Well, this is awkward…
What does a bankrupt council, which at the end of December scrapped its dedicated anti-graffiti team, do about the spray-painted messages on the hoardings around a development by its loss-making house-builder Brick by Brick?
Last week, Muhammad Ali, the council cabinet member for unsustainable Croydon, confirmed to a virtual Town Hall meeting that “only graffiti using racist or inflammatory images”, or “using swear words, sexually explicit or obscene words and images” would be subject to council remedial action.
The pot-less council doesn’t have the money to pay for staff to clean up simple slogans or questions – largely because failing development company has stiffed the borough to the tune of £110million in unpaid interest repayments, loan payments and profits.
Kindred House is among the less-controversial, least-contested developments by Brick by Brick. It’s a 25-storey tower block next to the Croydon Flyover, built on part of a town centre car park, and which is supposed to deliver 128 homes. Though this build, like so many of Brick by Brick’s developments, is taking longer – and probably costing more – than was first suggested.
The messages which appeared on the site hoardings around the time of Councillor Ali’s explanation about the borough’s revised, more relaxed approach to graffiti hardly seem to fall into any of the proscribed categories which the slimmed-down street-cleaning service might handle.
What, after all, is offensive about the question: “Where is our money?”
Likewise, will the council be spending any Council Tax-payers’ money to have the message “Shame on Croydon Council” scrubbed off the hoardings of the Old Town site?
It could be a question to puzzle philosophers for several minutes…
The council’s dedicated anti-graffiti team were all made redundant, among more than 500 jobs being axed by the cash-strapped council as it struggles to balance a budget overspend this financial year of £66million.
“Under the streamlined service we have reviewed our approach to graffiti in the borough,” was the euphemism of choice for Councillor Ali last week.
“The priority will be offensive graffiti on council land and this will be defined by graffiti using racist or inflammatory images, used as an attack against a group or individual and also graffiti using swear words, sexually explicit or obscene words and images.”
Councillor Ali did not expand on whether the Brick by Brick company logo, now derided and despised by so many of the borough’s residents, fits in to any of those categories.
“For offensive graffiti on private land they will contact the landowner for the removal as quickly as possible,” he said.
“Unfortunately under this new service we will not be able to prioritise the removal of non-offensive graffiti at this moment in time.”
So it could be that the spray-painted questions about Brick by Brick’s piss-poor business performance could remain in place for some time to come.
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