Today, we publish the review on the borough’s night-time economy and the police’s licensing policies, which council leader Tony Newman and chief exec Jo Negrini didn’t want you to see. WALTER CRONXITE reports
Croydon Council officials have suppressed a report by an elected councillor into the state of the borough’s night-time economy, apparently because they are uncomfortable with its findings that the police had been conducting racial profiling as part of its night club licensing policy, and that they were operating a “bashment ban”, stopping clubs and bars playing music popular with black and ethnic minority communities.
There are suggestions that the report’s author was asked to change his findings, to deliver what has been called “a whitewash”.
Today, Inside Croydon publishes the report in full.
Callton Young, the Labour councillor for West Thornton, was tasked by the scrutiny committee to draft a report on the state of the town centre’s night-time economy following allegations by some club owners that the police were banning grime, dubstep and other forms of black music from being played in Croydon. Under the guise of a means of avoiding disturbance and anti-social behaviour, the Met’s event assessment Form 696 is a piece of police paperwork which requires venue operators, seeking permission for late-night music and alcohol licences, to detail their likely audience. Form 696 is widely discredited as a poorly disguised piece of racial profiling.
Some Croydon night clubs were shut down by police order or told “to play pop music only in his venue for the time being because the police are trying to ‘clean up the town’, so no drum and bass”, according to news reports quoted by the suppressed report.
Roy Seda, the owner of the Dice Bar on the High Street, was quoted in the report as saying, “We’ve been told the police don’t want drum and bass parties and they don’t want bashment.”
Indeed, this kind of policing of the town centre’s nightlife has been described as “Draconian” and “heavy-handed” by none other than Tony Newman, the leader of Croydon Council.
But the police always rejected such allegations, maintaining that their decisions were based on concerns that events “could lead to crime and disorder or be a threat to public safety, regardless of the type of music being played”.
Or at least the police did maintain that line until Seda produced an email from the licensing sergeant, Michael Emery, in which the police officer referred to “what this borough finds unacceptable forms of music”.
Although the then Borough Commander, Andy Tarrant, had denied that there was any ban on any particular form of music, Emery’s email to the club-owner said, “My office has received information that you are not complying with acceptable forms of music.”
It was after this was reported in the local press in mid-2016 that council scrutiny committee chair Sean Fitzsimons asked Young to compile a review.
Councillor Young submitted his completed report to council officials in April this year.
Since when… tumbleweed.
Some of Young’s recommendations in his unpublished report have already been acted upon – not least London Mayor Sadiq Khan calling on the Met to bin the devious Form 696.
But the full contents of the 30-plus-page document carefully compiled by the former senior Civil Servant have yet to see the light of day.
Young’s report was already delayed by four months because of objections from then Borough Commander Tarrant.
Once Young got to work on the report, he received little co-operation from the police, even after Tarrant was replaced as the borough’s top cop by Jeff Boothe.
The report was further delayed by Croydon Council chief executive Jo Negrini, who wanted Young to revise his work to avoid embarrassing the police.
Sources in Katharine Street say that Young felt he was being asked to conduct a “whitewash”.
The council is now considering revising its licensing policy in the town centre, relaxing rules that have been in place since 2003 which tend to refuse licences to new clubs and bars. The relaxation of these rules is not intended to benefit the diverse and youthful residents who would welcome a more vibrant night-life, but is being pushed through by Negrini and Newman to make it easier for Westfield to provide premises for bars and restaurants in its £1.4billion new supermall, when it opens.
Young found a disappointing selection of venues in Croydon providing entertainment at weekends: “Croydon’s population stands at 381,000 yet, takeaways aside, its licensed NTE [night-time economy] at 0230hrs on a Saturday morning consists of just 15 restaurants, seven night clubs, six bars, two cinemas and a pub.
“Croydon has a large population of young people with a majority from BME backgrounds and both should have their demands for nightlife provided for in the borough’s NTE.
“Music genres like bashment, grime and dubstep are popular among Croydon’s young people yet urban music megastars like Stormzy and Krept and Konan who come from the borough have found it difficult to perform here.
“Innovation is important for sustaining nightlife so it is vital that Croydon Council foster conditions that allow cultural innovations to thrive and for local talent to be showcased otherwise the borough risks being left behind.
“Strategic intervention and planning is required to put Croydon’s NTE where it should be, capable of rivalling any large suburban town … our residents deserve a choice of nightlife commensurate with that status.”
In the summer, Young appealed to his Labour Party colleagues for help in getting his report published, as he demanded answers to questions including why almost only black and Asian licensed premises had representations made against them by the police, and why young black male performers and clubbers have been referred to as “undesirables” in police reports.
But, Young’s fears that his report might be brushed under the carpet seem well-founded.
Although widely circulated among councillors and council officials in Fisher’s Folly, the report has never been made publicly available.
Not only has Young’s report not been published by the council, but his efforts to discuss the matter at the licensing committee have been shutdown by the committee chair, Jane Avis, who was apparently anxious that her Labour colleague might in some way slander the police over its use of the racial profiling forms and the application of the bashment ban.
In his report, Young writes, “We concluded that the Police Licensing Team did, in effect, impose what the press called a ‘ban’ on bashment, grime, and similar genres of music on some Licensed Premises in Croydon.
“Police Event and Risk Assessment Form 696 was also found to be an important issue. The form has long been unable to shake off accusations nationally of links with racial profiling. We recommend that the form should be scrapped.”
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