It’s beginning to appear as if the Croydon Opportunity and Fairness Commission is not being regarded as much of an opportunity at all.
An email has flooded into Inside Croydon’s inbox this afternoon.
Somewhat impersonally, the email is signed by the faceless Opportunity and Fairness Commission. Didn’t the commission chairman, the Bishop of Croydon, Jonathan Clark, want to put his name to this missive? Has he given up Croydon Council emails for Lent?
The email states that, “We’re writing to let you know that the deadline for Resident Commissioner Nominations has been extended by one week. The new deadline is Friday 27th February”.
No one extends application deadlines when they have received enough entries, or applications of sufficient calibre. So it may be fair to assume that they Fairness Commission is a bit of a hard sell.
“The Commission has extended the deadline for one week to make sure everyone has a chance to join them,” they say. How kind.
What ought to be of grave concern is that the Commission was seeking only four volunteers to become what it grandly titled “Ambassadors for Fairness”. A Katharine Street source tonight was unwilling to confirm or deny that the only applications received were in fact from a Mrs A Piles, of Selsdon, and her dog, Bozo. At least, we think it’s her dog that’s called Bozo.
The Fairness Commission was a flagship manifesto policy from Labour for the local elections last year. With a generous budget of £200,000 (to outsource its admin to a locally based consultancy, The Campaign Company, which is run by David Evans, a former national Labour Party assistant general secretary), the Commission was launched three weeks ago, and nearly six months late.
The delays make it most unlikely that the “apolitical” Commission will be able to deliver its report within a timetable to influence the next council budget, which must have been a key political objective of Labour leader, Tony Newman, to help justify some of the spending cuts that will have to be made.
Formally, the Commission is to try to ensure “that funding decisions are made in ways that advance fairness and reduce inequality”. Croydon’s Tories are suspicious that this is shorthand for steering more council resources to Labour-voting parts of the north of the borough, at the expense of the generally more affluent south. Basically, a reverse of previous Tory council practice. Croydon Conservatives have boycotted the Fairness Commission so far.
At last month’s launch, the appointed commissioners – none of them Tories – were named and the appeal for volunteers to be “resident commissioners” was made. These unpaid volunteers are to be expected to attend two or three meetings or events per month, and those considering the role have also been informed that, whatever the majority Commission decides to report, there is no scope for them to distance themselves from its findings, through some form of a “minority report” process (as is common with such Commissions).
Perhaps that has deterred some of the borough’s great and good from applying.
Today’s development can hardly be great news, and it may add in yet a further delay to the already behind-schedule process, and prompt further questions about the appropriateness – or otherwise – of spending £200,000 on the exercise.
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