Newman rescues food festival with £7,500 of council cash

The next time Croydon’s Labour-run council belly aches about grant cuts from central Government – after all, another 150-or-so council staff are expected to be made redundant in the coming 12 months under Tory “austerity” measures – just remind them of the South End Food Festival.

Council leader Tony Newman: the "saviour" of the South End Food Festival, with £20,000 of tax-payers' money

Council leader Tony Newman: the “saviour” of the South End Food Festival, with £20,000 of tax-payers’ money

Tony Newman, Labour’s council leader, claimed yesterday that, “We absolutely came to the rescue”, of an event which had failed to find a commercial sponsor for 2015. And Croydon Council is coughing up several times more cash than Tesco did when the supermarket sponsored the same event as recently as 2013.

Croydon Council Tax-payers will be paying £7,500 towards the cost of staging the one-day event on June 28, the benefits of which to the wider community are hard to establish, while businesses in and around South End continue to close.

This council’s largesse comes on top of another chunk of public cash, £148,000, which is being paid to the organisers of a one-day cycle racing event staged in the town centre next week, as was exclusively revealed by Inside Croydon.

Austerity? Not at Croydon Town Hall when it comes to bread and circuses, it seems.

The South End Food Festival was first staged in 2012, organised by the South Croydon Business Association together with Grey Label, the favoured PR spinners for the Tories who used to run the council. It is not known how much Grey Label charged in agency fees for their role in the event. Part of their task was to find commercial sponsorship.

In that respect, they were not been very successful. In 2013, Tesco – having just opened their Express store in the former Swan and Sugarloaf pub, to the distress of every other independent shopkeeper in the area – paid just £2,000 for title sponsorship of the main stage at the South Croydon Food Festival. This was just one-third of the amount which Grey Label had budgeted to raise.

Last year, the Food Festival was sponsored by Brakes Food, but they have now closed down their Croydon-based business. A month ago, the organisers were claiming that the “South End Food Festival has two weeks to raise £20,000 in sponsorship or will be cancelled”, and appealed for donations, as if they were some sort of disaster charity.

The South Croydon Business Association is chaired by Linda Arthur, who runs Bar Txt, and the Festival is run by Peter Bagatti, who operates the eponymous restaurant on South End. They claim that the 2014 Festival attracted 11,000 visitors to boost local bars and restaurants, though it is difficult to verify that figure independently.

The many businesses in the area which don’t offer food or all-day drinking have in the past questioned whether Grey Label’s “Restaurant Quarter” rebranding exercise offered any benefit to them or value to the broader community.

The organisers claimed 11,000 attended last year's South End Food Festival. Perhaps they were all in the pub?

The organisers claimed 11,000 attended last year’s South End Food Festival. Perhaps they were all in the pub?

“Everybody in the street is really happy already,” Arthur told a Redhill-based website on the news that the council was using public money to bail-out her organisation’s event. Although when Inside Croydon contacted another local community group, they expressed surprise that the event was going ahead at all.

According to Tony Newman, councillors “weren’t prepared to see the event cancelled”. Yet councillors spoken to by Inside Croydon were unaware of any discussions about the Food Festival whatsoever.

Newman said: “We absolutely came to the rescue. It is a fantastically successful event and everything we want to see about Croydon.”

“Fantastically successful”?

Surely, if that were the case, then commercial sponsors would be fighting among themselves to be associated with it?

And why is Croydon Council paying nearly four times as much to the event as Tesco did just two years ago? Where is the money from this salvage fund going?

Previous enquiries from Inside Croydon to SCBA have been ignored by Arthur. As SCBA is a private body, it is not subject to the scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act – so once they receive the thousands of pounds of public cash, there will be no way of the public scrutinising how it is to be spent.

And now, although Arthur claimed just a few weeks ago that the event needed £20,000, the SCBA chairwoman has her begging bowl out again, claiming that they need a further  £2,500 on top of the council’s bail-out. “The community is very supportive,” she claimed.

But Charlotte Davies, the chair of the South Croydon Community Association which represents residents as well as businesses and other organisations in the area, seemed less enthusiastic. “Is it still going ahead?” she said.

“What would be of greater, longer-term benefit to more people would be if they would just close down the street say every Sunday to build up the area’s trade long-term. That would be a worthwhile investment which would yield a return every week,” Davies said.

MAY 30 UPDATE: We have amended the figure of the council funding, to reflect information from a Town Hall source. It is noteworthy that a Redhill-based website has also altered the figure it is reporting that the council is contributing, from £20,000. We sought a comment from the council press office, but none of its six staff were available today.

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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
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6 Responses to Newman rescues food festival with £7,500 of council cash

  1. Words fail me!
    I can only assume that this is yet another example of elected members, Tony Newman in particular, being led by the nose by ill-informed, unelected council officials. The Americans have an acronym for it, dating from their disastrous intervention in Vietnam :SNAFU.
    As for the gross increase in the ‘budget’ that is surely par for the course with this and other local authorities. Croydon is a particular target as the council that built a headquarters that cost more per square meter than the Shard, or a bog standard swimming pool that cost twice as much as one built for the Whitgift Foundation.
    The only surprise is that the organisers of this pointless event failed to cover their money-grabbing deal with a bogus confidentiality agreement.
    What are we celebrating exactly? Is it the closure of the South Croydon branch of Lloyds Bank? That tells you all you need to know about the local economy and maybe the real reason why the council has been panicked into throwing our money at the problem.

    • According to Tony Newman, tracking down why Fisher’s Folly cost Croydon’s Council Tax-payers £100m more than it ought to would be “a waste of public money”.

      If Labour politicians did headstones, Newman’s ought to have that written on his.

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  3. A complete waste of money when charities such as Rotary are now charged about £170 to fundraise in a local park and they can’t afford to pay it. Croydon Council have their priorities all wrong

  4. Steve Clarke says:

    Sadly leftist councils and governing bodies have no idea on fruglity or budgets. They tend to get over-excited in regards to “worthy causes” and all common sense goes out of the window. Money is splashed around like confetti, and left decomposing on sodden ground.

    I, for one, will be watching the bike race next week from an excellent vantage point whilst sipping Champagne, but I don’t pretend to be anything else… But I will pay my way and I don’t cost the council a penny…

    • Are you suggesting that the lot at the Town Hall is leftist? The lot that’s implementing so many of the previous Conservative council’s policies?


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