CROYDON COMMENTARY: The close working relationship between senior council planners and profit-hungry developers building in the borough is under increasingly close scrutiny. Here, IAN KIERANS suggests some ways for residents to get the answers that they are seeking
The MP, Chris Philp, asked the wrong question.
It would be inappropriate for an employer, such as Croydon Council, to release individual information about an employee, such as Jan Slominski, and Dean Shoesmith, the head of personnel at the council, is perhaps viewing his response to the MP under the Data Protection Act, not to mention Employment Law.
Mind you – as many requesting lawful information from this council will know – they have a varied and extremely “interesting” approach to providing information, and they already have a shed load of rationales ready to meet their needs to withhold information that might not be seen as conducive to their interests.
I believe Croydon residents already have a perfectly clear understanding of how the council’s planning department operates policy, process and interprets planning law, creating a wonderful aroma that would make Viridor sewage’s treatment plants appear amateurish in creating strong, pungent smells.
Chris Philp should perhaps ask Dean Shoesmith a couple of different questions.
Such as, under the Freedom of Information Act, please provide the dates of all vacancies of planning officer positions by grade between 2019 and March 2022.
Or such as, under the Freedom of Information Act, please provide the advertisement for each filled position of vacant posts. Please indicate if recruited internally or externally.
I am sure that Mr Shoesmith and the council’s legal department will slap an embargo on the part that may inadvertently release individual information by doing so. Job done.
The real issue here are those links between developers and public officials. Council officers have to not only be impartial and distinct but also above reproach, and to be seen to be above reproach.
It is clear that there are multiple instances where council officials’ conduct has not been up to those standards, and the evidence is overwhelmingly against them
Chris Philp should ask for an independent investigation of the Croydon planning department, as it has brought the council into disrepute. Perhaps Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, would listen closely to Mr Philp?
Or perhaps Val Shawcross, Labour’s candidate for Croydon Mayor, may like to get interested, as the independent candidate for Mayor, Andrew Pelling, already has done over a matter of major concern to both Labour and Conservative voters?
One can never know the truth until there is clarity and open government.
This secretive council has a definite bunker mentality, responding with silence when challenged.
It is time for Heather Cheesebrough, the council director in charge of development in the borough, to dispel the planning department’s sordid public reputation and open up its decisions to independent scrutiny, and at least install clear ethical controls and processes that can show they are operating impartially and in the interests of all stakeholders.
It’s about time we had a clean breast of matters and move forward to restore this borough’s good reputation.
Read more: Suspicions over secrecy surrounding Slominski’s return
Read more: Buyers beware: High Court judge puts planners in the dock
Read more: Developers given free rein from a council with no controls
Croydon Commentary is a platform for all our readers to offer their personal views about what matters to them in and around the borough. To submit an article for publication, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your comment to an Inside Croydon article that has caught your attention
- 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 email@example.com
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- By having a comment section, we provide all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content. Details of how this works can be read by clicking here
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- Inside Croydon: 3.3million page views in 2021. Seen by 1.6million unique visitors in that 12-month period