The mounting anger among New Addington residents over Brick by Brick’s plans for “slumification” of their area has created a sense of panic among the cabal that controls the Labour group at Croydon Town Hall.
With four council seats at risk in New Addington’s two wards, including three currently occupied by cabinet-level councillors, it was announced last night that the council is going to shell-out for a new skatepark – despite there being a ban on any non-essential spending while the council struggles to cope with the multi-million-pound costs of dealing with covid-19.
The announcement was made by the most senior Labour councillor in New Addington, and the only one to live there, Simon Hall. Hall is a member of council leader Tony Newman’s clique and, as the cabinet member for finance, he has been a key figure in running up the council’s £1.5billion debt mountain while pinning the Town Hall’s hopes of profits from loss-making housebuilders Brick by Brick.
In normal times, the five-figure costs of building a skatepark could be signed off by a council finance director without batting an eye.
But these are not normal times, and such has been the rapid growth and impressive activism of the recently formed New Addington Residents’ Association that the threat to the council seats in the wards, and to Sarah Jones’s majority in the marginal Croydon Central parliamentary seat, has been raised at recent Labour group meetings.
With a borough-wide referendum likely over the issue of whether to have a democratically-elected mayor running Town Hall business, handing out publicly-funded baubles to placate the people of New Addington is clearly reckoned to be more effective than actually addressing the residents’ genuine concerns.
The council has only recently opened the £23million New Addington Leisure Centre (and then closed it for the covid-19 lockdown), though in common with most projects in which rookie developers Brick by Brick have had any involvement, this was delivered late and vastly over-budget – both causes of discontent among residents.
Indeed, despite being built at vast expense, the leisure centre has failed to provide a solution to one of the matters of growing discontent in New Addington – a permanent home for the town’s highly respected amateur boxing club.
New Addington ABC was formed by residents and volunteers half a century ago and has developed a well-earned reputation for its important community work with youngsters, especially recently when government-imposed austerity has seen so many cuts to vital youth work.
For the last 20 years, the boxers have been based at the Timebridge Youth and Community Centre in Fieldway. But with that centre set for demolition to make way for a special needs school, no one at the council appears to have given serious consideration to where the boxing club should be re-homed.
An offer to use the leisure centre’s sports hall failed to take on board the fundamental need for the boxing club’s equipment – including a ring for sparring and contests and heavy punch bags – to be permanently assembled. The sports hall at the leisure centre would have required the ring and punch bags to be set-up and then removed again for every training session.
Last month, the boxing club moved its equipment out of its hut at the Timebridge Centre. They have been given temporary accommodation at Addington Community Centre. But that is only until next March.
The boxing club was based in Simon Hall’s own ward. Unable to find a permanent solution to that mess of his council’s creating, he’s at least now offering New Addington’s youngsters a skatepark.
In a post on the New Addington councillors’ Facebook page, Hall wrote: “As you know, the old Timebridge Youth and Community Centre is being demolished so that a new special needs school can be built there.
“As a result, the skate ramps have had to be removed.
“As your local councillors, we know that this has been well-used (in fact, I together with my then co-councillor Carole Bonner helped to get some of the money that enabled those ramps to be built) and it is valued by local young residents.
“I am pleased to say that a new skatepark is going to be built, between the multi-ball court and the children’s play area. A planning application is due to be submitted later this month and then the new skatepark will be built in the autumn…
“I hope you will agree that this is good news for our young residents.”
Judging by the comments Hall’s post has attracted in just a few hours, it appears that few residents have fallen for the cheap ruse to buy-off their complaints, while concerns over a permanent home for the boxing club remain.
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This is from the cabinet member for Finance in a borough saddled with a £1.5bn debt, one of the worst in the UK, whose only consistent action since being handed the role by Tony Newman on a plate is to overspend his budget, year-in, year-out.
Hall’s another of those ‘career’ councillors who sups from Newman’s dish. Would be great if he could tweet a message to his constituents explaining how we might get out of this pre-COVID financial mess….