Bishop needs to end Foundation links to build real trust

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Following this week’s appointment of a Whitgift Foundation board-member to chair the Fairness Commission, local activist CHARLOTTE DAVIES says it is long overdue for Croydon to cut some of the public school ties that bind

The Whitgift-dominated Establishment dominates life in Croydon

The Whitgift-dominated Establishment oversees much of Croydon’s governance

After the Croydon riots in 2011, the Hon William Barnett QC MA popped up to chair the inquiry into the causes of the disturbances. Now we have The Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon, chairing the “Opportunity and Fairness Commission”.

Both of these illustrious men can be found on the Board of Trustees of the Whitgift Foundation.

We have nationally just seen considerable debate over the chairing of the child abuse inquiry appointment, as the victims have rejected and distrusted well-connected Establishment figures. This country is one of the most socially and economically polarised societies in Europe – we have to find ways of moving on from an Establishment that is so narrow that it cannot effectively check and monitor its own behaviour.

The Whitgift Foundation is a significant part of the problem in the London Borough of Croydon. It is the major landowner, yet its portfolio includes tatty, unoccupied properties, many of which have blighted our High Street for years.

It is the richest school group, yet it invests next to nothing in educational research or in real community outreach programmes that are anything other than thinly veiled pieces of marketing, or rugby team empire-building.

Too many of our elected councillors are directly involved in the Board of the Foundation or have close relatives on the Board. The MP for Croydon Central, Gavin Barwell, is also closely connected to the Foundation.

In no way do I doubt the integrity of Bishop Clark, but if he wants to chair the Opportunity and Fairness Commission he needs to step down from the Whitgift Foundation.

When I meet with residents from across Croydon, they all seem to share the same frustrations with planning, with transparency of information, the quality of schools, with waste management, and on and on and on…

There is huge distrust across the borough for the connections between a small group of key stakeholders who all seem to look after each others interests and exclude anyone who attempts to seek transparent, critical assessment and judgement.

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