£2.3m in Mayor and council grants for Newman’s backyard

The Mayor of London has announced another significant grant to Croydon – £1,161,426 – this time for a project in South Norwood, which just happens to be in a neighbourhood including the ward represented by council leader Tony Newman and his best mate, Paul Scott.

South Norwood’s in the money, all thanks to Newman and Scott

And cash-strapped Croydon Council is match-funding the grant, so that Newman and Scott’s area gets double-bubble! Trebles all round!

The council even issued a press release in which Woodside councillor Scott, the architect of the borough’s housing policy, took a large slice of the credit for the grant.

The grant is for a project called “Re-Imagining the Everyday Spaces in South Norwood” which aims “To breathe life into South Norwood High Street through a range of high street improvements”.

Inside Croydon’s loyal reader may think that this sounds a lot like previous high street “initiatives” and “improvement” proposals conducted in the area, particularly along Portland Road, where Scott and his partner, councillor Alison Butler, hand-picked the recipients of favourable-term leases for coffee shops or art galleries in the middle of the run-down, working class area.

One scheme which should be secured through the funding is the council-owned Socca Cheta building on Portland Road, where the South Norwood Community Kitchen and other projects want to re-locate.

One source who worked closely with the We Love SE25 bid team told Inside Croydon, “This whole thing won’t work if they just hand out disused shop space to art galleries and coffee shops again. It really needs a widely used community building that creates footfall in the neighbourhood all day and every day.”

Forced to close: Emertons was a fixture on Station Road for 120 years, but could not afford  council licensing charges

The funding is going to an area where long-established family businesses, such as Emerton’s ironmongers and Dobson Upholstery, have been forced to close or move – in one case because of punitive charges made by Croydon Council for displaying the shop’s wares on the pavement, while in the other, the family was forced out as a result in soaring rents being charged by a landlord who got planning permission to turn the premises into more lucrative flats. The chair of the planning committee which granted permission was… yes, you’ve guessed it, Paul Scott.

The Mayor’s grant comes from London’s Good Growth Fund, and is one of 33 schemes across London including Wimbledon’s Polka Theatre and Waterloo’s St John’s Church, which together are receiving £30million of investment.

According to the council’s press release, which is quite specific in this respect, this creates “a total combined budget of £2.3million for the three-year project, which aims to deliver high streets where local businesses thrive and job opportunities are created across both the South Norwood and Woodside wards”.

The council failed to explain where it was finding the money to pay for this generosity in the council leader’s own backyard.

The council press release states: “The project will see the council and We Love SE25 work with residents, businesses, landlords and community groups to help bring empty premises back into use as retail and workspaces for creative and social enterprises. Community buildings within the high streets will become active places, bringing together residents, helping to create a resilient town centre reflecting the creativity and diversity of its people.”

Trebles all-round: Tony Newman and his big mate Paul Scott

One of the other venues mentioned as benefiting from this largesse is Stanley Halls, of which, purely coincidentally, Councillor Scott happened to be a long-time trustee. It is one of a number of organisations, both inside and outside the Town Hall, in which Scott exercises close control.

Indeed, Scott’s involvement with Stanley Halls, as a recipient body of the council funding while he is also the cabinet member responsible for borough-wide regeneration, is highly questionable.

Scott had been the string-pulling deputy chair of Stanley Halls since the community trust was established to take over the operation of the venue from the council. He stood down from that position only in March 2018, and although the Halls’ website still lists him as a charity trustee, it is claimed he resigned in November 2018 – though not before the bid for funding from the Mayor of London was submitted.

Undaunted, the council’s press release – which made no reference to Scott’s long-term involvement with Stanley Halls – still made sure that Scott took the credit for the winning bid.

It quoted the council cabinet member blowing his own trumpet: “From April we’ll begin using the funds to deliver positive changes for South Norwood and I can’t wait for it to start.

“As the chair of People for Portland Road…” yep, another of Scott’s bits of empire-building, “… I am proud of the work and dedication this and many other local groups and individuals are putting into improving their local neighbourhood.”

* Updated Dec 28, 2018, with further information to clarify Paul Scott’s status on the board of trustees of the charity which runs the Stanley Halls, one of the bodies likely to benefit significantly from the grant funding.

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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3 Responses to £2.3m in Mayor and council grants for Newman’s backyard

  1. Yes Paul Scott has been involved in this but it’s hard to argue that South Norwood couldn’t do with an injection of £/love.

    He is the local councillor and surely fighting for funding and associated improvements to the area is what he’s elected to do?

    People For Portland Road another example of his Empire Building? There are loads of locals involved in PPR aside from Paul and again, why have a crack at a local councillor for driving an initiative such as this? Please note the garden outside the South Norwood leisure centre as an example of the good PPR has done. Big bad Mr Scott has been there come rain or shine digging holes, planting trees, building stages/benches and weeding garden beds every fortnight or so for around 2 years.

    The “handpicked coffee shops and art galleries” may not be to your taste but they are a step up from the derelict boarded up shops which existed previously and are in line with what locals have repeatedly asked for – see http://www.welovese25.org/ and numerous other similar surveys which have garnered similar feedback.

    Along with selling the work of a variety of local artists the Elizabeth James gallery provides regular novice workshops on a range of topics and provides a workspace for the pros amongst us so in some ways meets your desire for a community hub.

    Monate is not so much an art gallery as a multi faceted emporium run by a brilliant woman who wants nothing but good for the area and is thus involved in lots of things aside from her shop.

    The other “gallery or coffee shop” is actually an independently run dress making/haberdashery outlet i.e. not that far removed from Dobson’s whose demise you apparently lament.

    I appreciate that Paul Scott flies close to and it could be argued often crosses the line when it comes to conflicts of interest. With this in mind I read your regular articles on this topic with interest but am disappointed that you’re not able to take a more balanced view of his input/influence in South Norwood. His consistently positive results in local council elections show the value that many of the residents see in his efforts.

    • Can’t disagree with much of that, Tim. Yep, if my councillor was getting nearly £50,000 a year in allowances, I would expect him to dig a few holes and plant a few shrubs to show willing. I’d also expect them to pull up some metaphorical trees on behalf of the ward they represent.

      What can’t be reconciled here is the apparent coincidence that it should be Scott and Newman’s ward that, in addition to £1.1m from the Mayor, gets another £1.1m from what we are told is the permanently cash-strapped local council that cannot afford to provide basic local services elsewhere.

      Woodside and South Norwood probably do need such investment. But doesn’t Thornton Heath and Norbury? Aren’t there issues with the high streets in Addiscombe or Coulsdon, too? Yet it is the ward of the council leader and his best mate that gets more than £1m of extra council dosh, when it is denied elsewhere. How cosy.

      And as you explain, the cash is largely to repeat a scheme which the council has already been running for some time, but which has yet to deliver significant results.

      Part of the reason for that has got to be put down to the actions of the very same council, and councillors, who have pursued business and planning policies which have put long-standing firms out of business. So for some, it is a bit rich now for Scott to claim credit for additional funding, to fix problems which he has in part created.

      “Consistently positive results”? Hmmm. There is a suggestion that a goat could get elected in Woodside if it wore a red rosette. In May there was a pisspoor 35 per cent turnout – so people were hardly flooding the polling statiions to show their support for Scott, who as it happened got the least number of votes of the three Labour candidates. Why would 100 fewer Labour supporters vote for Scott than for Hamida Ali, for instance?

      As long as Scott continues to insist on his empire-building, dominating local groups in his domineering manner, often to the detriment of some local residents, don’t be surprised if we happen to report on what he is doing and question his actions, and his motives.

      But let’s give him a big round of applause for delivering that epitome of gentrification, a “multi-faceted emporium”. Huzzah!

  2. sebastiantillinger7694 says:

    Ideas on a postcard to Tony and his Borough Design Champion. Croydon refuse centres and a facility for collecting these postcards…..

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