Soup kitchen PR disaster forces council U-turn – for now

Croydon Council has been shamed into backing down from “utilising all available bye [sic] laws” to stop a local charity handing out food to the homeless and poor in Queen’s Gardens, as was revealed by Inside Croydon this week.

Jad AdamsThe sudden U-turn appears to be more of a hand-brake turn in an attempt at damage limitation in the face of the council’s latest self-inflicted PR disaster, in response to the widespread public condemnation.

Because the Conservative-run council is maintaining its intention of Croydon Nightwatch eventually being moved on, once the fuss has died down, all with the intention of avoiding undermining the value of a development of luxury yuppie flats on the site of Taberner House.

Council promises to work with the charity appear to be little more than crisis-management PR spin: the charity maintains that it has not yet been contacted by any senior councillors or council officers to find an alternative location for the nightly soup kitchen.

The council’s real position was amply demonstrated by “Gaffe-prone Gav” Barwell, the Tory MP for the Whitgift Foundation, who let slip that the purpose for the charity being moved was “… with Taberner House being replaced by a residential scheme need to find new location”. Clearly Gav’s mates on Croydon Council are afraid that hundreds of hungry people turning up each night in the light cast from the council’s £140 million new offices on Cost Us A Mint Walk might scare off billionaire developers and “investors”.

Apart from the Tory council’s heartlessness being yet another PR disaster for Croydon, Town Hall officials’ other problem with Nightwatch operating in Queen’s Gardens is that the charity is doing nothing illegal. The cars from which they distribute aid are parked on a public highway, and their clients – on some nights numbering more than a hundred – generally conduct themselves politely and with consideration.

Easy target: Croydon Council wants to move on a soup kitchen for the homeless

Easy target: Croydon Council wants to move on a soup kitchen for the homeless

The council’s climb down came with an announcement barely a day after the story was broken by Inside Croydon.

“Having looked at a number of possible options it was decided that we would work with Nightwatch and other agencies to find a new approach that would tackle the current anti-social behaviour and ensure that those people in genuine need of support receive the most appropriate help in the most suitable way,” the council statement said.

Florid-faced Mike Fisher, the council leader, had clearly been left more red-faced than usual by this latest scandal; unusually, details of the council officer behind the controversial report, and its recommendations, were also made public, with Tony Brooks, the director of public safety,being named as a potential scapegoat.

The deflection technique was also applied with claims that councillors’ most convenient pub, the Spread Eagle, next to the Town Hall, was “greatly affected by the presence of what has been termed a ‘Soup Kitchen’.

“The customers of the public house, users of the gardens and pedestrians nearby have complained about the behaviour of those using the soup kitchen.”

Clients of the Spread Eagle spoken to by Inside Croydon were largely unaware that there is a soup kitchen operating within 200 yards of the pub. But several were well aware of “anti-social behaviour” – littering, urinating in doorways, puking on pavements and general loutishness – of some of the worse-for-wear customers of the town centre’s night clubs nearby. Croydon Council, meanwhile, seems quite relaxed about this aspect of the borough’s “night-time economy”.


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    • Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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4 Responses to Soup kitchen PR disaster forces council U-turn – for now

  1. I may be homeless very soon and I understand the problems faced by homeless people. The real issue is being hijacked by some lefties for their own political gain. Soup doesn’t have to be served at the Ritz. We should be grateful to those who serve soup and look after homeless people.

    It is more important for more and more soup kitchens to serve more homeless people than arguing about where it should be served.

    The Mayor is busy building home for the Romanians and the Bulgarians who are coming next month than looking after the homeless people in Britain.

  2. The police reported an recurring ASB problem to the Council, as is their job. The neutral Council officers created a paper with all the possible options for dealing with it, as is their job. The elected Councillors looked at the options and made a decision to reject the proposal you’ve focused on, as is their job.

    They rejected it a month ago.

    Hardly a U-turn due to media pressure.

    Can it be a u-turn if it was never Council policy in the first place?

    • That Croydon Council even considered such a policy is damning. It shows Croydon as callous and putting its multi-million pound development ahead of providing some much needed charitable help to the poorest in society.

      But nor have they rejected the proposition, as you suggest. The option of getting the soup kitchen moved is still being considered. The council has just not bothered consulting with the charity, or finding what help it can offer to Croydon Nightwatch and its clients over this situation.

      Jad Evans’s account of the situation summarises it all very neatly here: http://insidecroydon.com/2013/11/30/nightwatch-charity-chairman-our-activities-are-legal/

  3. spideysaves says:

    Reblogged this on Jason E Cooper and commented:
    Once a Tory always a Tory, they will try again when our gaze is diverted. This cannot happen. Fuck the yuppies.

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