CROYDON IN CRISIS: The council is to stage its third ‘extraordinary meeting’ in six weeks next week, as the auditors’ Report in the Public Interest is up for discussion. The increase in meetings may signal a change in approach, reports WALTER CRONXITE
Town Hall officials are to stage an extraordinary council meeting a week on Thursday, November 19 – the third at the cash-strapped, crisis-hit council in just six weeks.
After months of delays and a business-as-usual approach to council matters, there at last appears to be a greater sense of urgency than has been seen at Croydon Town Hall for many a year, and with good cause.
The meeting has been called as a legal requirement following the Report in the Public Interest issued by auditors Grant Thornton last month. The RIPI found widespread failings and cast doubt on some dubious dealings at the council, which has run up debts of £1.5billion and overspent its 2020-2021 budget by around £70million since the first covid-19 lockdown.
The council says that the agenda and paperwork for the meeting will be published by November 11, though it is possible to gauge the importance given to this virtual gathering since officials have decided to move the planning meeting due to have been held on that date forward by 24 hours.
A council cabinet meeting that had been scheduled to be held on November 16, the first under Hamida Ali as council leader, has now been moved to November 25.
It all means that under Ali and the interim council chief exec Katherine Kerswell, between September 28 and November 19 there will have been three extraordinary council meetings, plus a meeting of full council and a cabinet meeting.
Compare that to the time under previous council leader Tony Newman and Kerswell’s predecessor as CEO, Jo Negrini: despite there being the coronavirus pandemic and the council’s own financial emergency, full council and cabinet did not meet at all for the six weeks from July 13.
Indeed, the meeting on September 28 only happened after the borough’s opposition Tories called a motion of no confidence in Newman and his finance chief, Simon Hall.
Councillors are broadly welcoming the change in approach.
“We’ve had four times as many Labour group meetings since Tony quit as he held in the two months previous to that,” a Katharine Street source said today.
“There has been a welcome change in the approach of the new leadership. Newman and his mates allowed things to deteriorate for too long and refused even to allow discussions of what the issues were. It’s becoming clear now how much they were hiding.”
The borough’s councillors will be getting another chance to debate those issues next week, and then again on November 30. There’s another meeting of full council scheduled then, by which time the government’s “rapid review” of Croydon Council’s financial failings should be in, as well as PWC’s report on the state of Croydon’s various subsidiary companies, including Brick by Brick.
They could be in for a very long night…
Read more: Leader apologises for six years of misrule
Read more: Brick by Brick has paid nothing to council
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