CROYDON IN CRISIS: A year after they gave a ‘golden handshake’ to the council CEO who helped bankrupt the borough, part of the £38.4m Town Hall budget cuts will impact dozens of charities and community groups.
EXCLUSIVE By STEVEN DOWNES
It is barely 12 months since the leadership at Croydon’s cash-strapped council authorised a secret payment of £440,000 to the discredited and departing chief exec, Jo “Negreedy” Negrini. Now, in a particularly perverse version of robbing Peter to pay Paul, Croydon Labour’s leaders are planning to reduce grants to the borough’s voluntary sector by a similar amount in 2022-2023.
This is the budget cut that did not get discussed at Monday night’s council meeting, and it seems unlikely that Labour will want to air it at its cabinet meeting next week.
But on top of the massive cut to Council Tax benefits also proposed, the reduction in grants to the voluntary sector will come as a harsh double-whammy for the borough’s vulnerable and least well-off. It is also a massive slap in the face, coming after two years where many voluntary groups have been in the frontline of providing support through the covid pandemic.
Croydon Voluntary Action, the council-funded umbrella body for the sector, this morning issued a statement on behalf of two dozen charity and community groups, expressing the hope that their funding levels will somehow be maintained.
Where these further council cuts will really sting with the inheritors of the crass mismanagement of the bankrupt borough’s finances is that the Croydon Community Fund, which is to lose £400,000 in the next financial year, was the creation of Hamida Ali when she was the cabinet member responsible for the voluntary sector.
Now, as leader of the council, “Apologetic” Ali is expected to be really very sorry for axing nearly half a million pounds of grants from the borough’s voluntary sector – money that was supposedly ring-fenced and guaranteed in a three-year arrangement through until 2023.
It seems very likely that among the worst-hit voluntary groups and charities will be those who spent 2020 doing much of the council’s emergency work for it, coordinating and staffing the community response during the first lockdown of the pandemic – providing versions of a meals-on-wheels service to the old and house-bound, keeping in touch with the isolated and vulnerable, and running foodbanks for families, many of whom had lost their incomes as businesses were shut down.
The borough’s charities and voluntary groups won’t be told until December how and where the axe will fall.
But the infrastructure groups, such as CVA, the Croydon BME Forum, Croydon Neighbourhood Care Association and the Asian Resource Centre, are understood to be negotiating with the council on the cuts to their budgets.
“It’s one of those negotiations,” a Katharine Street source said today, “rather like that of the condemned prisoner when discussing what to have for their last meal before being sent off to the scaffold.”
On top of the cuts in grant aid, there remains uncertainty over the status of rent subsidies and discretionary rates relief which the council has, until now, provided to assist the voluntary sector.
Steve Phaure is the chief executive of CVA. As someone effectively appointed to that role by the council, he is hardly likely to rock the boat for his Fisher’s Folly funders.
His letter today was sent on behalf of organisations as varied as Age UK Croydon, the Whitgift Foundation-supported Carers Support Centre, Mencap, the Garwood Foundation, Citizens Advice Croydon, the SW London Law Centres and Croydon’s Almshouse Charities – all of them likely to be hit hard by the cuts being proposed by Ali’s council.
Phaure wrote that he and the various groups, Croydon’s voluntary and community sector, or “VCS” in the jargon, were “reaffirming our commitment to taking on lead roles and responsibilities to aid Croydon’s recovery”.
He wrote, “Croydon’s VCS is adding social value, bringing in external funds, preventing crisis and escalation, and innovating new models of working to meet Croydon’s post-pandemic challenges.
“Continued investment is crucial for the VCS to fulfil its role as a willing, strong and effective partner in the transformation of services and the targeting of support for marginalised communities in Croydon,
“Croydon’s VCS understands the Council’s financial crisis and is ready to hold the frontline, as it did during the pandemic, into the winter months and beyond. Given its financial position the council is not expected to increase VCS budgets, but we are looking forward to confirmation… that current VCS budget levels will be sustained – enabling us to continue mobilising community assets behind Croydon’s recovery programme.”
It is a meek shot across the bows.
But Phaure and the various voluntary groups are likely to be very disappointed.
Read more: Further £38.4m to be sliced from next year’s council budget
Read more: Cynical, hypocritical and devious: benefit cut to hit thousands
Read more: Council in attempt to cover-up £440,000 pay-off to Negrini
- Inside Croydon depends on regular subscriptions from our readers to enable us to continue to deliver exclusive, headline-making and independent journalism – the sort of scrutiny that Croydon Council would prefer did not exist. Please sign up today as a subscriber. Click here
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named the country’s rottenest borough in 2020 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine – the fourth successive year that Inside Croydon has been the source for such award-winning nominations
- Inside Croydon: 3million page views in 2020. Seen by 1.4million unique visitors
For the few and not the many – as always
Bit like their special educational needs support: as few as possible but by any means possible
”Doctor! My four fingers and thumb are bleeding!”
”No worries let’s just take the arm off at the shoulder and then you will only be bleeding from one place”
Thankfully there are lots of people in Croydon who Volunteer still for many organisations and no matter what this Council does, those volunteers will still do so where and when they can.
Many who use this route to get work experience and off Universal Credit will be hit by these cuts as the organisations they would normally go to will no longer be there.
Many who Volunteer will find that their organisation is no longer there so their time will not be focused and they will be limited in what they can do alone.
Many of those who use these Charities that have already filled the gaps of previous cuts to Council departments like the Welfare benefits team (but perhaps not as good or as experienced as they were) will also suffer.
Food banks will close leading to more hunger and poverty in this Borough
More will end up unable to work productively and end up claiming benefits
People in general will become less willing to give their time to support services being cut
More will become disenchanted and vulnerable more disenfranchised and deserted by society.
Social cohesion starts to break down. Crime rises and unrest strengthens.
This is not a viewpoint. These are bullet points of the known impacts of the cuts being made through previous experiences of London Boroughs and other Authorities.
So where exactly does this Council think it is making any savings? This looks like a £450,000 cut that is going to cost millions to this Borough.
Has this Borough forgotten that when particular charities close – so does the roles they fulfill on behalf of this Council in meeting those statutory requirements?
If and when Citizens Advice and the Law Centre closes or reduce their operating hours, were are this Council and Councillors going to signpost the multitude of people they refer to then?
Stupid is as stupid does!, as Forrest Gump once said.
I can only hope that the Croydon (allegedly Labour) Council defer their increased boycott of IC long enough to read this comment..
Oh they read it, Sarah. They read every word. They just won’t admit to it.
When Negrini was in town, she was using thousands of pounds of public money to pay a trainee lawyer to trawl through our archive, in case we said anything nasty about her which might have been actionable. Trouble was, everything we reported was accurate, well-sourced and legal.
There appears to be very few in the Town Hall Labour group – with the exception of one or two members of the current cabinet and a few councillors – with the wit to realise that they might actually learn something.
Surely better and more efficient savings could be made by clearing out a tier of the overpaid management, and the planning department, where I understand even a project presented by my dog would be passed – so do we really need them?
How virtuous they must feel banking enormous salaries and benefits whilst they screw everyone including the most vulnerable.
Heres a thought why don’t we cut planning and building control totally. That has got to save a few million quid and a bucket of harm to residents. Instead all development applications must be sent to a Unitary authority that dislikes developers and will act on our behalf for a fee – that will be 10% less than the cost of the application. If it costs more the developer can pay that charge. Come on we do it with Pest Control why not planning?