While Croydon Council flogs off one park lodge on the cheap today, tomorrow a charitable foundation with property assets worth nearly half-a-billion pounds will be staging a fund-raiser in another park to get the money to pay for the purchase cost of another, until-now publicly-owned building.
Two thousand school children will gather at Ashburton Park tomorrow morning together with Mr Motivator (Derrick to his friends) and DJ MilkTray, who will lead them in “an inspiring event to launch the ‘Legacy for Zaian’ project”, in memory of knife-crime victim Zaian Aimable-Lina.
Aimable-Lina was the 15-year-old who was killed in Ashburon Park in December. He was the second pupil from Oasis Academy Shirley Park to be killed in a knife attack in 2021: six months earlier, Damarie Omare Roye, 16, died of his wounds in hospital after being stabbed in the street in Thornton Heath.
Aimable-Lina was the 29th teenager killed on the streets of London in 2021.
The Ashburton Park Lodge was due to be auctioned off by the council last month, but the sale was halted to allow the Oasis education foundation to raise the money to buy the property and convert it into a youth centre, to be named in memory of their former pupil.
The Zaian Youth Centre will be created by refurbishing the former council home to become what the Oasis foundation says will be “the heart of a new Croydon-wide youth service designed to serve future generations of young people”.
In a statement issued yesterday, Oasis said, “A growing network of grassroots community organisations will pool their expertise and work together to create a different future for many of the borough’s young people.”
A 2019 report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime found a 51per cent fall in the number of youth centres supported by councils since 2011 – as well as a 42per cent drop in youth service staff over the same period.
Over the past decade, youth services have been cut by 91 per cent across more than 100 councils. It is believed areas that have seen the largest spending cuts have suffered the largest increases in knife crime.
The children attending tomorrow’s event will be drawn from the Oasis academies at Shirley Park, Croydon (the primary school on Longhurst Road), Arena and Ryelands, which are part of the 52-school chain of publicly-funded academies which Oasis, an education business with charitable status, has built up since being founded by Baptist minister Steve Chalke in 1985.
According to official records at the Charity Commission, the Oasis foundation has property and other assets worth more than £400million, mostly made up of what were once state-owned school buildings, or purpose-built schools paid for by the state, which the foundation has accumulated.
Despite such wealth, according to an Oasis spokesperson, “We are raising funds to refurbish, equip and, most importantly, staff the Zaian Youth Centre.” Oasis “has a lot of property assets,” they admitted, “but of course cannot liquidate them”.
The end goal is estimable, but the route to get there is undoubtedly questionable.
So because the local council is bankrupt, possibly twice over, and the government refuses to provide adequate funding for proper, life-saving, crime-preventing youth services, a publicly-owned building has to be sold – below its full value, in all probability – to a wealthy education business, which requires hundreds of thousands of pounds of donations from the public, for them to then turn it into a youth centre.
Welcome to Tory Britain, 2022.
Chalke told Inside Croydon, “Youth clubs play a vital role in the healthy development of so many young people, yet youth services have been drastically cut back over the last decade.
“What’s different about the service we are designing for The Zaian Centre is that it will prevent young people from slipping out of the education system, which puts them at risk of being targeted by sexual predators and criminal gangs. The chance of being involved in the criminal justice system rises by 400per cent once a child has been excluded from school.”
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