Time for thorough ethical review of Croydon’s governance

 CROYDON COMMENTARY: The nexus of connections that have been developed between the local authority – of whatever political hue – and vested interests in the borough makes it long overdue for a review of proper governance, says CHARLOTTE DAVIES

Croydon Corporation crestThe crest of what, until 1965, was the Corporation of Croydon made visual references to the borough’s links to the Archbishops of Canterbury, a town wall and thus municipal government. Various other links are made to the Croydon bourne and the East India Company’s military seminary at Addiscombe, and also to the irrigation meadows of Beddington sewage farm.

Thus our oldest emblem of incorporation managed to bind together municipal government, Archbishop Whitgift and sewage.

The Corporation’s motto, Sanitate Crescimus, hoped that, as a borough, we would “grow in health”. Let us assume that includes the health of our corporate governance.

In 1965, when Croydon became a borough council within Greater London, the motto was changed to: ad summa nitamur, Latin for “let us strive for perfection”.

But how have we been doing in reaching for the lofty aspirations of our forefathers, to become the healthiest and most perfect London borough when it comes to corporate health?

Croydon is the largest of London’s boroughs by size of population. Thus one would think that there is no shortage of potential people to fill in jobs in key roles and that  there would be no need for a few individuals to hold positions of power and influence across many positions and find it next to impossible to resign.  

Croydon is going through a period of immense change, where a huge amount of capital is being spent in one form or another. With such investment comes a desire for many of the stakeholders to maximise their profits. One way of doing that is to try to control the agencies of government – including the local council – that are there to ensure that markets work fairly. This is called “regulatory capture”.

How Westfield imagine Wellesley Road might look, with high-rise towers of apartments

How Westfield imagine Wellesley Road might look, with high-rise towers of apartments

Property developers or other stakeholders seek to exercise control over civil servants or elected officials in order to ensure that they can build what they’d prefer, such as very tall high-rises which maximise their profits, without having to take account of the interests of others.

For instance, to ensure that everyone has access to affordable housing or outdoor space.

Judge for yourself. This is a simple matching game. Can you spot key names that seem to pop up everywhere?

If you do (and we have colour-coded some references as a helpful guide), you could then consider why this might be a problem for democracy, and “healthy” and “perfect” corporate governance in our borough.

Croydon BID

The Board:
• Andrew Bauer – centre director, the Whitgift Centre; chairman, Croydon BID
• David Ordman – general manager, Centrale; vice-chairman Croydon BID
• Max Menon – CEO Croydon Cathay Development Limited
• Carolyn Spencer – head of property, UK Border Agency
• Martin Corney – CEO, The Whitgift Foundation
• Sharon Lawrence – general manager, Marks & Spencer, Croydon; Croydon Commitment
• Steve Yewman – development director, Westfield
• Andy Kendall – store manager, House of Fraser, Croydon
• Frances Wadsworth – CEO and principal, Croydon College
• Simon Thomsett – CEO, Fairfield Halls
• Steve O’Connell – Conservative councillor and GLA Member for Croydon and Sutton
• Jason Perry – Conservative councillor
• Nigel Evans – partner, Stiles Harold Williams
• Don Niven – relationship director, NatWest
• Brian Hart – director, Lark Insurance Group
• Patrick Baptist – general manager, Croydon Park Hotel
• Trevor Morgan – South London YMCA
• Graham Reeves – partner, House of Reeves

Croydon BID artworkWhat is Croydon BID? The Croydon BID – which stands for business investment district – aims “to ensure Croydon is regarded as one of the best places in the south-east to work, live, visit or do business,” they say.

They add that: “Working in partnership with the Town Centre business community, Croydon Council, Croydon Metropolitan Police and other key agencies, our efforts focus on improving Croydon’s cleanliness and appearance; safety and security; accessibility and way-finding; perception and image.

“We also represent the local business community’s interests on Town Centre issues and development plans, at both a strategic and operational and level. Croydon BID is funded through the Croydon BID levy which is a compulsory charge, enforceable in the same way as non-domestic rates.”

Develop Croydon 

The Board of Directors consists of:
Katharine Glass
Jo-Ann Gumb

Develop Croydon Forum Committee 2014
Chair: Richard Plant – Stiles Harold Williams
Develop CroydonPaul Thomas – Barratt Homes
Harry Lewis – Berkeley Group
Matthew Sims – CEO, Croydon BID
Daran Nathan – Durkan
Carolyn Kenney – Hammerson plc
Stuart Yeatman – John Laing plc
Jo Negrini – London Borough of Croydon
Paul Hughes – Pulsant
Jim Hendley – Riley Consulting
Mark Waterstone – Rosepride Properties
Ian Mason -Schroders
Steve Yewman – Westfield
Vice Chair: Katharine Glass, White Label Consultants
Secretary: Yolande Carpenter, White Label Consultants
Acting Treasurer: Jo Gumb, White Label Consultants

What is Develop Croydon? The Develop Croydon Forum is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, or CIC, which consists of a group of up to 50 businesses, partners, agencies and individuals whose “main aim is to promote Croydon as a location to invest, work and live”.

CICs are supposed to provide benefits to their community. Providing that they can pass the community interest test, there are very few restrictions on the purposes for which a CIC can be used. A company will not satisfy the test if it carries on certain political activities, or if a reasonable person might consider that its activities are carried on only for the benefit of the members of a particular body or the employees of a particular employer.

White Label Publishing Ltd

(which trades as White Label Consultants)

Board of Directors:
Alex Tottle
Jo-Ann Michelle Gumb
Katharine Mary Glass
Andrew Keen

What is White Label Publishing? White Label Publishing Ltd was founded in November 2009, with its registered office in Croydon. The company has a subsidiary, the Develop Croydon Forum CIC.
Website of White Label Publishing: http://www.whitelabelpublishing.co.uk/index.html Website of White Label Consultants: http://www.whitelabelconsultants.org.uk

Jo Gumb is a former executive at Newsquest, the company which publishes the Croydon Guardian. Katharine Glass used to work as an advertisement manager at Newsquest and at the Croydon Advertiser.

“White Label Consultants offer truly integrated marketing, event management and communications programmes, built around our clients’ needs” (and not to be confused with the actual company White Label Consultants Ltd, company registration number 07297709, which was wound up in 2012 and had registered offices in Macclesfield).

Fairfield Halls by nightFairfield Halls

Board of trustees
David Fitze – until May 22 was Conservative councillor for Fairfield ward
Dudley Mead – Conservative councillor
Mohammad Aslam
Richard Plant – Stiles Harold Williams
George Ayres – until May 22, was a Labour councillor for New Addington
Kate Vennell
Vivian Davies
Timothy Godfrey – Labour councillor for Selhurst; cabinet member for Culture
Fiona Satiro
Lynne Hale – Conservative councillor in Sanderstead
Anthony Blin-Stoyle

Croydon CURV

Partners in CCURV:
John Laing
Croydon Council
Sir Robert McAlpine

What is CCURV? “The Croydon Council Urban Regeneration Vehicle (CCURV) is an innovative 50-50 joint venture partnership between John Laing and Croydon Council to regenerate a range of key sites across the London Borough of Croydon. The first deal of its kind, this is 28-year partnership – also referred to as a Local Asset Backed Vehicle (LABV) – into which Croydon Council invests land and John Laing equity.”

CCURV refers to itself as “Active, long-term community engagement is at the heart of everything we do and ensures economic, social and environmental regeneration” and includes among those community groups it “engages” with Develop Croydon.

Whitgift-Foundation logoThe Whitgift Foundation

Governors of the Whitgift Foundation:
Ian Harley – Chairman of the Court
Rev Canon Colin J Luke Boswell (The Vicar of Croydon)
Toni Letts OBE – Labour councillor; council cabinet member for economic regeneration
Christopher Houlding
Geoff Wright
His Hon William Barnett
Rosemary Jones
Dudley Mead – Conservative councillor
Gavin Barwell MP
David Hudson
Nita Clarke – mother of Emily Benn, now a Labour councillor
Margaret Mead – Conservative councillor
Pauline Davies
Rt Rev Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon
Michael Proudfoot
Dean Sutton – now retired, having worked for Harold Williams and Partners and their successor firm Stiles Harold Williams, where he was a Senior Equity Partner.

Surveyor to the Whitgift Foundation: R H Stapleton, Stiles Harold Williams

What is the Whitgift Foundation? Registered as a charity, the Foundation operates three fee-paying private schools and two care homes and almshouses. It owns significant amounts of property in the borough, including the majority of the freehold of the Whitgift Centre, which is about to undergo a £1 billion redevelopment by Hammerson and Westfield. According to accounts for 2012-2013 filed with the Charity Commission, the Foundation had income of nearly £50 million. 

Croydon CommitmentCroydon Commitment

Trustees are:
Steve Phaure – CEO of Croydon CVA
Julie Dakin – Mott MacDonald
Jonathan Hill
Stuart Yeatman – John Laing plc
K Glass -White Label

Foundation Partners:
Allianz Global Assistance
Croydon BID
The Whitgift Foundation
Mott MacDonald

What is Croydon Commitment? “Founded in 2004 we have one aim, to help Croydon businesses help their local community… We host annual fundraising events which enable us to provide financial support for projects and charities in the borough. Croydon Commitment also has longer term aspirations and goals; we have established the Croydon Grassroots Trust Fund and have to date raised nearly £500,000 for the programme. This endowment will provide a legacy allowing us to support worthy charities by means of annual grants long in to the future.

“In 2013 we were able to award £25,000 to six worthy causes: Lives Not Knives, African Youth Development Association, Thornton Heath Recreation Ground, Empowered To Succeed, Rise Media and Advice Support Knowledge Information (ASKI).”

It is difficult to identify precisely how the “nearly £500,000” has been distributed beyond the £150,000 of grants mentioned above.

What is good governance?

Good governance builds on the seven principles for the conduct of people in public
life that were established by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Known as the
Nolan principles, these are:

  • selflessness
  • integrity
  • objectivity
  • accountability
  • openness
  • honesty and
  • leadership

In Croydon in 2014, there is little trust in the institutions that govern or own the borough. People openly discuss how property developers can skew the planning decision-making process, and how people at the grassroots seem to be losing out all the time. Losing parks and green spaces; losing access to light; losing out on the opportunity to own their own home; losing the peace and quiet of well-planned urban spaces; losing resources for basic facilities.

The new Labour administration at the Town Hall probably has a year in which to show the people of Croydon that they want to be substantially different, that they want to tackle head-on the grubby politics of Croydon’s cosy relationships and shine a bright light on all transactions of public interest.

The first steps in doing that are to:
a. Ensure that Labour councillors themselves rid themselves of even the perception of any conflicts of interest and that they are completely above suspicion. For instance:
(i) Toni Letts needs to resign from the Whitgift Foundation if she really wants to hold the cabinet post for economic development;
(ii) Timothy Godfrey needs to resign from Fairfield Halls board if he wants to hold the cabinet post for culture.
b. Invite in external advisers to help Croydon restructure to meet the highest standards of corporate governance. Ask the difficult questions, for as it states in the guidance to company directors: “To achieve good governance requires continuing and high quality effort.” The hard questions are likely to include:
(i) Can Develop Croydon CIC pass the community interest test?
(ii) Can the Fairfield Halls serve Croydon more effectively as a charity wholly separate from Croydon Council?
(iii) What is White Label’s relationship to the council? Or to the Whitgift Foundation? And to Stiles Harold Williams?
(iv) What is going on in CCURV and how can we make the finances of this £450 million deal transparent and acceptable to the electorate?
(v) What is the charitable “objective” of the Whitgift Foundation, and how can it benchmark to the best in the world to serve Croydon more effectively?
(vi) How can the economic power of the Foundation be managed to ensure that it provides a solid charitable foundation to benefit the residents of Croydon; but not undermine the balance of power in the town?
(vii) How long should directors, trustees, and advisers to boards hold their posts before their positions are rotated or put up for re-tender?
(viii) What has happened to all the funds collected by Croydon Commitment? Can there be a proper, transparent accounts provided that a reasonable person could follow?

Coming to Croydon

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12 Responses to Time for thorough ethical review of Croydon’s governance

  1. The Whitgift Foundation’s aims aren’t that difficult to discover – ‘The principal aims of the charity remain the care of the elderly within our homes and the provision of education within our schools with an emphasis on reaching out to able pupils from lower income families who are assisted by grants.’ (2013 accounts) That’s what the money goes on – the vast majority of the income is the school and care home fees paid by those who can pay. The investment income provides the grants to those who can’t. In the interests of transparency, I am an ex officio governor of the Foundation.

    • Thank you for your comment, Bishop Clark.

      I think the overt function of the Whitgift Foundation is described accurately in the article.

      It does raise an interesting question: £50 million income a year spent “charitably” on how many people? The residents of the care homes and almshouses, and the claimed 500 recipients of school bursaries. That might seem to be a huge amount of money being applied charitably on not very many people at all.

      Perhaps, as a governor of the Foundation, the Bishop of Croydon can explain?

  2. davidcallam says:

    For as long as I can remember and in the three local authorities for which I worked and a fourth in which I lived there were always people who had fingers in many pies.
    In some they were being entirely altruistic, in others they were looking after an interest of some sort.
    Are you suggesting that this practice has stopped elsewhere and Croydon is the only borough where it persists, or are you intent on holding Croydon to a different standard?
    I think we should always be vigilant and if we see evidence of abuse we should shout it from the rooftops. I also believe it is entirely proper for a third party to point out a vested interest if the person concerned has failed to do so.
    But if people are willing to serve their community in various ways surely we should give them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

    • Lord Chief Justice Hewart in 1924, said: “It is not merely of some importance, but of fundamental importance that justice should not only be done, but should be manifestly and undoubtedly seen to be done”. It is exactly the same with corporate governance; it needs to be above suspicion, end of story.

      • davidcallam says:

        Charlotte: more innuendo and a politician’s ability to avoid answering questions. Are you suggesting that the Whitgift Foundation is doing something wrong. If so, say so.

        • Where’s the innuendo? A principle is a principle: those in public office need to be seen to be at arm’s length from other vested interests. Seems simple enough, surely?

  3. farmersboy says:

    Allders didn’t have a say in any of this and Croydon didn’t support them at all? Coincidence? Reeves don’t look well represented either. So much for local…

  4. east1956 says:

    A fascinating list of stakeholders leading Croydon’s “regeneration”. What is most striking are the absences;
    No Housing Associations – given the acute shortage of affordable homes, surely it would be appropriate to have a couple of major players involved. Or does the council hope that the poor (people earning £27,000 p.a. or less) don’t have a future in Croydon?
    No representatives from the retail sector – if Whitgift & Centrale are to be redeveloped surely there should be a User representative voicing any concerns future retail employers may have.
    No representatives of the independent retailers who are also a critical component of a vibrant retail centre.
    No representatives of the wider arts sector – especially as the Fairfield Halls performance over the last two decades has been progressively lackluster.
    No representatives of other industrial and commercial sectors.

    In fact there is an acute absence of Users.

    It is almost entirely Suppliers of property.

    In a balanced programme, the User, the Executive (acting for the community) and the Supplier need equal and balanced representative, otherwise the decision making process becomes distorted and the programme runs the risk of failing to deliver the overall targets. Suppliers have a commercial interest to deliver a product for the lowest cost and highest return, and rarely have a long term interest. Even where they have a long term interest, their business interests are confined to generating the maximum return, and not the wider objectives of the community or other sectors.

    By awarding so much influence to such a narrow group of stakeholders, other sectors’ & groups’ interests are subordinated.

    Assuming that the former Cllrs and the council officers knew what they were doing, it begs the question why they constructed such an unbalanced environment? In the normal course of events they shouldn’t / couldn’t derive any obvious benefit.

    What is difficult to comprehend is how these organisations as key players in regeneration conform to public sector standards for viable public sector programmes?

    Your readers might like to draw upon the now withdrawn OGC Gateway Review methodology (http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110822131357/http://www.ogc.gov.uk/what_is_ogc_gateway_review.asp) as a framework to evaluate Croydon’s approach and then ask themselves whether it conforms to those standards?

  5. Regeneration and lobbying for vested interests is to be expected.But over the horizon is coming another danger.
    Radiaoctivity is a forever issue
    Could you do as good a job on those connections?
    I can do no better than link into the American experience,where legislation has been deliberately “broken” ,so that this sort of thing becomes allowed:

    The Marcellus Shale contains radioactive materials, including radium and radon. Normally, the radioactive material is safely buried deep underground. However, shale gas drilling and fracking bring radioactivity in solids and liquid wastewater to the surface, posing a risk to public health if not properly managed.
    Radium and radon can cause cancer if ingested or inhaled. Radium causes leukemia and bone cancer. Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
    In 2009, the state Department of Environmental Conservation found radium levels in Marcellus Shale wastewater that are thousands of times greater than that allowed in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency, and up to 267 times the limit for safe discharge into the environment.
    Exemptions from key federal regulations allow gas industry solid and liquid waste to pass as “non-hazardous.” However, solid drilling waste from Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale has triggered radiation alarms at landfills. This waste has been imported by New York landfills. Liquid leachate from landfills is sent to waste treatment plants unequipped to monitor or remove radioactive materials, threatening drinking water sources.
    Recently, a peer-reviewed scientific paper reported radium levels of 200 times background in Pennsylvania’s Blacklick Creek sediments downstream of a fracking wastewater treatment plant. The gas industry has not identified methods to clean up the wastewater and safely dispose of the radioactive material removed.
    The DEC permits the spreading of salty wastewater (brine) on roads for de-icing, dust control and road stabilization as well as on land for dust control. However, because of the possible presence of radioactive materials, such applications of wastewater should not be permitted in the absence of testing for radioactive materials.
    Radium and radon in waste from shale gas drilling and fracking pose a serious threat to public health, although the cancers induced can take years to develop. In light of lax monitoring of radioactivity by the industry and the states, as well as the absence of safe methods for waste treatment and disposal, the public should demand that the State Legislature pass laws banning this hazardous waste in order to protect our water, land, air and health.
    Public input is more important than ever given heavy campaign contributions to state legislators from the natural gas industry.
    David Kowalski, Ph.D.,
    [A retired cancer researcher and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.]

  6. Shasha Khan says:

    Excellently researched Charlotte! What happens in Croydon is not unique. I work for business in a market town in the Midlands. The exact same conflict of connections scenario occurs there, just on a smaller scale. This is what happens all over the country.

  7. east1956 says:

    If anyone wants a piece of the action, in less than a fortnight you can visit the Croydon Landlord Investment Show – http://www.landlordinvestmentshow.co.uk/Croydon
    From site:
    “The Landlord Investment Show is all about connecting Landlords, Investors, Developers & Property Professionals with industry leaders and suppliers who can help with all aspects of buy-to-let.
    We are delighted to be returning to Croydon for a 2nd year and this show is destined to be a fantastic event. With the regeneration of Croydon in progress our show will illustrate what massive investment opportunities that are available in the Croydon and surrounding areas.

    Croydon is London’s Growth Capital

    Croydon is in the midst of a once in a generation transformation with the ambitious £1billion redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre just one of several regeneration plans set to reposition the town as South London’s premier shopping and business destination.

    The Growth in Motion
    21 city Centre Development Opportunities
    Investment Returns Projected at 20% (JLL 2013)
    28 New Public Squares and Places
    9,500 New Homes in five years
    New World Class Train Station at East Croydon
    15 Minutes from central London
    14 Minutes from Gatwick
    2.8 Million sq ft grade A office space
    £1 Billion Westfield/Hammerson Retail Scheme
    Up to 1 Million SQ FT Residential Conversion Opportunities
    13 Consented Schemes Ready to Go
    7 New Hotels

    Over 30+ companies will be exhibiting on the day and 7 seminars will be delivered by leading industry experts.”

    There’s clearly some rich pickings to be had if the above claims are true.
    So be there, or be forever poor!

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