So how was it for you dear?
As 2018 draws to an end, we rifle through the past year’s archive to highlight what Inside Croydon’s loyal reader was reading about most
JANUARY: Council ‘Godfather’ is made an offer he can’t refuse
Following a six-month investigation by Inside Croydon into payments to contractors, Graham Cadle, “The Godfather” of Croydon Council, cleared his desk at Fisher’s Folly for a final time.
Sources within the council HQ told Inside Croydon on January 18 that, “all staff have been written to today to confirm that Graham Cadle is leaving the council”.
In October 2017, Cadle came under formal investigation at the council for a second time inside 12 months as a result of reporting by Inside Croydon. Thanks to whistleblowers inside the council, we had discovered that Cadle was paying £787 per day to a contractor called Harry Singh. Cadle just happened to be the godfather to Singh’s child.
But neither Cadle, Singh nor the child’s mother Karen Sullivan, the council’s head of revenues and benefits who reported to Cadle, had ever volunteered the information of their relationship, as required under the council code of conduct. When this breach of discipline was first reported by concerned staff to Negrini, she opted to take no action.
Only after reports appeared in Inside Croydon did Cadle quit, Singh have his contract terminated, and Sullivan leave the council.
Cadle was effectively No3 among the professional staff at the council. He was the £150,000 per year assistant chief executive for “customer and transformation”, a role he was promoted to in 2015 by Jo Negrini, the council’s chief executive.
According to our source, the message about Cadle’s departure was sent round the council not by Negrini, as she shirked the responsibility, but by Richard Simpson, the executive director for resources.
“Cadle has clearly been made an offer he can’t refuse,” our source said.
Fret not for Cadle, dear reader: within months, he’d rolled up at Basingstoke council, for another middle-management public-funded job, once again on a six-figure salary.
Also this month… #SuttonBinShame in 2017 had foretold the problems with rubbish contractor Veolia that were coming Croydon’s way in 2018. And Inside Croydon obtained a secret council memo that showed that the Sutton LibDems were getting the bin contractors to provide special treatment to key areas of the borough before the local elections in May.
Basically, using public money to secure political advantage. Or gerrymandering.
FEBRUARY: South Norwood pensioner wins Shard court battle
There was huge public interest in the case of Ian Bone, the South Norwood pensioner who was threatened with a High Court injunction by lawyers acting on behalf of the uber-rich Qatari royal family.
Bone, an anarchist and co-founder of the group Class War, announced his intention to protest against the obscenity of 10 apartments in The Shard, each supposed to be worth £50million, standing empty for six years in a city with a chronic homelessness crisis.
Security officials at The Shard, one of the many London properties owned by the oil-rich emirs, raised their serious concerns over the risks posed to their multi-billion-pound operation by the 70-year-old activist who has to walk with the aid of a stick because of Parkinson’s.
Bone eventually emerged triumphant from the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, claiming victory for the common man, freedom of speech and common sense.
Bone stood to pay the Qataris’ legal costs and ultimately risked even losing his home in a dispute over whether he has the right to protest at The Shard. But in a dramatic turn of events, lawyers for the Qataris withdrew the threat of the injunction from a High Court judge.
Instead, Bone only had to appear at the court to agree not to enter The Shard. “And that is no problem for me,” the working class hero told Inside Croydon exclusively from the saloon bar of the nearby Wig and Pen public house.
“Never wanted to go inside that place anyhow.”
MARCH: Westfield pulls £15m investment in Croydon trams
The international mall developers had already spent six years pondering the £1.4billion redevelopment of Croydon town centre. But as they dithered and delayed all through 2018, they also sought to cut costs, especially on any public infrastructure benefits.
The money was to have gone towards the cost of the “Dingwall Loop”, some extra track near East Croydon on which trams could be diverted to make it easier for cars to enter the car parks of the long-promised supermall. With Transport for London budgets being squeezed, it seemed likely that without the cash from Hammersfield, the £28million Dingwall Loop will now be scrapped altogether.
An internal TfL memo, seen by Inside Croydon, conveyed the news of the demise of the widely disliked tram scheme.
“The application for a new Westfield shopping centre has been approved by the London Borough of Croydon and the Mayor of London, however, it now provides no direct funding for the Dingwall Road loop,” the memo stated.
“With recent changes to its funding streams, the project is now due to be fully funded by public sector sources. In light of this, we are currently reviewing the preferred option to ensure affordability.”
Or, as a City Hall source said, “In other words, they’re ditching it.”
Also this month… More shabby environmental work in Sutton, where chainsaw gangs felled at least 160 trees on the Beddington Farmlands nature reserve, right in the middle of the bird breeding season. The work has cleared the way for laying pipework to connect the Viridor incinerator to the Felnex housing estate, the first customer for the controversial Sutton Decentralised Energy Network, or SDEN.
APRIL: Concern over staff exodus from academy trust’s primaries
After two head teachers quit South Croydon primary schools before Easter, the head of their local academy trust issued firm instructions to staff ordering them to answer no questions about the abrupt departures.
Paul Thomas resigned as head of St Peter’s Primary in South Croydon, announcing his departure in a letter to parents just as the school was breaking up for Easter. Members of the school community have confirmed that there had been no indication given previously that Thomas had intended to leave the post he had held since September 2011.
Around the same time that Thomas was resigning at St Peters, Cathy Daniels, the head of Park Hill Junior, was also leaving her job. Daniels is the sixth member of teaching staff, plus a school secretary, to leave or planned to leave Park Hill Juniors since July 2017.
Park Hill and St Peter’s are both now part of the Folio Education Trust, a relatively new academy group, funded directly from Whitehall, and run from Wallington County Grammar School in Sutton.
Folio had somehow managed to get planning permission to build a vast new secondary on what was previously Green Belt playing fields opposite Lloyd Park, despite there being a 5,000 secondary school place surplus in Croydon.
MAY: Store closures spark concerns for £1.4bn Westfield scheme
An announcement to the London Stock Exchange of a two-thirds fall in annual profits for Marks and Spencer was just the latest piece of hard data from the retail sector to stoke growing fears over the prospects for the £1.4billion Westfield and Hammerson scheme to redevelop Croydon’s Whitgift and Centrale shopping centres.
Marks and Spencer has been held up as one of the “anchor stores” in the long-delayed supermall development.
What was originally devised as a supermall with some flats tacked on was now being proposed as a 1,000-homes residential development, with a shopping centre tacked on.
But by May 2018, traders and shop-keepers in the increasingly run-down Whitgift Centre had been given no recent updates on when the bulldozers were likely to move in since planning permission was granted. This fuelled speculation that any prospect of the promised start in “early 2019” as being remote. By the end of 2018, that demolition start date had already been pushed back to September 2019.
Croydon’s town centre has suffered from a development blight since 2012, when Tories Gavin Barwell – then a trustee of the landowners, the Whitgift Foundation – and Boris Johnson first championed the “Croydon Partnership” between Westfield and Centrale owners Hammerson.
Any visit to the tired old mall for what might prove to be its last Christmas proved deeply dispiriting, and the prospects for any new temple to retail were made worse by early trading figures showing that the downturn in the high street’s fortunes are continuing.
Also this month… There were local elections. We reported on them, through the night. Lots of you read our report.
It was not altogether great news for Croydon’s Great Leader, Tony Newman: while the rest of London enjoyed a Corbynmania boost to Labour seats, in Croydon, Labour effectively lost a seat in the new ward of Addiscombe East.
JUNE: Fined by BP’s agents, for stopping at a BP shop
When a South Norwood-based businessman popped in to the BP garage on Mitcham Road expecting to pay for a tank of fuel, a bottle of wine and a car wash, he got a shock weeks later when he received an official notice of a £60 fine and threat of further action.
Guy Clapperton discovered that BP is using an agency to check who goes on to the forecourt of its petrol station, because they are claiming that drivers park there to… pick up mates landing at Gatwick Airport nearly 20 miles away. Any vehicle
“The message is basically not to go to this BP petrol station, or any other, and consider spending money on more than one or two items in there. If you go for a car wash and there’s a queue, go elsewhere – the parking operators don’t care why you’re there and the petrol company doesn’t give a damn.”
This was one of Inside Croydon’s most-read reports of 2018, though apparently not by enough people, since we were subsequently contacted by another three drivers who had been served with fine notices. Clapperton, we are pleased to report, fought his corner and paid no fine.
Also this month… BINMAGEDDON! We coined a new word for the looming chaos faced by tens of thousands of households, all to make it easier for Veolia to deliver a bin collections service, and allow them to do it on the cheap.
The council was even forced to withhold £1million in fees from Veolia becuase of the poor levels of service before the changes were imposed on the public in September. The rumblings of resident discontent – if not the rumbling of unwanted wheelie bins in the morning – is continuing into 2019,
JULY: Secondary tells parents to find a new school
Just days before the end of the school year, and one of the borough’s largest secondaries that had avoided academisation announced that it was to close its doors in September to hundreds of pupils.
St Andrew’s High, on Warrington Road, wrote to the parents of pupils in Years 8 and 9 asking them not to come back to the school in September. Those who applied for places for their 11-year-olds to start at the school in Year 7 were also been contacted and asked to make alternative arrangements for their secondary schooling. Inside Croydon discovered that St Andrew’s had received just 34 applications for 11-year-olds to join the school in September 2018.
St Andrew’s was founded in the borough in 1857 as one of its first “ragged schools”, to provide an education for the area’s poor. It moved to its current site in the 1960s, at the time that the Croydon Flyover was being built.
The school abandoned having a sixth form some time ago, and it is suggested that once the current cadre undertaking GCSEs have been through the school, it may re-open to a new intake in 2020.
Also this month… In another Inside Croydon exclusive, we revealed that, despite three years’ careful negotiations with Croydon College, the council house-builders Brick by Brick had failed to secure the purchase of an important packet of land next to the Fairfield Halls. It would later emerge that this dropped bollock would risk the whole of the £400million-plus property scheme.
We also reported the first changes to bus services in the borough, reflecting growing budget problems at Transport for London and which are bringing further service reductions to Croydon’s public transport network in 2019.
AUGUST: Jo Negrini claims ‘we’re not stupid’
The council has even had to draw up contingency plans in case the whole deal collapses – what Peter Bill, writing in Property Week, describes as “a hard Crexit”.
Bill based his judgement on “this blighted project” on a brief encounter with Croydon Council chief executive Jo Negrini, when he says he asked her about the Town Hall plans in case the wheels do fall off the Croydon Partnership of Hammerson and Westfield and their £1.4billion scheme for 1,000 flats and a shopping centre.
“We’re not stupid,” Negrini is supposed to have said, risking having council-watchers to provide a litany of examples to prove her claim wrong.
Also this month… More on the state of our bins, as the council began rolling back on the roll-out of unwanted and unnecessary new wheelie bins to 200,000 households around the borough. Though only if you asked nicely. This shabby business was even picked up by Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London, where she exhibited a particular fondness for Inside Croydon’s new word: Binmageddon.
SEPTEMBER: Croydon pays thousands to ‘demystify the anus’
Inside Croydon’s report about how £50,000 of Croydon and Arts Council grants funding had helped to pay for what was, literally, a shit show, got picked up by national newspapers and broadcasters, and brought those in charge of Croydon Council into disrepute yet again.
About the only place where the story did not get reported, sadly, was Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner, for whom the phrase “demystifying the anus” was surely invented?
At the time, we reported the arts festival’s organisers as saying that one of their performances, “contains a series of modified butt plugs. Always sculptural and gracefully schizophrenic, each sex toy will embrace a different mood, from poignant to playful. The actions and objects are designed to enrapture rather than repel, in an effort to demystify the anus”.
Another set of performers, called Arianna Ferrari, went on stage after some very careful backstage preparations, which the festival programme helpfully describes:
“After ingesting a quantity of laxatives and diuretics the performer inserts a catheter in their bladder and a tunnel plug in their anus. The performer loses control of their sphincters. A number of contact microphones are attached to the performer’s belly, detecting the sounds of their intestines.”
Croydon Council’s cabinet member for butt plugs and shit, Oliver Lewis, when questioned about this use of public funds, admitted that it was, perhaps, “not everyone’s cup of tea”.
Also this month… The bunting was put out all across Sutton, after it was announced that the council CEO and incinerator advocate, Niall Bolger, had quit his job.
And there were worrying signs from the housing market, where prices had started to fall, even before the council house-builder, Brick by Brick, had managed to complete the first of their new homes. More than half of what the council is building, on public land using public money, are homes going for private sale, in an attempt by the council to make money as a property developer.
As at December 31, 2018, Brick by Brick, which was registered by Jo Negrini’s council in 2015, has completed a grand total of ZERO new homes.
OCTOBER: Royal concert cancelled over further Fairfield Halls delays
Inside Croydon was first to report that further delays in the £30million refurbishment project at the Fairfield Halls would put back its re-opening until September 2019 at the earliest.
Tony Newman, the council leader, had promised the Halls would re-open in July 2018.
The latest set-back even forced the postponement of the planned Grand Re-opening Gala Concert, which was supposed to be staged in the presence of the Earl and Countess of Wessex in June 2019.
It is no coincidence that building works on the Fairfield site are overseen by the council’s house-building company… Brick by Brick.
NOVEMBER: Scott in shock resignation as planning chair
Paul Scott, the controversial and bombastic chair of the planning committee, who exhibits a family trait for failing to declare key conflicts of interest, stunned the Town Hall chamber when he suddenly announced he was resigning as chair.
The item was not included on the planning committee agenda.
But fret not, dear reader… within a couple of minutes and a game of council musical chairs, Scott had been reinstalled as Toni Letts’ deputy chair, so that he could continue to pull the strings and dictate how planning decisions are reached.
No explanation was offered, nor did the four opposition Conservative members of the 10-strong committee bother to seek one. “They were stunned into silence,” said one observer in the chamber.
The whole charade of local democracy was to enable Letts to board the gravy train that is the council allowances system, for a tidy £27,000 per year, while Scott is now getting a whopping £45,000 after his appointment by his mate, Tony Newman, as a cabinet member.
No elected councillor is allowed to receive more than one SRA – a special responsibility allowance. But back in May, when council leader Newman was attempting to shore up his clique’s control of the council Labour group, he decided to ignore the requirements of the Local Government Act – which permits no more than 10 members of a Town Hall cabinet – and create a cabinet of 11 councillors. Scott was put in a “job share” on regeneration – and his six months in post began in November. Hence the planning committee resignation.
Things might not be all plain sailing for Scott in 2019.
Croydon Tory MP Chris Philp has demanded an independent investigation into Scott’s conduct while planning chair, after Inside Croydon reported committee members providing written testimony that they had been “whipped” along party lines over Brick by Brick planning decisions – something which is illegal.
DECEMBER: Tories block Purley ‘skyscraper’ scheme
To the “delight” of Croydon Conservatives, James Brokenshire, the Tory Government’s local communities and housing minister, has reversed the decision of council’s planning department, its planning committee and his own department’s planning inspector and blocked the development of the Purley “skyscraper”.
The controversial ruling further delays the redevelopment by the Purley Baptist Church of the long vacant site at Purley Cross, and with it 220 new homes.
The decision will be seen as darkly party political.
Planning permission for the scheme, including a 17-storey tower overlooking the ugly gyratory road system, was granted by the Labour-controlled council two years ago, in December 2016.
But Conservative MP Chris Philp, backed by some vociferous residents’ associations, persuaded his party colleague, the then Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, to call-in the decision in April 2017, amid accusations of blatant Nimby-ism at a time when there is a desperate need for more housing right across the borough. After an 18-month delay, the Tories finally got round to delivering the decision they had wanted.
Also this month… We reported how a £24million piece of public infrastructure, the Bridge to Nowhere at East Croydon Station, could be demolished even before its link to the Addiscombe side of the rail tracks is ever completed.
And that’s almost it for 2018, folks, except to thank you for your continued support and interest in matters Croydon.
Have a happy new year, Croydon.
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