CROYDON COMMENTARY: Whoever is elected on Thursday as the borough’s first Mayor will inherit an in-tray weighed down with a raft of controversial reports and investigations into missing millions, the details of which have been kept secret for far too long says ROBERT WARD
Dear New Mayor,
Sorry to trouble you again so soon, but I have an issue that requires your urgent attention. It is also an opportunity to show early on in your tenure that you are serious about changing the council’s culture of secrecy.
When I talk to Croydon’s residents, I keep being asked the same questions. Residents want to know what really happened to cause the collapse of Croydon Council, and when will someone be asked to justify themselves in a court of law.
I do not have an answer for them, which really isn’t right given the sums involved and that the whole debacle came to light nearly two years ago.
Croydon cannot move on until we have some answers. Information has been kept secret for far too long.
Perhaps once your election has been confirmed and you have moved into your new office, here are some documents that you need to make public.
- The report of the independent investigation into the Council’s failure, usually referred to as the Penn Report, compiled by Richard Penn of the Local Government Association, must be published. It was completed nearly 18 months ago. There can be no more excuses.
- The pay-off to the former chief executive is still a live issue to Croydon’s residents. The external auditor has raised concerns, which were discussed – in secret – at the appointments committee just a week ago. It is reported that the justification for this substantial sum was not given to councillors prior to the meeting that approved it and that it was only shown on screen at the meeting. This is appalling. This document needs to be published. If figures need to be removed, so be it, but the rest must be published unredacted.
- The council has commissioned investigations into whether fraud may have been committed, in particular in and around the contractual arrangements for the Fairfield Halls refurbishment. I hope this work is already well underway. The terms of reference of this investigation needs to be published immediately. Especially, we need to know when the results of the investigation will be known and made public.
- Another festering sore is the truth about the state of the Fairfield Halls. Yet another investigation was commissioned into the technical shortcomings of the botched refurbishment. The terms of reference of this work need to be made public, too. Indeed, the report itself should be ready by now, so that, too, needs to be published. If it is not yet complete, we need to see an interim report. How much more money will need to be spent to bring the Halls up to standard?
- The Brick by Brick saga has continued for far too long. We need to know the status. How many of the contracts that Brick by Brick had with external suppliers are still not closed out? Are any of those contracts the subject of legal action? And how much more taxpayers’ money is at risk?
- A number of the homes constructed by Brick by Brick and, in some cases, completed some time ago, remain empty. How many are in this state? And why?
- The “missing” £73million pounds of the Croydon Affordable Housing affair – money supposedly ring-fenced for housing, but spent on other areas of the council’s operations – needs resolution. We now have three years of the council’s accounts outstanding. What is the truth?
That there are so many unanswered questions is a damning criticism of the council’s discredited past.
It is time to come clean, to put this behind us.
For the sake of our town, please take us on the first step on the road back to respectability by publishing these documents immediately.
Thank you and best regards.
- Robert Ward, pictured right, has been a Conservative councillor for Selsdon and Addington Village since 2018, and is standing for election again on Thursday
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