Croydon’s councillors will have an opportunity next Monday to demonstrate that they have grasped Einstein’s definition of insanity, and that they won’t be doing the same thing and expecting different results over the spending of millions of pounds on often pointless, cosmetic roads schemes.
The next Town Hall cabinet meeting will be discussing grants totalling £7.6 million from Transport for London for a range of road “improvements” around the borough.
Four years ago, a £22.8million riots recovery fund from City Hall was squandered by the then Tory-led council on a few traffic crossings and new paving slabs. Then, much of the cash was spent in areas of Fairfield, a Conservative-held ward, where little of the Croydon riots had actually taken place in August 2011. This “Dis-Connected Croydon” programme saw cycle lanes obliterated in exchange for creating more car parking spaces, while a public car park has been hived off for building work, and it funded the seemingly never-ending dog’s dinner that is the paving works near East Croydon Station.
The council was so slow to implement any of the agreed works that it nearly reached the point where it had to return the whole grant. In the end the money was spent, just in time, but not necessarily wisely.
There was little positive impact towards any riot recovery, however.
A council press release issued this afternoon gives little detail on the latest spending plans (no change there then), but states, “The TfL money will go towards several of Croydon’s major transport infrastructure schemes across the borough in 2017-2018, from road safety to better cycle access.”
South Norwood will receive £750,000 towards improved pedestrian access, tree planting, better pavements and new outdoor seating for shoppers and businesses in Station Road and Portland Road. Which all sounds horribly familiar as more Dis-Connected Croydon
The council will also receive £300,000 towards designing its plans for a third area of the borough to get a permanent 20mph limit in all streets except major through roads. Last year the council divided the borough into five sectors and began a consultation on road safety and speed restrictions.
The first 20mph limit area went live in the north of the borough last week, and a final decision is expected on Area 2 in the coming months, after a public consultation broadly accepted the idea. A key pledge in Labour’s 2014 manifesto, progress on 20mph zones has been slow almost to the point of hesitant, raising serious doubts that the promised borough-wide scheme can be implemented before their end of term in 2018.
Typically, one of the smaller funding allocations has been made to tackle one of the biggest problems: £70,000 has been given by TfL for what the council calls “air quality improvement measures”.
This looks suspiciously like enough budget to pay for a single member of staff to monitor exhaust pollution from lorries, including during the construction of the £1.4 billion Hammersfield megamall in the town centre – if it ever actually starts. So it’ll be the council’s means of covering its arse just in case some interfering environmentalists manage to put together enough air quality measurements to show that the developers and the council have failed in their duty of care and promises to reduce the impact of the diesel exhauts.
This in a borough which wilfully builds primary schools alongside one of the most toxic roads in the whole of London, using anonymous officer reports which deliberately mislead over the dangerous levels of air pollutants on the Purley Way.
Other Croydon Council projects that will benefit from the TfL money include:
• £465,000 towards road safety measures, from new speed signs to children’s education campaigns
• £460,000 for walking and cycling measures, including better pedestrian crossings and bike training for children
• £200,000 on a new network of walking and cycling routes through parks
• £150,000 for improved bus stop accessibility, including ramps and tactile paving
The council’s propaganda office states that the TfL money includes more than “£2.7 million towards better road, pedestrian and cycle access across the borough, plus £3.4 million to upgrade bridges, and £1.4 million to fix main roads. The £3.4 million bridge funding includes a £3 million replacement bridges project with TfL in Blackhorse Lane and £120,000 to replace a wall in Grange Road. The TfL money will have to be matched by council contributions.”
It will be the task of Stuart King, the Labour councillor recently appointed as the cabinet member for transport and environment, to oversee the implementation. As King was not a councillor during the previous splurge of “road improvements”, he will have had no experience of the previous mistakes.
And he will be hoping that whoever it is on the council’s staff who has been carefully briefing the Tories’ Phil Thomas, their previous political boss, will manage to ensure that they get the Welsh bruiser’s approval for all the schemes – which may include ensuring that the “right” contractors are appointed for these juicy public funded schemes.
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