Our council officials’ inconsistent approach to aspects of enforcement of some local rules and laws continue to baffle the public.The difference in approach has been highlighted through a complaint by one of our local MPs over the over-zealous removal and destruction of banners promoting nothing more sinister than a primary school fair and the Purley Festival. The banners had been paid for, were readily removable and caused no damage.
Yet elsewhere, a well-funded political campaign which plastered public property with illegal posters and stickers, and which all had to be removed at public expense, has been allowed to pass without any penalty – even though the council had the address of at least one perpetrator.
At last week’s council meeting, Councillor Mark Watson provided this written answer to a question about the SayNoto20 campaign’s stickers and posters: “Officers have made enquiries regarding the fly-posting of SayNo20mph materials. The identity of the person or organisation responsible for the fly-posting is not clear and there has been no admission of guilt by any one person. As the council is unable to prove who actually put them up, the evidential basis for enforcement action, including prosecution or seeking the costs of removal, is not straightforward. The council is unable to enforce purely based on links and assumptions.”All of which seems quite reasonable. Until you realise that the leaflets and stickers all helpfully included a contact address…
Watson’s answer continued: “A warning regarding fly-posting has nevertheless been sent to the contact address listed on the SayNo20mph materials as being involved and the materials were removed. No further materials were put up after that point to our knowledge. No reply was forthcoming from the contact address.
“The council is unable at this point in time to take any more action. Our response has been measured and, insofar as the fly-posting appears to have occurred only on those lamp columns where the council’s own scheme notices were displayed, is considered proportionate.”
Or translated into plain English: we removed ’em, we warned ’em, and we’re not going to do any more.
Most of the SayNoto20 literature distributed in the northern part of the borough during the consultation period included this small print: “This leaflet is published by the Alliance of British Drivers, 20 Ladbrook Road, South Norwood SE25 6QD”.
Of course, Croydon’s most notorious member of ABD is Peter Morgan, an individual so obnoxious, even UKIP kicked him out of its local party.
It was Morgan, a man of multiple aliases, who in his own name protested publicly at the removal of the SayNoto20 campaign stickers, describing council officials as “stormtroopers”.
But Morgan doesn’t live in South Norwood, part of the area subject to the 20mph trial. He lives in Coulsdon. Registered as resident at the Ladbrook Road address is one Shabhir Ismail. It has been suggested that Ismail may have known Morgan through UKIP, and that he was talked into letting his address be used by Morgan while he was mourning his recently deceased mother. Yes, there are no depths to which Morgan won’t sink.
It may well be that council officials, faced with the circumstances of Ismail’s recent bereavement and realising that he was no more than a front for Morgan, opted to take no further action.
Which would seem a reasonable thing to do.
But that cannot be said of the recent disappearance of the banners – each costing around £100 – that promoted the Purley Festival and the Chipstead Valley Primary School Fair.
The banners had been paid for by local businesses, who thus managed to get a bit of advertising and positive PR out of the association. The banners were not permanently fixed, but simply tied to park or school railings. Yet banners for both events were removed by officials and – to add insult to the injury – destroyed.At least three banners were removed for the week-long event in and around the council-run Rotary Field, which began on June 29. Attending the Festival opening was the leader of Croydon Council, Labour councillor Tony Newman.
Fiona Lipscombe, the director of the Purley Festival, made a plea at the opening for information about the disappearing banners. “One of the attendees reported that they had seen council enforcement officers taking them down in Purley town centre,” Lipscombe has said.
“I deliberately left the two remaining ones up to see what would happen and they were taken down, too, in a couple of days after the Festival.
“It is really frustrating and disappointing for everyone who volunteers at Purley Festival to see that the Ambition Festival, commercial companies, fun fair and computer sales signage have been left up for weeks whilst ours were taken down within 24 hours. All Festival funding is raised privately and visual marketing plays a huge part in this and local residents have remarked on the lack of advertising in the town centre. Having Council support for the Festival is crucial to its success,” Lipscombe said.
Her sentiments have been echoed by Chris Knowles, of Park and Bailey estate agency, which had its sponsored banners for a Coulsdon school fete summarily removed, without notice or consultation.
“A member of the PTA has spoken to the council to see if they knew anything about it,” Knowles said in a letter to Croydon South MP, Chris Philp. “She was told in no uncertain terms that they had been removed and destroyed.
“I find it completely unacceptable that a local, independent business, and a local primary school, who are trying to work together, are having barriers placed in front of us by the council. These banners cost us £90 for each one, and it now places uncertainty over whether we can continue to sponsor these events, as costs rise due to the council’s part in this. I completely understand that there may have been an issue over where they were positioned, but I would have expected a call out of courtesy, requesting that we re-site them, rather than the hard-line stance that the council took.”
Today, Philp told Inside Croydon: “It is outrageous that over-zealous council officials have taken down banners promoting local community events – especially as in one case (Purley Festival) the council leader was actually at the opening. We should be encouraging and supporting community events like these.
“At the very least, the council should have contacted the organisers and given them the chance to re-site them if they were in a poor position.”
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