An overwhelming 81 per cent of respondents in Inside Croydon’s latest online poll believe that veteran Labour councillor Tony Letts should resign her position on the board of governors of the Whitgift Foundation to avoid conflicts of interest in her Town Hall role as cabinet member for economic development.
The multi-million-pound educational charity is among the borough’s biggest landowners, which includes it being the majority freeholder of the Whitgift Centre, the shopping mall that is the focus of the £1 billion redevelopment of the town proposed by Westfield and Hammerson. Seven of the 17 governors appointed to the board of the Whitgift Foundation are councillors, or politicians, or are closely related to local political figures.
It was announced this week that the local government department had received more than 130 objections to Croydon Council’s compulsory purchase orders for the redevelopment site. A public inquiry before a judge is expected to be held in February next year.
Since Inside Croydon’s report last week, Letts’ public profile on the council website has been updated to include mention of her appointments to a range of other worthy bodies and outside interests which the Selhurst councillor holds. But the profile still fails to mention her role with the Whitgift Foundation.
This contrasts with Letts’ council front bench colleague, Alisa Flemming, an Upper Norwood councillor, who does list her position on the Whitgift Foundation board on her council profile.
Flemming has recently been added to the Foundation board as a council appointee. This shows that Tony Newman’s Labour group on the council, which advocates “openness and transparency”, to be oblivious to the possibilities of conflicts of interest arising with a body which profitably operates three large private schools in the borough and the council’s new cabinet member responsible for… education.
Croydon Council’s Code of Conduct states: “You must not place yourself under a financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence you in the performance of your official duties.”
And: “You must declare any private interests, both pecuniary and non-pecuniary, which relate to your public duties and must take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.”
It seems impossible for Letts or Flemming to be able to guarantee to fulfill the council code of conduct’s requirements to protect the public interest while also being members of the Whitgift Foundation.
Not that they are alone on the Foundation board…
- Last year, 65 per cent of Inside Croydon readers voted that Gavin Barwell, the Trinity School old boy and Conservative MP for Croydon Central, should resign his position on the Whitgift Foundation board because of similar concerns over conflicts of interest.
Also on the board is another Trinity old boy, Councillor Dudley Mead, for now the deputy leader of Croydon Tories.
- Keeping it in the family is Margaret Mead, also a Tory councillor and also on the board.
- One of Croydon’s newest councillors, Labour’s the Hon Emily Benn, has a family connection with the Whitgift Foundation board: her mother, the Viscountess Stansgate, also known as Nita Clarke, is a long-time governor.
- And also keeping it mum, so to speak, is Rosemary Jones, who is a governor following 22 years’ service as a teacher, ultimately as head teacher, at one of the Foundation schools, Old Palace. Her daughter is Sarah Jones, the Labour candidate for Croydon Central.
The only family member missing from the board, it seems, is Caesar’s wife. She, at least, was above suspicion.
With Letts and now Flemming on board, too, looks like the Foundation is keeping its influence over Croydon nice and tight…
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Coming to Croydon
- Soul Symphony Community Choir sessions, Sep 16-Dec 23
- Police question time, LNK at Centrale, Sep 17
- David Lean Cinema: Chef, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: Remembering the Great War, Sep 18
- The Complete History of the BBC – Abridged, Spread Eagle, Sep 19-20
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Sep 20
- South Croydon business breakfast, Sep 20
- Open House London weekend, Sep 20-21
- David Lean Cinema: A Night At The Cinema in 1914, Sep 22
- Activity to Work back-to-work workshops, Sep 23
- David Lean Cinema: Jimmy’s Hall, Sep 25
- Streatham Common 6M race, Sep 27
- Fancy dress family funday, Sep 28
- Ukrainian choir concert, St John’s Shirley, Sep 29
- Tree Sides, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 2-4
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 407,847 page views (Jan-Jun 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 firstname.lastname@example.org