Regina Road residents angry as Knight ducks another meeting

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The blundering £800 per day bureaucrat in charge of fixing the council’s ‘appalling’ housing has cancelled a scheduled meeting with residents. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES and MICHAEL NELSON

Residents of the tower blocks on Regina Road are beginning to question whether they will ever get to meet the council’s elusive £800-a-day executive director for housing.

Gone missing: ‘Dr’ Alison Knight, on £800 per day, but never available to listen to residents

“Dr” Alison Knight was hurriedly appointed earlier this year in a panicked response from the council chief executive after a national scandal was caused when the “appalling” state of the South Norwood council flats was exposed on national television.

Knight was hired, according to the council at the time, “to co-ordinate widespread improvements to how council residents are listened to and looked after” (our italics).

Yet after five months in post, highly paid trouble-shooter Knight has not managed to attend a single meeting with the residents at the centre of the housing scandal.

Knight failed to show up for last month’s mass meeting organised by residents, and now she has cancelled the next scheduled meeting, and in doing so she managed to cause offence to many as she mangled the name of the residents’ support group which was established to help sort out the housing problems which her council and their contractors have failed to address.

An independent report in May confirmed that Croydon tenants had not been listened to, even though many had been complaining to the council and its repairs contractors, Axis, for as much as four years about the leaks of water (and worse), mould and damp present in all three 1960s-built blocks. The horrific and often dangerous conditions were described by the housing ministry as “completely unacceptable”.

When, last month, council officials and councillors finally agreed to a meeting organised by the Regina Road Residents’ Support Group, Knight was a conspicuous absentee. It was said that she was “on annual leave”. Knight was appointed in May on a six-month contract.

Sign post: the work of the Regina Road support group is being ignored by council officials, going against the advice of independent consultants

Then, on Friday, residents were told that a promised follow-up meeting to be held on September 30, where Knight was again expected to attend, cannot now take place because of the council’s “purdah” period ahead of the mayoral referendum.

While purdah is properly imposed to avoid significant policy announcements in the weeks immediately before a public vote, and halts councillors using public resources to promote their own political positions, it ought not to affect council staff and the conduct of other council business. Regina Road tenants are very suspicious about purdah being used by council officials to avoid meeting with the residents they are supposed to serve.

“They knew the date of the mayoral referendum when we had our last meeting in August and they offered the September 30 date for a follow-up,” one resident said.

“It looks as if it was an empty gesture designed to appease residents.

“If purdah was a real issue, it should have been a real issue for them then.

“This just smacks of an excuse to dodge meeting with us yet again.”

The tireless efforts of the Regina Road Residents Support Group, which was formed in April, has to some extent made the task facing Knight somewhat easier, as the group has helped to bring together the residents’ complaints and coordinate their responses to the council’s attempts to remedy the dire situation.

Yet last week Knight managed to further alienate the residents, drafting a letter on September 24 that referred to meetings held in partnership with an organisation that doesn’t actually exist, which she called “the Regina Road Action Group”. She even devised an acronym for the non-existent organisation, saying that residents woould be “able to raise particular and personal cases through them”.

Some have interpreted Knight’s failure to mention the Regina Road Residents Support Group as a deliberate attempt at a sleight, to undermine the work being done by residents on behalf of residents.

Sources at Fisher’s  Folly who have encountered Knight since she arrived in Croydon describe her as “nothing more than a local authority bureaucrat”. Another suggested that Knight “lacks empathy”. “I’m not sure she has the qualities needed for a crisis of this importance,” they said.

Last week, the council’s interim executive director for housing signed her letter to long-suffering Regina Road residents somewhat self-importantly as “Dr Alison Knight”, although she has no medical qualifications. Her qualification is not in any discipline relevant to her work. Knight’s doctorate is supposed to be in education, though this episode appears to show she is not a very good learner.

Spelling it out: Alison Knight appears to pretend she has not heard of the Regina Road Residents’  Support Group

“The inability of Knight to correctly name the representative group of residents with whom they have met and continue to liaise frequently has left us asking whether the person appointed to listen to them after years of being ignored is even paying attention,” one resident told Inside Croydon.

The Residents’ Support Group alerted Knight’s office to the errors in her letter on Friday. They said that the letter should not be distributed, for the risk that the misinformation would cause confusion and uncertainty.

The RRRSG was told by a council official that this letter could not be withdrawn as it had been sent to the printers. Hundreds of copies of “Dr” Knight’s letter were hand-delivered on Saturday.

“We’ve had four years or more of being ignored by the council,” an angry resident said.

“It seems that Alison Knight fits in with that not listening culture at the council very well.”

Read more: Investigation into housing scandal finds systemic failure and incompetence
Read more: Council forced to pay (Sandwell) blogger’s £50,000 legal costs
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats
Read more: £104,000: astronomical pay deal for housing troubleshooter

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Alison Knight, Community associations, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Housing, Katherine Kerswell, Regina Road Residents' Support Group, South Norwood and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Regina Road residents angry as Knight ducks another meeting

  1. Maverick says:

    Strange this ( or maybe not ) they are quick to take the money but not the responsibility!

  2. I have friends where the father is a “Dr” – something to do with computing. However they always describe his doctorate as “not of a useful kind”, by contrast with medical doctors who are useful. I can see some parallels here.

    • There’s a degree of self-importance and, indeed, arrogance in an instance such as this, where a well-earned qualification, but one irrelevant to the field a person is working in, is flaunted about as if it has some importance. It is at least patronising, perhaps even bullying, of tenants many of whom are vulnerable or have English as a second language.

  3. mikebweb says:

    Well that pretty much confirms who NOT TO VOTE FOR, purdah or not!

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    There are so many descriptive D nouns from disingenuous via discriminatory and disrespectful to unreasonably delaying until her term is up and has hand-bagged a substantial sum without ever facing the music. But let us be real here – Alison Knight PhD did not make this mess at Regina Court. That lies with the Leader his Deputy the Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet along with the Executive in charge of Housing and Negrini oh and Axis lets not forget they are paid to do this work. Can the Council not reclain money from that contract? (Have I missed anyone else?)

    This non attending person has been given objectives by her manager and clearly is either meeting them or not. If not, then why is this not being managed? If they are, then clearly Regina Court is not on her performance target list or even a priority,so why has everyone been misled into believing she is? Is this an example of further poor communication or something more nefarious?

    Honestly why waste time on a person who clearly has no time for the plight of residents and go straight back to the person who appointed her for her to attend in her subordinates absence.?

  5. Dolphin says:

    If she is no longer in research mode, as she may feel she knows the issues therefore sees meeting with the public as unnecessary; fair enough, but what is the plan? Unfortunately I say to bring in new models, or conceptual frameworks/concepts and hypotheses that may be results oriented, you have to be fair because, for all the chefs stirring the broth no one appears to want to meet the public. OK maybe their voices might not add to existing knowledge on the subject matter but the devil is in the detail, following basic project management principles could help to sort this mess out. Chart where the success should be; if not reaching the desired goals, evaluate the situation find a solution and keep it moving. But we do need to see the plan! To help not hinder. Otherwise the simplest plan would be to weigh the cost to put the repairs right across Axis remit and beyond. Against getting rid of the unnecessary management speak easys who ‘write suggestions’ but can not physically get the job done. Therefore the crystal ball says ’employ trades men who will at the end of the day be required to actually do the work, as part of their contract they must take on a percentage of college leavers to give them real life experiences and or why not bring the classroom to some of these flats as on the job work skills experience as a way to make a start to address more than one of the boroughs issues. You could also work along side probation, employment agencies, disability trainers… Then I woke up

  6. miapawz says:

    To me it would make more sense to sack her and spend her salary on a good electrician, builder and plumbing firm to go and see Regina road’s residents good. £800 a day should cover off those three and a helper and they could go and fix the place. (probably needs a total overhaul but they would still be better value at £800 a day). Pawz

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