UKIP figures behind council-funded ‘apolitical’ talking shop

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.

CCC chairman Elizabeth Ash: or not

CCC chairman Elizabeth Ash: or not

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.

The controversial tweet, sent by CCC's Clive Locke, or @Drakeknight, in August

The controversial re-tweet, sent by CCC’s deputy chairman Clive Locke, or @Drakeknight, in August

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.

image1image2

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.”

Peter Morgan: a member of UKIP, the Tories and CCC

Peter Morgan: a member of UKIP, the Tories and CCC

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


  • 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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Bernard Weatherill House, Broad Green, Community associations, Croydon Council, Nathan Elvery, Peter Staveley, Shirley Community Centre Association and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to UKIP figures behind council-funded ‘apolitical’ talking shop

  1. davidcallam says:

    Surely, council tax payers should ñot be funding this Tory/Ukip pressure group. What is their function in a modern, cosmopolitan Croydon? And if we are short of funds, are this bunch of busy-bodies not a prime candidate for the withdrawal of public money?
    And is this the same Peter Morgan who spent years trying to stop the building of Tramlink on the grounds that it would be south London’s biggest white elephant? All the foresight of Mr Magoo!

    Like

  2. Rod Davies says:

    An interesting article, but it begs the question of why council officers did not examine whether Mrs Ash and Co actually had the skills to run the operation, for surely had they done so they would have looked for managerial skills, data management skills, finance management, etc etc. What they seem to have secured is a body of people who have time on their hands.

    But let’s not overlook that sub-contracting out the organisation of 20 public meetings is very cheap indeed at £5,000 p.a., so cheap that its sub-economic. £5,000 would buy perhaps 1 month of a junior council officers costs to do the same.

    So the Council contracted with something akin to a Banana Republic, with lots of “good” intentions, no resources and led by a dictator (allegedly).

    So what did Mr Elvery & Co expect (yes, he was a Senior Employee of the Council at the time, and the officer who has been quoted anonymously probably had an even closer involvement) that Mrs Ash of Sanderstead would be the “Great Leader” for all our diverse communities?

    And one of the problems with voluntary groups is that they are composed of volunteers, and there are so few of them that “beggars cant be choosers” and anyone gets taken on board.

    Then the silly Mr Locke foolishly retweets an image to someone, and someone passes it to the Council and complains about Islamophobia. Predictably officers suddenly start running around like headless chickens and start acting dictatorially, demanding immediate action.

    But the problems of contracting out to volunteers is that they are not like employees, they don’t have T&Cs of employment etc etc. The problem is also that £5,000 p.a. doesn’t provide much to cover the costs of investigating the allegations properly as the Council would investigate similar allegations against an employee (Well how it theoretically would investigate as we have no data to compare.)

    And what is this appalling Islamophobic image? Well, as far I can see it looks like a self-published images of someone who wishes to be seen as an Islamic extremist gesturing with a large calibre pistol towards his audience, as it looks exactly like the images on TV. The added “tick tock” comment means what? Bomb, passing of time, marching up & down mindlessly? Frankly a storm in a teacup.

    CCC is a good idea in theory, its fundamental flaw is that it depends on good decent people like you & me to step forward and get involved. But we don’t do that sort of thing and we leave it to other people, but of course we expect them to do what we would want. And of course they don’t. And why didn’t you & I step forward at the time? Because you & I are too bloody lazy.

    So at the end of the day we have no one to blame but you & me!

    I don’t like UKIP as a political force and fear that it’s simplistic claptrap is marching us into catastrophe. But I do acknowledge that its members are energetic and getting out there, just as everyone else can do if they wish. Just because their members volunteer to help out, it doesn’t automatically mean they are seeking to subvert everything just because I disagree with them profoundly. If we want to diminish UKIP and Mrs Ash’s influence the answer is to turn up in numbers and volunteer to do all the tedious thankless tasks.

    Like

    • Two points arising, Rod.

      We might give Locke the benefit of the doubt for a mis-Tweet of “Tick-tock”, were it not for other, previous tweets which express similar sympathies for UKIP and their blanket antipathy to immigrants.

      On the UKIP infiltration: the council money was awarded to CCC’s predecessor committee, which was equally as incompetent (in other ways). The Kippers weighed in once the money was secured, and with local and now a General Election approaching. Although we are quite sure that they really weren’t so calculating…

      Like

  3. Duona says:

    Well now I’m relieved, Rod Davies says that tweet/ image was all a “storm in a teacup”. Phew… And here I was thinking it was offensive and Islamaphobic..

    Not to mention it was tweeted anonymously by Clive Locke who was fronting two very diverse community groups.. CCC and the Broad Green business group, BGBF. When he was caught out, Locke first admitted it, then denied it, and then tried to pretend he didn’t know what happened …and needed Columbo (CCC) to investigate…

    Like

    • Rod Davies says:

      I would suggest you are missing the point.

      None of the people involved in CCC are professional local authority officers and they don’t have to pass through a selection process to become involved. If we want these community groups to behave like professional officers then we need to start funding them at an appropriate level.

      Perhaps more worrying it the “leaking” of an email from one senior officer to another withing Croydon Council. Such dialogues should remain confidential. Otherwise a synical person might interpret the “leaking” as a means of presenting a “defence” in the face of criticism over the handling of this incident.

      Like

      • Actually, Rod, you’ve missed the point, and are wide of the mark by a very long way.

        When did it become only an ability of “professional local authority officers” to be able to tell right from wrong?

        Is it only “professional local authority officers” who are able to tell the difference between a highly offensive, racist comment, remark or tweet? Or might anyone with a modicum of decency and common sense be able to make such a distinction?

        The members of CCC are volunteers, largely self-appointed by Ash’s little UKIP-dominated cabal. No one co-erced them to take positions on this body. If they are so keen on taking this platform, they are at liberty to do so, but the moment that they accept public money towards the running of their talking shop, they are subject to the rigour of public scrutiny, and clearly some far higher standards than they would choose to be governed by.

        Like

      • Duona says:

        We didn’t ask for the committee at CCC to be professional officers, just to abide by the very strict codes of conduct which Elizabeth Ash, its chair, has for years badgered other community groups to follow.

        Most community groups have terms of reference or a constitution that state they must operate within the Equality laws.

        If they are caught not doing so, not because of any suspect council process, but by the perpetrator admitting it in a newspaper for all to see, then the council had to take the only appropriate action, which they did.

        Why would the Council need to defend themselves against that, unless you don’t feel he should have been removed for sharing that racist post, not naively but deliberately (when taken in context with him holding UKIP views).

        Many many volunteer organisations are doing amazing things, running professionally raising their own funds.
        CCC is being used as a political vehicle for UKIP, through hustings organised and disguised as community hustings.
        Any money they still have must go back.

        Like

  4. mraemiller says:

    “with more than £4,000 sitting in the body’s bank account”

    I think we’re missing the bigger issues here like… How fungible are these assets and can we find a plausible way to spend this money on beer, wine and basically just one big enormous non-political party on the rates?

    Like

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