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
The 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”.
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.
• 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
What 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.”
The Board of Directors consists of:
Develop Croydon Forum Committee 2014
Chair: Richard Plant – Stiles Harold Williams
Paul 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:
Jo-Ann Michelle Gumb
Katharine Mary Glass
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).
Board of trustees
David Fitze – until May 22 was Conservative councillor for Fairfield ward
Dudley Mead – Conservative councillor
Richard Plant – Stiles Harold Williams
George Ayres – until May 22, was a Labour councillor for New Addington
Timothy Godfrey – Labour councillor for Selhurst; cabinet member for Culture
Lynne Hale – Conservative councillor in Sanderstead
Partners in CCURV:
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.
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
His Hon William Barnett
Dudley Mead – Conservative councillor
Gavin Barwell MP
Nita Clarke – mother of Emily Benn, now a Labour councillor
Margaret Mead – Conservative councillor
Rt Rev Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon
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.
Steve Phaure – CEO of Croydon CVA
Julie Dakin – Mott MacDonald
Stuart Yeatman – John Laing plc
K Glass -White Label
Allianz Global Assistance
The Whitgift Foundation
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:
- honesty and
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?
- Should MP Barwell resign to avoid conflicts of interest?
- Regenerate! Hammersfield £1bn scheme still lacks a traffic plan
- Charity Commission forces council to drop Fairfield takeover
- Failing Fairfield Halls is limping along on borrowed time
Coming to Croydon
- Stitch Pitch quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, June 2
- Croydon Tech City “summit”, June 6
- An Improvised Murder, Spread Eagle Theatre, June 7
- Old Town residents’ meeting, June 7
- Crystal Palace Transition Town annual meeting, June 11
- Old Town residents’ meeting, June 11
- Lakes Playground Action Group fun day, June 14
- Croydon Green Fair, North End, June 14
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, June 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Airport House swing dance free event, June 21
- Classic Car Show at Purley Rotary Fields, June 22
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- Warnings to the Curious, Spread Eagle Theatre, June 27
- South Norwood Allotments open day, June 28
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- CODA’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wandle Park, Jul 30-Aug 2
- 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
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 72,342 average monthly page views (Jan-Mar 2014)
If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at email@example.com