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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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