Council CEO: ‘Time for debate is over. Give us our cash back’

The borough’s elected councillors were advised not to attend the annual meeting of the Croydon Communities [sic] Consortium last month because of a possible legal dispute for the recovery of thousands of pounds of public money.

CCC chairwoman Elizabeth Ash, with someone who is not a member of CCC

CCC chairwoman Elizabeth Ash, with someone who is not a member of CCC

The CCC has been dubbed the Croham Clux Clan by Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader because of the high proportion of current and former UKIP members who enjoy the company at its meetings.

CCC staged its annual meeting more than a month ago, but it has yet to publish its minutes, and its new secretary – who until recently was a paid-up member of UKIP – has failed to circulate to all attendees her version of the meeting.

On the night of the meeting, the CCC chairwoman, Elizabeth Ash, refused to allow the meeting to be recorded independently.

Now, Nathan Elvery, the chief executive of Croydon Council, has told Inside Croydon that he will publish all documentation relating to the disputed CCC grant once the public cash has been recovered from the organisation or its officers. Elvery has directly contradicted one of the public claims made at the CCC annual meeting by Ash, who said she has a two-year contract from the council. Ash has so far failed to make any such document public.

Despite various notices claiming that “all are welcome” to the CCC event, several residents have complained to Inside Croydon that they were refused admission to the annual meeting, even though the church hall venue in West Croydon was far from full. Others, some of whom arrived with their “tickets” printed on the back of paperwork carrying official UKIP letter heading, were welcomed into the meeting.

The business of the meeting was far from well-organised: Ash and some of her committee spent more than an hour reading from a script which was full of serious errors of fact and which largely comprised self-justification. They offered nothing by way of an account of what she and her committee had actually done in the previous year. 

Efforts were made on the night by the CCC committee to compare their organisation to a charity, something which it is not. “The constitution we adopted was taken from the Charity Commission,” claimed Ash, who has a great facility for speaking A-grade bullshit (check the pro forma constitutions offered by the Charity Commission and compare it to the document Ash claims that CCC works to).

Charlotte Davies, the chair of the South Croydon Community Association, had told Inside Croydon on the day of the meeting that because of her concerns about the dysfunctional nature of CCC’s relationship with some of Croydon’s black and ethnic minority communities, she intended to suggest from the floor that the organisation should be wound up. “CCC is not fit for purpose,” Davies told Inside Croydon.

Elizabeth Ash, as seen from towards the back of a not very full hall, struggling with her paperwork as she presides over the meeting

Elizabeth Ash, as seen from towards the back of a not very full hall, struggled with her paperwork as she presided over the disjointed meeting

At the meeting few hours later, Davies – who is the chair of governors of a Thornton Heath free school – stepped forward to help conduct the business of the meeting, a move which had all the appearance of something that had been pre-arranged.

Three candidates who dared to challenge Ash and her cabal for election were subjected to a star chamber questioning, with that notorious local agitator Peter Morgan – someone who even UKIP has expelled from its membership –  given the floor as chief inquisitor.

That the CCC committee’s candidacies were fixed only after Ash had received other nominations was made clear when Stollery blurted out, with ill-disguised venom: “I’m only standing for secretary because I don’t like that man,” referring to the alternative candidate, the absent Glen Hart.

While Morgan grew more red-faced and accusatory in his questioning of two other candidates, Austen Cooper and Bushra Ahmed, Ash was allowed to prowl behind the challengers, all the time gurning her disapproval. Ash, Stollery and Mahbub Sadiq Bhatti (as vice-chair) were duly elected.

Ash forgot to hold any vote, even by show of hands as would normally be expected, to re-elect Roger Clark (Stollery’s partner) as treasurer or Mark Johnson as CCC’s sole committee member.

Earlier, Ash even attempted to skip an entire agenda item – the accounts – until she was reminded by those in the audience of her duty to report this. It then transpired that the accounts had not been independently audited, as might be expected of any body in receipt of public funds.

“We don’t need to audit them,” she misinformed the meeting with what seemed more than a touch of arrogance, and departing from her previous claims of conducting the body like a charity.

One month on from the CCC meeting and Ash and her committee are yet to publish their unaudited accounts. It is almost as if they have something to hide.

Inside Croydon is delighted to perform that public service here:

CCC 2015 AGM Accounts

CCC received notification from Croydon Council in December 2014 that they would need to refund any unspent money from a £5,000 grant which was provided to the organisation in 2013. That grant was made on condition that CCC should be apolitical and that it should stage a set number of meetings per year. CCC struggled to fulfil the latter condition, and having appointed a UKIP election candidate Peter Staveley as its vice-chair in November 2014, there would not seem to be much of an argument about it failing on the former, either.

Ash did not offer any explanation for why she and her committee, over the course of nearly two years, have failed to raise any other significant funding, even though they had undertaken to do so as part of the original council grant application.

Ash used “agitation” as her excuse for her committee’s failure to conduct its business, though she was adamant that she would not be repaying the public money as demanded by the council because she had a letter which stated that the grant was for a two-year term.

“I have the signed contract that says it’s a two-year contract,” Ash told the 60-or-so people in the room.

“Do you really think if the council wanted us to stage just five to eight meetings we’d be scrabbling around in places like this? We’d be staging our meetings at the Hilton,” Ash said. Somewhat revealingly.

Nathan Elvery: the council CEO, lacking in front line experience

Nathan Elvery: determined to secure the refund of the council grant

It was suggested from the floor that if Ash really did have a document from the council stating that the grant was for a two-year term, then she could publish it and end all the uncertainty.

Taken aback at this commonsense suggestion of openness and transparency, Ash indicated that this was not something she wanted to do. We can’t think why.

Certainly, Nathan Elvery, Croydon Council’s chief executive, is very clear that the CCC grant was only for a one-year period and that the money needs to be repaid.

Elvery contradicted Ash’s version of events when he told Inside Croydon: “The basis of the council’s funding to the CCC was for a one-year programme of work and this has been explained to Ms Ash on numerous occasions.”

Elvery also denied that the action had been taken, as Ash has tried to suggest, as some form of retribution against CCC because of the racist activity on Twitter of it former vice-chair, Clive Locke.

“While it appears Ms Ash is intent in her belief of some form detrimental consequences being imposed on CCC as a result of Mr Locke’s tweeting activity, this is a complete misinterpretation of the position. Some things are simply what they are ie that grant funding is only available for the one year.

“The basis of CCC’s funding from the council is the original application made in 2011… The amount the council is now seeking to be returned from the CCC is £2,223.”

The amount of refund  being sought is based on CCC’s own financial figures which were provided in January this year. Far be it for us to suggest that CCC cannot be trusted with public money, but since their accounts have not been independently audited, and given that CCC presented a set of accounts last November that showed that more than £4,000 of the original grant remained, then this does raise questions as to how Ash and her committee have managed to spend nearly £2,000 in a just couple of months when they had little, if any, meeting activity.

“The council has made it clear that it will not continue in a protracted debate with the CCC,” Elvery said. “Until the CCC pays the outstanding invoice of £2,223 the council will not provide any support for the organisation, including the free use of council-owned buildings and any indirect support previously available.”

According to another senior Town Hall source, this is the basis of advice passed on to all Croydon’s Labour councillors, who gave the CCC annual meeting a wide berth last month. In fact, only one councillor, Purley ward Tory Simon Brew, bothered to turn up for the non-event. Brew addressed the meeting and expressed himself delighted to be there.

Elvery agrees with Inside Croydon that, if Ash really does have a document which shows that her organisation has a two-year grant term, then she ought to publish it. Because that’s what he intends to do, once the matter has been resolved with the refund of the public cash.

“I share the desire to enable our communities to have access to this agreement themselves,” Elvery said. “However given the current and on-going position with the CCC I will first need to ensure this does not compromise our ability to enforce the outstanding sums due to the council on behalf of our communities.

“Once I am satisfied of this point I will seek to publish the appropriate documentation.”

 

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
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17 Responses to Council CEO: ‘Time for debate is over. Give us our cash back’

  1. Nick Davies says:

    Does anyone know what ‘restricted’ and ‘unrestricted’ means in some of the columns in the accounts? In May 2014 £6.22 went on restricted refreshments but an alarming £8.56 on unrestricted ones. I can only imagine the milk monitor had the day off and everyone helped themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s their way of distinguishing between spending public money (“restricted”) and whatever other funds they’ve raised.

      Did we mention that Elizabeth Bucket took special time out to mention at her AGM your description of the Croham Clux Clan?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Duona says:

    Why did Charlotte Davies say one thing before the meeting then go back on it at the AGM meeting?

    She thinks CCC isn’t fit for purpose for the reasons stated, exactly the same concerns that those labelled “agitators and trolls” have, only they had the guts to voice those concerns openly.

    Sean Creighton has had badly written and tedious articles published in support of CCC and why it is vital that it continues to be supported, and was happy to let Peter Morgan play a lead role alongside himself at the CCC AGM.

    Creighton’s side-kick, Tom Black, has made extraordinary one-sided personal attacks on the “agitators”, with no attempt at fairness or balance by presenting the other point of view.

    Is Charlotte Davies also a “vicious troll” in Black’s book?

    Let’s see if any of these people have the decency to admit they were wrong, apologise to those they maligned, pull the plug on this dysfunctional community group and give the money back to the Council.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Rod Davies says:

    Frankly the sum of £5,000 is small in the general scheme of things and probably far less than it has cost to date for the Council to chase.
    If people want to see CCC come to an end then the simple and cheapest expedient is to ignore it, and suspend any further in payments to them.
    If the management of CCC is wholly inadequate and not up to the task in hand, then perhaps we should be asking of the Council what steps it took to assess CCC’s management prior to awarding them with the £5,000. We also should be demanding that the Council sets in place measures to ensure that similar events do not happen in the future.
    Yet, even if the above is achieved there remains the lingering question. If you and we are so concerned about the nature of CCC and its management; then where were you and we and why didn’t you and we step forward and get involved to ensure that CCC was representative and well managed. Or is the truth that piously we demand the right to criticise, yet are wholly unwilling to do anything constructed and possibly worse still elect to use the opportunities that this mess has created to act out our own agendas, regardless of the actual interests of the communities we like to claim to speak for.

    Like

    • >>>
      Frankly the sum of £5,000 is small in the general scheme of things and probably far less than it has cost to date for the Council to chase.
      <<>>
      If people want to see CCC come to an end then the simple and cheapest expedient is to ignore it, and suspend any further in payments to them.
      <<>>
      If the management of CCC is wholly inadequate and not up to the task in hand, then perhaps we should be asking of the Council what steps it took to assess CCC’s management prior to awarding them with the £5,000. We also should be demanding that the Council sets in place measures to ensure that similar events do not happen in the future.
      <<>>
      Why didn’t you and we step forward and get involved to ensure that CCC was representative and well managed?
      <<<

      Actually, that's exactly what Inside Croydon has been doing by reporting the nonsense that is CCC.

      What have you, or Charlotte Davies, done?

      Charlotte Davies has been railing about the mess of CCC, and the controversy created by the racist and Islamophobic public comments of one of CCC's officials, and repeatedly said that the organisation is dysfunctional.

      Yet come the hour, when she said she would move that CCC should be shut down, what did she do? Why, she volunteered to help maintain the status quo of a small cabal of people who have amply shown their inability to organise anything adequately, without any proper financial scrutiny, and withhold public money to which they are entitled.

      Is that proper, responsible behaviour from someone who is the chair of a local free school?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nick Davies says:

        Sometimes the people you least expect say the oddest of things.

        Pub quiz question (no cheating on Google) – which troll or agitator said “Well, I have no intention of attending any meetings chaired by Elizabeth Ash?”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Rod Davies says:

        I have attended CCC meetings when they have asked people to step forward and be part of the management committee. I didn’t step forward as I was already over-committed elsewhere. But what was striking that no one else stepped forward either. Eventually the future UKIP candidate stepped into the breach to help.
        If CCC is to be wound up someone with some accounting knowledge needs to get involved and simply sort the accounts out to ensure that the correct amount of money is returned and proper statements of account are presented to the council. I assume that the sums paid for venue hire are legitimate expenses to come out of the £5,000.
        Also the relevant council monitoring officer needs to get directly involved to help manage the winding up. This officer could have taken the opportunity to attend the CCC meetings to present the council’s position and the reasons why CCC needs winding up.
        If Elizabeth Ash & Co can’t manage the situation then they need help, and not simply more unconstructive criticism.
        As for the allegations of racism and Islamophobia they are just that, allegations. During the re-tweeted “Islamophobic” image incident individuals were demanding that CCC summarily dismiss the accused without carrying out a proper investigation and providing the accused with the opportunity to provide an explanation and defend himself. The accused may well have been absolutely stupid in re-tweeting the image, but there for the grace of God go us all. Given the vitriol directed at this person and the abject refusal to accept his apology, it sent a clearly negative message out to anyone considering getting involved in community groups.

        Like

        • Rod: The feeble apologies – such as this – offered by Mrs Bucket and her UKIP-supporting mates have been heard ad nauseum. None of them excuse their conduct and behaviour, and few of them have the ring of truth about them. That you and Charlotte Davies appear to have swallowed these excuses whole is beginning to put your positions as community “leaders” in a very different light, if your judgement is so badly flawed.

          To take some of the points you raise here. You say…

          >>>
          I have attended CCC meetings when they have asked people to step forward and be part of the management committee. I didn’t step forward as I was already over-committed elsewhere. But what was striking that no one else stepped forward either. Eventually the future UKIP candidate stepped into the breach to help.
          <<>>
          If CCC is to be wound up someone with some accounting knowledge needs to get involved and simply sort the accounts out to ensure that the correct amount of money is returned and proper statements of account are presented to the council. I assume that the sums paid for venue hire are legitimate expenses to come out of the £5,000.
          <<>>
          If Elizabeth Ash & Co can’t manage the situation then they need help, and not simply more unconstructive criticism.
          <<>>
          As for the allegations of racism and Islamophobia they are just that, allegations.
          <<>>
          … individuals were demanding that CCC summarily dismiss the accused without carrying out a proper investigation and providing the accused with the opportunity to provide an explanation and defend himself.
          <<>>
          The accused may well have been absolutely stupid in re-tweeting the image, but there for the grace of God go us all.
          <<<

          Indeed. And if it had been a one-off, then it might have been the case of giving someone the benefit of the doubt for being stupid. But there was around two dozen tweets sent of a racist or UKIP-supporting nature during a brief period.

          Making the same idiotic mistake 20 or more times cannot be brushed off as a little mistake. It reflects on that individual's personal attitudes, and their competency for holding any position of public responsibility.

          That you defend such conduct also reflects poorly on you.

          Like

        • Duona says:

          >>>I have attended CCC meetings when they have asked people to step forward and be part of the management committee. I didn’t step forward as I was already over-committed elsewhere. But what was striking that no one else stepped forward either. Eventually the future UKIP candidate stepped into the breach to help>>>
          What is more striking, Rod, is that the new Vice-Chair Mr Bhatti didn’t step forward into the breach, to help to avoid a UKIP candidate having to take the post, but was more than willing to stand against a Muslim woman candidate, who put herself forward to “help” do exactly what you propose in your reply.
          Furthermore no “individuals” demanded that CCC dismiss Clive, they were asked what action they would be taking over this allegation and to this day CCC haven’t provided any result of any investigation.
          There was no apology given by Clive, just excuses made by those around him ranging from “his fingers slipped” “he didn’t remember doing it” & then blaming his disability for not being able to tweet properly.
          Clive was a man used to writing emails, he’d been on Twitter for a year, and absolutely admitted he knew what he was doing when he retweeted that tweet.
          Then he back-pedalled
          A sincere apology at the time and him stepping down voluntarily would have ended the matter there.

          Why shouldn’t CCC and Mrs Ash be held to the same standards as WCCF and other community groups?
          Charlotte Davies and Ash were adamant that Clive should remain Chair of WCCF in spite of 9 other steering group members voting to carry on elections, as we’d always agreed.
          The drama at the WCCF AGM created by Ash sailing in, waving papers around her head,
          (Yes really!) screeching like a banshee, isnt easily forgotten.
          And WCCF didn’t even have control of any public funds !!
          This sent a negative message to all organisations to stay away from West Croydon Communities, conveniently leaving the void to be filled by CCC and Ash as representatives of the whole community.
          They aren’t.
          They are being held accountable by their own standards Rod, or do you and Charlotte feel they should be judged differently ?

          Like

    • Duona says:

      >>>If you and we are so concerned about the nature of CCC and its management; then where were you and we and why didn’t you and we step forward and get involved to ensure that CCC was representative and well managed.
      >>>Or is the truth that piously we demand the right to criticise, yet are wholly unwilling to do anything constructed
      >>>and possibly worse still elect to use the opportunities that this mess has created to act out our own agendas, regardless of the actual interests of the communities we like to claim to speak for.

      These slightly bizarre comments from you beg the question Rod,
      Why do you continue to support this dysfunctional group by tweeting as ECCO, how wonderful the work that Elizabeth Ash does is, while your comments say otherwise.

      Why does Charlotte Davies SCCO (any relation?) support CCC at their AGM while her comments to Inside Croydon say otherwise.

      Could it be that “you and she” are using the opportunities this mess has created to act out your own agendas regardless of the actual interests of the communities you like to claim you speak for?

      And you may be bloody lazy but you speak for yourself.
      Good decent people did step forward and get involved, only to be blocked by Charlotte Davies & Sean Creighton who allowed Peter Morgan of UKIP to conduct an barely disguised inquisition on behalf of CCC, and also let Ash get away with outrageous comments such as all those standing against the current committee were all agitators and then pretend it was a fair election.
      If the “you and me” you refer to is you and Charlotte then you may be right.

      >>>”CCC is a good idea in theory, its fundamental flaw is that it depends on good decent people like you & me to step forward and get involved. But we don’t do that sort of thing and we leave it to other people, but of course we expect them to do what we would want. And of course they don’t. And why didn’t you & I step forward at the time? Because you & I are too bloody lazy.
      So at the end of the day we have no one to blame but you & me!”

      Like

  4. Duona says:

    I know Anne Giles said it
    What’s the prize ?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. annegiles says:

    That was in February 2014, and I hadn’t realised what a lovely lady she is. I now attend all her meetings.

    Like

  6. STOP funding all groups including the councillors and save the tax payer money.

    Like

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