination to stand for re-election as chairman. “I am declaring that the election process is flawed, without democratic process,” Locke told Inside Croydon.
CVA receives £1.1 million a year from a range of sources, much of it public cash, and almost half of it from Croydon Council.
According to an eyewitness to the meeting, held at the CVA’s offices on London Road on March 12, “The whole thing was like something between Alice in Wonderland (where no one knew the rules but kept dashing about madly) and To Kill a Mockingbird (everyone knew the whole thing was wrong – they would keep up the front to save Steve’s face (and their funding/networks) but their body language said something else).”
Charlotte Davies, who attended the meeting as chair of the South Croydon Community Association, said, “On the night of the elections Steve Phaure’s behaviour was completely out of order.” One of the residents at the meeting, Davies says, eventually told Phaure “to stop shouting out comments and undermining the chair, Clive Locke”.
Davies’s account of the meeting does not paint public events in Croydon in a good light. “Steve Phaure lost complete control of his behaviour, paced around the room, interrupted the chair, stood over the chair, had to be repeatedly asked to sit down.
“His behaviour was intimidating. He responded with childish strops and mimicry. He eventually sat down next to the chair, instead of going back into the audience and resuming his rightful role.
“Steve Phaure appears to be out of control. CVA is there to empower the community, not to intimidate and control,” Davies said.
“Some councillors, including Stuart Collins, did try to delay the elections, but were not heard. No councillor though stood up and stated categorically that the behaviour of the CVA and Steve Phaure in particular were unacceptable.”
A request to CVA for details of the outcome of last week’s meeting has not been answered.
Croydon Council is controlled by the Conservatives, though the Tories have no elected councillors in the areas worst-hit by the 2011 riots. The council, the Mayor of London and the government have been roundly criticised for failing to action the urgently needed aid and assistance for the businesses and residents in the area, many of whom lost their homes and livelihoods on that infamous summer’s night.
Even today, 18 months on, some still are waiting to receive their compensation payments, forcing some victims to declare themselves bankrupts.
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