CROYDON COMMENTARY: CHARLOTTE DAVIES, pictured left, the chair of the South Croydon Community Association, says that detailed checks on how Croydon Council is being run, by the Audit Commission and the Charity Commission, are long overdue
Croydon is a complex mess to sort out in one PR stunt, such as the £100,000 handed over for the Portas Pilot.
The town’s property market is dominated by one charity: the Whitgift Foundation, whose property portfolio is managed by one firm of property consultants and has been for decades. Central Croydon’s MP, Gavin Barwell, and several councillors are Whitgift trustees. Some of the Whitgift trustees appointed by the church are dependent on the Whitgift Foundation for funding for things such as the choir master for Croydon Minster. There are, thus, few checks and balances on Croydon’s main property stakeholder.
Boris Johnson eventually stepped in earlier this year to move the Whitgift Foundation from an impasse of its own creation with Hammerson and Westfield.
The arts provision in the town is dominated by the council, and a very similar group to those who are also Whitgift trustees. They are currently trying to take control of the charities that manage the Fairfield Halls and the London Mozart Players, after having cut most of the other funding for arts in Croydon.
The London Mozart Players coach Whitgift Foundation school orchestras – some of the richest schools in the country.
The Central Library, which was once considered to be one of the best in Europe, is now dark and rundown, while smaller community libraries are facing the uncertainty that goes with privatising the service in the hands of a subsidiary of a building company.
The council has just paid for a very expensive headquarters office to be built, with great secrecy surrounding the actual cost.
No real attempt has been made to make the council efficient and to serve the residents effectively – hence Croydon Council regularly “stars” on programmes such as Panorama for its appalling – indeed, illegal – treatment of the homeless.
This expensive council in the meantime imposes huge parking charges on central residential and business areas for far longer hours than necessary, because they are dependent on parking fines to fund their inefficiencies.
This is the biggest killer of business in Croydon.
Traffic planning and calming does not exist in Croydon. Tower blocks of up to 50 storeys are planned, despite local opposition, and without the developers having to make adequate provision for car parking spaces for their residents or other services.
An incinerator is planned to be built just outside the borders in Sutton, when the bulk of the airborne pollution and the traffic will come through Croydon – our council did not object, and instead they supported the proposal, after having been elected on an anti-incinerator campaign. There is huge anger in the communities – the pollution will land on some of the most densely populated communities in London.
Croydon was awarded funds following the 2011 riots to help rebuild communities. But far too much has gone into quasi-government agencies and very little has gone to the people on the ground.
Croydon needs a serious audit by the Audit Commissioners and the Charities Commission. The internal conflicts within the town are so great that no public relations bandaid has a chance of success. Mary Portas probably had the best of intentions, but had no idea what the underlying tensions are within the town.
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Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the rules state that parking revenue must be spent on parking, roads and transport?
Once the cost of enforcement has been covered the excess must be used on road maintenance, traffic calming, bus subsidies and things like that. Given that it’s the sort of issue that’s open to vociferous challenge you’d think that the parking income and expenditure account would be amongst the more readily accessible of the council’s documents.