Paul Scott, the senior council figure who has so many roles within community groups that it is often difficult to keep up with exactly whose behalf he is acting, is also full of contradictions.
Scott is busy telling as many people as can be bothered to listen how “open” and “transparent” is the whole process. And yet on one Facebook page for a group over which Scott has some influence, the People for Portland Road, there appears to be a level of censorship in operation not seen since the Lord Chamberlain was handed his P45.
Those who have attended Scott’s meetings have been grilled over whether they’ve been providing information to Inside Croydon.
On at least three occasions, links to Inside Croydon‘s report of the last meeting staged by Scott at Stanley Halls, where important details about funding and the involvement of consultant Lorraine Hart were made public, have been posted to the PPR Facebook page. And on every occasion, someone who controls the page has deleted the links. It’s almost as if someone at PPR doesn’t want to know that Hart, from Community Land Use, is getting £2,500 to organise the application for a £5,000 grant.
For the uninitiated, architect Scott is part of the small clique which has control of the Labour group at the Town Hall. His Woodside ward colleague is Tony Newman, the council leader, and his partner is Alison Butler, the deputy leader and cabinet member in charge of regeneration. Scott himself is the chair of the planning committee, so there’s a fair amount of concentrated power over one household’s dining table.
Scott certainly seems intent on getting value for money out of Hart’s fee for the “community” economic development plan. He’s arranged for her to return to South Norwood again this week for yet another “consultation” address to tell a carefully hand-picked audience exactly what is in their best interests.
As part of Inside Croydon‘s civic service, we feel obliged to publicise further Scott’s latest meeting, due to be held tomorrow evening from 7pm.
Some details were sent out a fortnight ago by Scott, writing from his TP Bennett email (the central London architects firm where he is an important figure), but signed off in his capacity as chair of People for Portland Road and councillor for Woodside ward.
“Dear Key South Norwood Stakeholder,” Scott wrote.
“Our ideas of what to include in Community Economic Development plan for South Norwood are really starting to take shape now in preparation for of detailed grant and support package application… The application has to be submitted on 16th December, but at last week’s excellent meeting we agreed we needed another meeting to crystallise our submission…
“We also need to start firming up amongst us a defined ‘Working Group’ of people who are able to take an active role in the development of the plan next year.”
This suggests that this previously unscheduled and unplanned third meeting could be crucial in any ongoing work, and that anyone not attending tomorrow night might not be included in Scott and Hart’s “defined ‘Working Group'”.
As Scott goes on: “Given that this coming meeting is going to be more organisational than the previous workshops I would like to encourage particularly those of us who would like to be on the working group to attend. If you are unable to make this meeting though could you please let me know if you definitely want to be and can commit to being on the Working Group.
“I hope to hear from you and see you soon.”
He then adds a touching postscript: “As always, if you know someone who you think would like to be actively involved, please let me know along with their contact details.”
Scott attached with his email a pdf document with a report from the previous meeting. It listed the dozen or so who attended the meeting, plus three local councillors. For the private individuals, Scott also listed their private email addresses. No contact emails were included for the councillors.
Some attendees have expressed concern about this apparent misuse of their personal information. “You’d think someone who has been on the council as long as Paul Scott has been would know that there are strict rules about the collection and use of personal data,” one said.
So we can’t share Scott’s pdf document with our loyal reader.
But we can share much of its content. Note the enthusiastic use of bold capitals to emphasise where agreement was reached at the meeting:
Lorraine Hart welcomed everyone and re-stated the purpose of the meetings which was to create a Community Economic Development (CED) Plan. This had been made possible by an application for a grant and advice that was made to a national programme by People for Portland Road (PPR).
Lorraine was aware that a piece in Inside Croydon had been published which suggested a lack of transparency about her role and the process of starting a CED Plan. She explained that:
PPR had invited activists and residents known to them in South Norwood to start off this process so that further consultation could take place using the grant.
Lorraine is appointed by the programme to help prepare a plan and agree:
- How the grant available to develop the plan (£5,000) should be used
- How the 4 days of technical support available from other organisations…
- Assist so that the activities in the plan are as detailed as possible and involve as many people as possible through the process. The whole point of a CED plan is for it to be community led and economic initiatives included in it to benefit the local economy and residents.
- The Plan has to be submitted to Government and the grant of £5,000 spent by March 2017.
Everyone present AGREED that Lorraine should take the notes of this workshop and had no additions to the notes of the last workshop held on October 29th 2016.
Someone who appears to have been handed a copy of Powerpoint for Dummies had been let loose on the document, peppering it with a set of generally meaningless diagrams. You don’t expect too much for less than three grand, do you?
Here’s a sample of the state-funded vacuity…
Again, it is noteworthy that according to Scott and Hart, in South Norwood, “People are doing financially well”; the “business sector is diverse and resilient”; “supply chains and money flows are strong”; and, among other equally contestable statements, people “have and feel shared ownership and control over key assets”.
Given such a rose-tinted prospect, it’s a wonder that there’s any need for Scott and Hart’s five-grand grant.
Hart’s notes from the meeting continue…
After discussion of the projects recorded in the workshop notes from October it was AGREED that the following projects should be included in the CED Plan for Portland Road and further work should take place on their feasibility and consultation with local people and businesses using the grant
They then list six “ideas” for the economic development of the South Norwood area:
- Promote the existing offer of the High Street and Portland Road
- Support and Extend the Clock Tower Market
- Seek Community ownership/management of the council owned spaces in the area (particularly the empty WCs, the space next to Aldi which is being developed for a 200 sq m retail/community space and Socacheta (44b Portland Road)
- Improve the kerb appeal of existing shops – window displays
- Loyalty Card Scheme
- Enhance the public realm with art and lighting
- Seek discussion with the council and Aldi about flexibility on parking that serves the High Street and Portland Road.
None of these bright ideas, of course, qualify as “original thought”, and most – with exception of the loyalty card – are already being progressed. The £5,000 government grant, if received, will be spread very thinly around all such schemes.
Hart’s report then helpfully suggests that among the “stakeholders” for such schemes, they might want to consult local businesses – the very same businesses who have, until this point, been kept off Scott’s invitation list for his… whoops, sorry, the community’s meetings.
Why £2,500 of public money is being spent in this way for such a modest grant of £5,000 remains unexplained, however.
But maybe that’s Scott’s arch tactic: exclude as many people from the process as possible, before presenting them all with a fait accompli that tells them what is best for them. “He reckons we’re mushrooms: he keeps us in the dark and feeds us bullshit,” said one local, clearly underwhelmed by the management-by-Powerpoint approach.
Hart’s report goes on. And on…
Importantly for anyone going along tomorrow night who has not been included on Scott’s select list of invitees, Scott and Hart have determined:
It was AGREED that the main use of the grant should be for:
- Providing information on the CED process and the opportunities for people to be involved, particularly if they are interested in starting a business, having a stall or running new spaces
Consulting local residents and businesses on the projects being proposed – particularly the Hub and finding out from businesses what they think of the ideas proposed and how they could be involved.
As a minimum those present felt that the following was required:
1. Information on the programme overall for local people and residents
2. A survey of local businesses
3. An event for those interested in starting a business/ having a stall
4. An event to discuss a community hub and use of the spaces owned by the Council in the area.
It was AGREED that Lorraine would prepare a draft budget for discussion so that it could be discussed, amended and agreed for submission by 16th December (the programme deadline)
Ahhh. Anyone curious how much that budget might come to?
And who might be appointed to administer it?
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