When the crunch comes in Croydon over Tory Chancellor Gideon Osborne’s cuts, Council Tax-payers may be less than delighted to find that the £200,000 being spent on the borough’s Opportunity and Fairness Commission is going largely on a contract with a local PR agency, and that they have resorted to dangling a £400 iPad mini and additional prize vouchers to try to get youngsters involved.
The Fairness and Opportunity Commission had its first meeting in January, much later than had been scheduled. Chaired by the Bishop of Croydon, Jonathan Clark, the commission quickly lost one of its hand-picked commissioners, and soon afterwards, it lost the interest of much of the rest of the borough, too.
The commission’s work is being managed largely out of the George Street offices of The Campaign Company, which was founded 14 years ago by David Evans, a former assistant general secretary of the Labour Party. It was Evans who ran the 2001 General Election campaign nationally for Tony Blair. The Campaign Company also had a role in Croydon Labour’s successful 2014 local election campaign.
The Fairness Commission’s next event is a talk tonight by Lord Glassman, the Labour academic who coined the phrase “Blue Labour”. Yep, that’s about as exciting as it gets.The Fairness Commission’s efforts to reach out to Croydon’s youth appears to be equally underwhelming. Inside Croydon received the same press release from The Campaign Company twice in a week at the end of June.
“The young people of Croydon are being given the opportunity to speak out about what they think is unfair about life in Croydon.
“The young [sic] Opportunity and Fairness Commission (YOFC) have [sic] developed a competition for 11 – 24 year olds [sic] living or studying in Croydon, named ‘Share What’s Unfair’, running until the 31st of July.
“‘Share what’s [sic] Unfair’ is a social media based [sic] competition. The young people are being asked to tweet, Instagram or Facebook [sic] a picture of what they find unfair, using the hash tag, #CROunfair. The winner will receive an iPad mini, while gift vouchers will be given to those in second and third place [sic].
“The aim of the competition is for the YOFC to gain insight into what young people find unfair for the young people of Croydon, in order to help develop proposals for the Commissioners of the Croydon Opportunity and Fairness Commission to take into account.
“To enter the competition you can tweet your picture to @OppCroydon, join the ‘Opportunity Croydon’ Facebook page and share the photo or follow @oppcroydon on Instagram, and tag them in your photos with the hash tag, #CROunfair. Terms and conditions can also be found on the Facebook and Instagram pages.”
Of course, the “Young Opportunity and Fairness Commission” might have discovered what Croydon teenagers believe to be unfair by organising visits to the PSHE lessons of Year 11 classes at, say, half a dozen of the borough’s state schools, or maybe even a couple of weekend sessions staged in one or two of the borough’s libraries, and doing something regarded as “old-fashioned”: asking people for their opinions.
That approach might not be open to accusations of being superficial, or patronising.
But maybe getting the council to pay for an iPad mini to be handed out is cheaper. It certainly seems lazier.
The method adopted by The Campaign Company for this particular campaign with Croydon’s youth doesn’t appear to be getting much “traction”, as the PR flaks might put it.
A quick cast around social media this morning found little evidence of engagement on the Commission’s Facebook page, or using the prescribed hashtag. Indeed, over the past fortnight, the only activity appears to come from whoever it is who has been managing the Commission’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, or from the youth-orientated website which is run by the same person who drafted the press release.
We found just one photograph tagged with #CROunfair, and that appears to have been lifted from a Canadian Salvation Army website.
There is, of course, an alternative explanation other than apathy among Croydon’s youth towards this uninspiring “social media-based competition”. Maybe the Croydon Glee Club has been right all along, and there’s nothing unfair about Croydon whatsoever.
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