Mystery surrounds what’s on the agenda for Monday night’s council meeting, or who’ll be allowed to attend. By WALTER CRONXITE
Monday’s council meeting on the crisis in children’s services, called in place of a scheduled cabinet meeting, looks set to be held behind closed doors, with no public or media access.
No formal summons for a full council meeting has been issued to the borough’s 70 elected councillors, and by the end of office hours on Friday, no agenda had been published by the council for this latest emergency meeting, which is believed to have been prompted by the highly critical Ofsted report last month on the council’s performance.
Council officials are normally expected to provide councillors, and the public, with agendas for all council meetings at least seven days in advance.
The previously scheduled council cabinet meeting remains cancelled.
Now, the council website refers to Monday’s meeting in the Town Hall chamber as “Training workshop for all members of the Council, Monday, 16th October 2017, 6.30pm”.
“So we’re now being ‘trained’ in what we can or cannot say publicly are we?” said one councillor, annoyed at the lack of information and uncertainty over Monday’s meeting.
“It’s like something out of Kafka. Or North Korea.”
At the last emergency meeting to discuss the children’s services crisis, Jo Negrini, the £185,000 per year town clerk, reminded the elected representatives that they are all “corporate parents”, and therefore all responsible for any failings of her staff working in children’s services. Negrini then issued rulings during the course of the meeting to prevent all but a handful of “corporate parents” from being given an opportunity to speak at the meeting.
Children’s services has a wide remit, but is responsible for the welfare of every child in the borough, and looks after matters including fostering, adoption and the care of unattached minors who arrive in Croydon seeking asylum.
Originally, it was understood that Monday’s meeting would allow councillors to be updated on the latest developments in efforts to improve the children’s services department’s performance, with a government-appointed commissioner overseeing the work.
Now, there’s growing doubt about what might happen.
In 2014, Tony Newman and his Labour councillors won control of the Town Hall on a manifesto that promised “the most open and transparent council” in Croydon’s history. Monday’s agenda-less training session seems far removed from that ideal.
“By calling it a ‘training workshop’, Monday’s meeting will have no status,” our Katharine Street source said. “There’s a strong chance that the public will be refused admission and there’ll be no webcast, there might be no minutes, and the meeting will have no formal status. Nothing that is discussed or agreed there will have any standing.
“It’s not clear who has decided on this course of action, Negrini or the council leader, Tony Newman. Either way, they could be taking us into dangerous territory with this.”
- Damning verdict on Croydon’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services
- Croydon’s leadership may be resigned to changes at the top
- Commissioner appointed to oversee children’s services
- Negrini tells staff: ‘There are some things that we don’t do well’
- Two key figures leave council over Ofsted inspectors’ report
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