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.
The 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.
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”.
- Nightwatch charity chairman: “Our activities are legal”
- Council to use “all available bye laws” to move soup kitchen
- Roller Derby get their skates on to back Nightwatch: Dec 1
- Barwell provides a “nasty” reminder with soup kitchen blunder
- Visit the Croydon Nightwatch website and find out how you can help here
Coming to Croydon
- Follow in the footsteps of Pirie: Dec 1
- Comedy in Music show: Dec 1
- Heathfield House Christmas Bazaar: Dec 1
- Croydon charity roller derby: Dec 1
- The Lives of Stanley Halls community entertainment: Dec 4
- Riot from Wrong screening: Dec 5
- CP Mums’ Winter Wonderland: Dec 6
- Cinema Ruskin: Dec 21
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- 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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