‘Agitators’ to ask CCC: ‘Where’s the council money gone?’

The Croydon Communities Consortium holds its annual meeting on Thursday evening, just eight months since the council-funded body staged its previous AGM.

It is doing so after refusing to make audited accounts available ahead of the event, and with its chairwoman, Elizabeth Ash, who has put herself in charge of the elections, accused of changing the rules to try to block people from attending, or voting.

Elizabeth Ash: changed meeting rules after receiving nominations to challenge her position as CCC chair

Elizabeth Ash: changed meeting rules after receiving nominations to challenge her position as CCC chair

While CCC’s publicity had previously stated “everyone welcome” to the meeting, Ash’s attitude has been of ill-disguised hostility since it emerged on Friday that her position is to be challenged.

Three rival candidates – or “agitators”, as Ash calls any Croydon residents who dare to question her autocratic stance – have put themselves forward to stand for key posts in the organisation over worries about how a public organisation, funded by the local council, should have seen trades unions expressing concern about the manner in which CCC stages its meetings, and the borough’s police commander decide that his officers should not attend CCC meetings.

In 2013, CCC received a grant of £5,000 from the council, on condition that it should stage at least 20 public meetings in a year, and that it should be apolitical. In the 2014 calendar year CCC, with Ash now at its helm, struggled to stage a dozen public events, but managed to appoint to its committee at least two active members of UKIP, including one who was his party’s General Election candidate in Croydon Central.

CCC also handed the important responsibility for staging election hustings meetings to Peter Morgan, whose “disruptive conduct” has seen him recently kicked out of membership of the Tory Party and UKIP. Yes. And UKIP. Think on that.

In December 2014, after the end of the one-year term of the grant, Croydon Council sent a demand to CCC for the refund of unspent grant funds, as was revealed through a Freedom of Information request: “The Council has asked the Croydon Communities Consortium for the return of any unspent funds as at 22 December 2014.”

This response was confirmed in an answer provided in public at a Town Hall council meeting in April by cabinet member Mark Watson.

According to CCC’s own accounts, as approved at its AGM in November 2014, it had £3,937.69 of the council money left.

Controversially, after nearly eight months, Ash and her cabal of chums have refused to comply with the council’s request to return the public money, trying to pretend it had never happened.

Glen Hart: looking for fairer fares for Croydon commuters

Glen Hart: seeking election at CCC meeting

Ash, from Sanderstead, adopted a similar Ostrich position last year when her CCC colleague, Clive Locke, was discovered sending racist messages from an anonymous Twitter account – hardly the sort of conduct to be expected from a senior official from a publicly funded organisation.

Even after Locke admitted that he was responsible for using social media to publish Islamophobic images and other messages supporting UKIP, Ash and her CCC committee opted to take no action to distance the organisation from Locke to salvage its reputation within the borough’s diverse communities.

No lessons appear to have been learned by that experience. Ash and her committee have gone ahead with staging their 2015 annual meeting in mid-July, despite knowing it is in the middle of Ramadan, when Croydon Muslims are observing a fast, and so find it difficult to attend public events.

A lack of properly audited accounts available ahead of the meeting also ought to be of concern to Croydon Council, and Council Tax-payers. Last year, CCC’s acccounts, although somewhat lacking in detail, were presented after a financial year which ended in March.

What has CCC done with the council's grant funds?

What has CCC done with the council’s grant funds?

It would be reasonable to expect CCC’s 2014-2015 financial year to have ended in March, and for the accounts for that 12-month period to have been signed off and independently verified in good time for this week’s meeting.

Yet when Ash was asked for the latest set of accounts ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, she refused. Ash said, “I cannot provide you with a copy of the accounts as we are still awaiting information from the council which may alter the detail, but accounts will be presented to all on the night.”

Ash, who is nominated for re-election as chairwoman, just happens to be overseeing the conduct of the elections herself. Despite this irregularity, she has refused to provide proof of the timing of when the nominations from all candidates were submitted.

Certainly, once she received the nominations of challengers, Ash sought to change some of the arrangements for the meeting, trying to insist that residents wishing to attend and vote now needed to register online by noon yesterday – a requirement which had not existed previously.

Mark Johnson, a current CCC committee member and a failed Conservative Party candidate in last year’s local elections, was reported to be lobbying his party colleagues over the weekend to attend tomorrow’s meeting. An astroturfing website formed by supporters of Tory MP Gavin Barwell has also carried supportive coverage of CCC, with a wildly inaccurate article which tries to deny that there has been anything amiss with CCC, denying that the council has requested the refund of the grant, and claiming that Ash has in some way suffered terrible personal attacks.

Peter Staveley: UKIP's candidate in Croydon Central could have a key role in the election outcome

UKIP’s Peter Staveley: missing out on an election he might have actually won

Today, CCC closed its pre-event registration process, posting a “Sold Out” sign, perhaps to deter any other undesirables, or “agitators”, from daring to attend what Ash may have anticipated would have been her latest coronation.

The trio standing against Ash’s CCC nominees are charity worker Austen Cooper, who is seeking election as chair, Bushra Ahmed, an activist for compensation for those who lost their homes or businesses in the 2011 Croydon riots, and Glen Hart, a Thornton Heath-based union official.

Last year, Ash nominated Peter Staveley to be her deputy. Staveley is well-known as Croydon’s senior UKIP official. He stood as the UKIP candidate in Croydon Central at the General Election last May, and last year had been a candidate for his party in the local elections. So much for “apolitical”.

Notably, Staveley is not on the ballot for CCC in 2015.

However, Coulsdon resident Janet Stollery, who was an active UKIP member until recently, and her partner, Roger Clark, are both again seeking office within CCC. According to Staveley, Stollery resigned her UKIP membership to him … when they were both at a CCC meeting held earlier this year.

Today, Cooper told Inside Croydon, “I’m not expecting victory – I see it as an opportunity to ask pointed questions and hopefully the return of the money to the council with an explanation of what it’s all been spent on.”

The CCC “everyone welcome” annual meeting is being held on July 16 at St Michael’s and All Angels Church, Poplar Walk, West Croydon, due to start at 7.30pm.

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 Church and religions, Community associations, Croydon Council, Mark Watson, Peter Staveley, Sanderstead and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to ‘Agitators’ to ask CCC: ‘Where’s the council money gone?’

  1. Funding should be stopped to all such groups so that tax payers can save some money or the council can balance the books (.92 mln overspend in first year).

    If people want to do charity let them do it with their own money and not at the expense of the tax payer. This message is for the government as well.

  2. mraemiller says:

    “Ash and her committee have gone ahead with staging their 2015 annual meeting in mid-July, despite knowing it is in the middle of Ramadan, when Croydon Muslims are observing a fast, and so find it difficult to attend public events.”

    We are not an Islamic country so I have no idea why meetings should be scheduled around people’s strange desires to starve themselves because they think God told them to do it. Even in Islamic countries although there may be less meetings in this period particularly in the afternoons / early evenings they do not stop all politics for a whole month simply because people are fasting and with Sunrise at 5 AM and Sunset time around 9 PM at the moment even if you wanted to be culturally sensitive it’s very hard to think of a time that wouldn’t be awkard. Possibly early in the morning or afternoon but why should a majority roll out of bed early simply because a minority are deluded that not eating is what God wants them to do? Besides which there are all kinds of events that run through Ramadan promoted by Muslims themselves. Next week I suppose you’ll be ticking them off for timing a meeting on a Holy Day of Obligation when many Catholics find it hard to attend … or perhaps…

    I mean really how cynical that is. Using Islam as a political football isn’t really very respectful to it?
    I mean if the CCC laid out a sumptuous banquet during Ramadan that might be in poor taste but come on … I see no reason why people fasting can’t attend. It is only the difference between being hungry and being bored and hungry?

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