Croydon’s Tory-run council is to pay thousands of pounds of tax-payers’ money to a wealthy private school to use its halls for the election count later this month, instead of using its own buildings, like the £140 million “Fisher’s Folly” new head offices in the centre of town.
This comes at a time after many council-run facilities have been axed or still face closure because of cuts being imposed by the Conservative group that has run Croydon Council for the past eight years.
The election count will be held at Trinity School in Shirley, one of the independent schools run by the Whitgift Foundation, among the country’s richest education charities.
The chairman of the governors of Trinity is an old boy of the school, Gavin Barwell, the MP for Croydon Central, or as he is increasingly known, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, for his on-going role on the organisation’s board. Another notable Trinity old boy is Dudley Mead, the deputy leader of the Tory group on Croydon Council.
The count and election result declarations for all 24 of Croydon’s wards will take place at the school throughout Friday, May 23, the day after polling.
“It’s like holding the count in Barwell’s living room,” one election candidate told Inside Croydon, adding that they were “disgusted” with the decision.
“Trinity’s about three miles from the town centre, and is a lot less easy for many people from around the borough to get to using public transport, especially if they want to go there after the polls close at 10pm on May 22, as candidates are entitled to do,” our source said.
“Wasn’t the point of spending £140 million on building the new headquarters to make sure that the council’s own venues are used for important civic occasions such as this? Are they going to claim that Bernard Weatherill House does not have a suitable space to hold the count? Because if they do, then clearly it’s another important aspect of the design brief which the council and John Laing got horribly wrong, at the expense of Croydon Council Tax-payers.
“And aren’t there any state schools in the borough with halls where a count could be staged, and which could probably do with the rental fees far more than Barwell’s old school?
“In hard times, it is important that we ensure that public facilities and venues work, and to do that, we have to make sure that they get maximum use. The Fairfield Halls used to hold election counts, and the rental paid was an important source of income. It offered good facilities and having local television cameras gave the halls some good profile.
“Someone on the council needs to explain why the only place they can find to hold Croydon’s election count is a posh private school which has close ties to Barwell and senior councillors.”
The borough’s senior election official, the returning officer, is Nathan Elvery, who also happens to be the interim chief executive of the council. Elvery has a budget of around £7,500 to pay towards hall hire for the count, out of his overall election expenses grant provided by central government.
Croydon Council took its election count to Trinity School for the first time in 2010, when there were counts for the General Election and Town Hall elections. Since then, the fee-paying school which charges pupils around £15,000 per year to attend has also received public money for staging the AV referendum vote count in 2011.
The council opened its new headquarters building on CostYouAMint Walk last October, so this month’s elections would have been the first opportunity to utilise the building.
When in 2011 the council press office was asked to explain the decision for paying public money to the private school, they told Inside Croydon, “Because the returning officer has decided that is the best venue for it.”
Can that rationale still apply?
Inside Croydon’s recent coverage of the local elections:
- These are the councillors who voted to build on a public park
- Croydon’s ‘modern-day slums’ are a scandal, says election candidate
- Telegraph poll suggests UKIP poised to win Town Hall seats
- Tea-time leaflet leaves Easter egg over faces of Waddon Tories
- What Barwell fails to tell you and the myths of Council Tax
- Council allowances and local politicians’ secret consensus
- The list of candidates for the May 22 local elections
Coming to Croydon
- Hauntology – the architecture of Croydon, Apr 5-May 2
- Warlingham Sevens Heaven tournament, May 3
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, May 4
- Crystal Palace Chamber of Commerce Question Time, May 7
- David Lean Cinema: Wadjda, May 8
- Coulsdon Euro election hustings, May 8
- David Lean Cinema: Blue Velvet, May 10
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood – a place of change, May 15
- David Lean Cinema: The Invisible Woman, May 15
- Coulsdon West local election hustings, May 16
- Croydon RFC charity memorial day, May 17
- Coulsdon East local election hustings, May 19 (confirmed)
- St Giles’ primary school open morning, May 21
- David Lean Cinema: The Rocket, May 22
- David Lean Cinema: Dallas Buyers Club, May 29
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, June 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Classic Car Show at Purley Rotary Fields, June 22
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- South Norwood Allotments open day, June 28
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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