Tonight at the Town Hall sees the annual meeting of an organisation calling itself CCC, a body which in the past year has been operating with £5,000 in public money received from Croydon Council.
What do the initials CCC stand for, and why does it receive such generous public funding?
Well, they claim CCC are the initials of Croydon Communities [sic] Consortium (note the absence of the possessive apostrophe). Given the developments with the organisation over the past 12 months, CCC appears more likely to stand for Chaos, Crisis and Confrontation.
For a largely unaccountable and irrelevant talking shop, CCC, under the chairmanship of Sanderstead housewife Elizabeth Ash, has left a trail of discontent and dispute.
“They are like a bunch of net curtain-twitchers,” said one disenchanted attendee of a previous CCC meeting, “Hyacinth Bucket-types from the south of the borough who clearly like the sound of their own voice too much, or who enjoy patronising other neighbourhoods and communities.
“They will never achieve any real impact. So you have to ask why the Tory council gave them any money at all.”
At least two of the CCC committee appointed a year ago resigned because they could no longer work with the chair’s autocratic style. In the last couple of months, at the demand of Croydon Council’s CEO, Nathan Elvery, CCC’s deputy chairman was investigated by the police and forced to resign from the organisation after sending a controversial anti-Muslim tweet.
Under the terms of its grant from Croydon Council, CCC is supposed to be “apolitical”.
Yet CCC’s committee includes a UKIP parliamentary candidate and last month co-opted one of the Conservatives’ failed local election candidates.
And before those Town Hall elections in May, Ash agreed to chair a series of hustings which were organised by another UKIP activist – whose party allegiance was never declared in advance.
CCC’s grant-funded status for 2014-2015 may also be under threat because it failed to fulfil another condition in its agreement with the council, to stage 20 public meetings in the year. But with more than £4,000 sitting in the body’s bank account, those who have attended its meetings might wonder why it has received any council funds at all.
To top off all that, Ash and CCC have to appear in court next month in a dispute over the non-payment of a hire fee for a community-run hall in Shirley for two meetings.
Ahead of tonight’s AGM, Ash has not published any nominations for the committee for the coming year, but her appeal for volunteers to come forward to fill key positions in her organisation creates a long list.
CCC is in need of:
- a secretary
- a minutes secretary
- a treasurer (the current one is the partner of the membership secretary)
- a membership secretary (currently the partner of the treasurer)
- “…anyone with skills in social media…” (this would appear to rule out Clive “I’m not Islamophobic” Locke)
- someone with database skills
- someone else “to maintain existing lists of contacts… would be extremely useful to further our work” (whatever that work may be); and…
- someone to oversee events, who can check, book and liaise with venues
In fact, it would seem that the only position that is not vacant at tonight’s AGM is that of CCC chair, although with all those other tasks neatly packaged out, it is a wonder that they have a need for anyone else.
Such a wholesale change of CCC personnel after just one year does not suggest a healthy organisation.
But the deeper, more sinister, side to CCC’s conduct emerged in August, when Clive Locke – using his anonymously titled @Drakeknight Twitter account – re-tweeted a controversial, anti-Muslim message.
Alongside the words, “Tick-tock”, the image on Locke’s timeline stated, “It’s not immigration. It’s not asylum seeking. It’s an INVASION”.
Locke has protested his innocence since.
“You’ve caught me out. I don’t know what to say. There’s no malice in this whatsoever,” he told the Sadvertiser. “I will look back on what I tweeted. I’m not sure how that’s come about.
“There’s no way I am Islamophobic.”
The key thing here, though, is the refusal to accept responsibility by Locke, or his CCC colleagues, and their slowness to act. Even if it was an inadvertent tweet, later deleted, given the various communities and community issues in the borough, Locke needed to be removed from his position, if only for an act of crass incompetence.
However, there were other tweets on Locke’s account, since deleted, which may suggest that the infamous “Tick-tock” tweet was anything but an accident.
It was two months before Locke and his CCC colleagues finally did what they ought to have done immediately.
And even then, Ash tried to portray herself, and CCC, as some kind of victims in the matter.
Complaining that she and Locke were suffering “harassment”, on October 16, Ash published on the CCC website a rambling justification. “CCC have worked … to look at the evidence available, but our efforts have been severely hindered as information requested from a Councillor, a council officer and the Chief Executive is still not forthcoming,” Ash wrote.
To most rational people, the only information required in such a situation would be Locke’s Twitter feed, and a simple, one-word answer from the deputy chairman to the question: “Did you send this?”
But in the Hyacinth Bucket, self-important world of Ash, nothing is ever that straightforward.
She continued (as she so often does): “What we have been able to ascertain though is the shock expressed by all hearing of the allegation, and the solid and widespread support for Clive, from all across the diverse communities in Croydon. These groups and individuals have attest ed to Clive’s unblemished character…
“Conscious of the potential tensions stirred up, arising from the unsatisfactory way this allegation has been handled and communicated… CCC … [is] working with others to calm the situation.”
But what action did Ash and her CCC actually take?
Nothing, until they received an ultimatum from the people who fund the talking shop, Croydon Council.
“The Council notified CCC on the evening of 13 October that we have until Friday 17 October to insist on Clive’s resignation or they will withdraw all funding and any support or engagement with CCC. In the absence of the information requested from the council to allow us to investigate the matter in order to make an informed decision, this places the CCC committee in an impossible position.”
Errr, no. Clive Locke, CCC’s UKIP-supporting deputy chairman, put CCC in an impossible position when he pressed the send button on that infamous tweet. But hey, that’s a mere detail.
Ash goes on (and on, and on….): “Despite putting this to the Council they remain firm. Clive has therefore decided that in order to secure the ongoing work of CCC he has no option but to resign his post on committee. Clive, however, wished to make clear that he categorically refutes the allegation made against him.”
It will be interesting, therefore, whether Locke makes a rapid return to the CCC committee at its annual meeting tonight.
Given his strong support for Nigel Farage and UKIP, as expressed in his anti-immigration tweets, Locke may have some backing within CCC not only from Ash, but also from Peter Staveley, the UKIP candidate for the Croydon Central parliamentary constituency who is on the CCC committee, and keen CCC participant, Peter Morgan.
Morgan’s disposition towards UKIP may be a little less fond since last week, though.
Morgan was suspended from UKIP membership after he failed to provide his local party with access codes for more than 80 – yes, 80 – different Twitter accounts which purport to be official UKIP accounts in Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Surrey, and which Morgan has been using to propagate his own take on Farage-ism.
It is Morgan who was also a paid-up member of the Croydon Conservatives, but who forgot to tell them he was a member of UKIP. And it was Morgan who organised the local election hustings with Ash as the meeting chair. Morgan’s current membership status with Croydon Tories is uncertain.
He would seem to be perfect CCC committee material, though.
Whether Locke’s resignation will allow CCC to hang on to the thousands of pounds of public money given to them by Croydon Council, or see them qualify for a further grant, time will tell.
But it might just be that Ash has alienated herself, and CCC, towards Croydon Council indefinitely.
Inside Croydon has seen the content of an email from a despairing senior council employee working in the chief executive’s office in Fisher’s Folly: “I have truly tried to respond to all Elizabeth’s requests but have been extremely upset by her accusatory attitude towards me. It is now affecting my ability at work which is why I have asked her to only send emails to my personal email address. I dread receiving another message.”
And it is fair to assume that Ash and her organisation won’t be staging any of their events at the Shirley Community Centre any time soon. In possibly one of the most ludicrously petty of disputes, Ash has refused to pay the hire charge raised against CCC for using the community centre. The amount outstanding totals less than £85. The secretary of the trust which runs the community centre happens to be Marzia Nicodemi, the former secretary of CCC who walked out on that organisation after less than a month in office.
The case is due before a judge at Croydon’s small claims court in early December.
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema, Wakolda, Nov 27
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- St Peter’s Primary School Christmas Fair, Nov 29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- St Andrew’s churchyard gardening session, 10am, Dec 6
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Croydon Philharmonic Handel’s Messiah, Fairfield Halls, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- Mayor of Croydon’s charity Christmas dinner, Dec 12
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- Concert of Christmas music, St Luke’s, Woodside, Dec 13
- Friends of the Earth Green Beanfeast, Dec 15 (book by Dec 1)
- Croydon Philharmonic Christmas concert, St Matthew’s, Dec 16
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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