Jubilee street parties, wildfires in our parks and woodlands, further decline on the High Street, and a set of local elections that at Croydon Council they managed to take an agonising four days to deliver the full results.
In the second part of our review of 2022, we look back over the long hot summer which began with the installation of the borough’s first-ever elected Mayor
Local elections like no other.
First, there was the Mayoral vote, the first held in this borough. With the Tories in disarray nationally thanks to their dishonest, party-revellers in Downing Street, the Conservatives were losing seats, and councils, across the country, especially in London. The City of Westminster fell to Labour, and then that bastion of Thatcherism, Wandsworth, turned red again for the first time in 40 years.
In bankrupted Croydon, though, after eight years under Tony Newman and his numpties, residents elected a Conservative Mayor.
But only just, as a majority of fewer than 600 votes in a borough with more than 350,000 residents, saw Jason Perry pip Labour’s Val Shawcross. Hardly a resounding mandate for Perry, who at the Town Hall in 2019 and 2020 had voted in favour of the Labour council budgets which led to the borough’s bankruptcy.
Shawcross’s campaign had been hamstrung from the start because of the local party’s obstinate opposition to even the notion of having a Mayor, an attitude introduced by sullen Newman, who saw the proposal as an affront to his leadership (which it was… since so much had gone badly wrong under Newman’s Soprano-like reign of terror).
Even after Newman resigned as leader and councillor, and was suspended by the Labour Party – a suspension which remains in place in 2023 – Croydon Labour doubled-down on its opposition to the mayoralty through Blairite MP Steve Reed OBE and his claims that having a Mayor would cost the cash-strapped council £1million – without saying that this was similar to the cost of having Newman as leader, and about 1/1,000th of the overall cost to the borough of Newman’s disastrous administration.
Inside Croydon’s editorial position on having a directly elected Mayor, it is worth noting, is that it was only #ABitLessShit. Early days, perhaps, but it all indications suggest that part-time Perry as Mayor is doing his half-arsed utmost to show our prediction to be very well-founded.
And don’t let anyone tell you that the public are not interested in coverage of politics, by the way. The long, long night of the count and our reporting on the election result – Tory Perry wins historic Mayor election by less than 600 votes – was the most-read article on this website all year, closely followed by From bankrupt to laughing stock as council count continues, our coverage of the shambolic management of the count by council chief exec Katherine Kerswell.
For the record, Labour has more councillors than any other party in the Town Hall, but not enough for an overall majority, so technically Croydon is “No Overall Control”. And anyway, Mayor Perry’s in charge. Croydon elected its first LibDem councillor for 20 years and its first Green councillors ever, though all three are struggling to make much of an impression as the borough’s political duopoly seeks to smother such plurality.
In other news… Westfield were still trotting out the tired old platitudes about their intentions to regenerate the town centre that we’d all heard multiple times before over the past decade, while the Whitgift Centre continues to die a sad, slow death: Westfield wants to revive plans for Croydon’s blighted centre.
Oh, and lumps of masonry were falling off recently completed Brick by Brick flats in South Norwood – one of the first reports of complaints about the poor standard of construction work and finish in the controversial council-owned house-builders’ properties: Croydon v Croydon: Brick by Brick building declared a ‘danger’.
More was to come as Brick by Brick unravels through its wind-down in the coming months…
This was Jubilee month, when more than 140 streets around the borough were closed to stage a post-pandemic party: Quirks on display as Croydon embraces the Jubilee party.
The snagging issues of the money pit that is Brick by Brick continued to unwind as the company was being wound up: Brick by Brick abandons its planning consents and 23 sites.
Inside Croydon prides itself on providing a platform for innovative and robust citizen journalism, and a survey conducted by Emma Gardiner, of the South Norwood Community Kitchen, discovered that more than £100million-worth of new Brick by Brick homes were standing vacant and unused, some more than a year after construction work had been completed, in the midst of a borough-wide housing crisis: ‘Disgrace’ as £110m of Brick by Brick homes stand empty.
Even today, seven months later, Flyover Towers, in the town centre, remains empty, while council wheeler-dealers struggle to get best-value from the disposal of 157 flats in Coulsdon.
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The fate of Selhurst Park Stadium was brought back into focus this month, as it emerged that Crystal Palace FC had to re-apply for planning permission for their spaceship-like £100million new stand, and had gone out and hired expensive development lobbyists to help them achieve their goal: Planning permission lapsed for £100m new stand at Selhurst.
It just turned out that these lobbyists also happen to employ the leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council, and had been wining and dining local MP Steve Reed OBE, too, who has been enjoying a few hospitality tickets to some of the big games at Selhurst in previous months.
By July, the long, hot summer was already causing concerns, not only about the existential threat of the climate crisis, but because suburban homes were under threat of fire as wild grass fires spread around some of the borough’s recreation grounds and woodlands: 12 fire engines on call to blazes in tinder-dry Croydon hills.
And that stuff about citizen journalism? Ken Towl, the Samuel Pepys of 21st Century Croydon, delivered the goods yet again with a little trek on the new Elizabeth Line to confirm that a journey from south London to Heathrow had indeed got a good deal easier (if not cheaper): All change for Elizabeth Line trains on faster track to Heathrow.
The slow decay of Croydon’s high street and its ever-diminishing retail offer remains a cause for concern. Waitrose announcing that they were to shut up shop on George Street seemed emblematic of the decline: Waitrose confirms closure plan for its George Street store.
It also probably denies this website many more opportunities to re-use this cherished photograph, above right, from its archives…
Waitrose bringing down the shutters and potentially making 70 workers redundant didn’t seem to make much of a mark with the dullards at the council’s favourite PR agency, Grey Label, who still went ahead and put the George Street supermarket on its shortlist for employer of the year: Red faces after doomed supermarket is shortlisted for award.
Seriously, some people occasionally accuse us of making this shit up. Honestly, there’s no need as long as the council continues to work hand-in-glove with so many gormless buffoons.
The second-most read article from August also concerned high street retail, and beyond those visiting this website to seek new work opportunities, more than a couple aired the suspicion that after Waitrose’s departure, Marks and Spencer might be considering its own exit strategy from the benighted Whitgift Centre: M&S recruiting 130 staff ahead of opening Purley Way store.
A survey published this month went a long way to confirming that there isn’t actually a housing crisis, as such. Just an appalling lack of supply of low-rent, social housing.
According to the chief exec of a property comparison website, the disconnect in Croydon’s and the nation’s housing market is the result of “market manipulation”, where housing delivery has been “decided by profitability over need”, and this has left parts of the borough “oversaturated by new homes”, while thousands remain on the council’s housing waiting list: Oversupply of flats in borough is due to ‘profit over need’.
And what of the council’s cash crisis and investigations into the culprits? What had dynamic Mayor Perry managed to discover in his first 100 days? Nada. Zilch. Zero. Sweet Fanny Adams…
Inside Croydon did, however, manage to wheedle out of the council the news that they had already spent an eye-watering £300,000 on outside consultants to investigate possible fraud over the £67million Fairfield Halls fiasco. Despite some hefty clues from the council’s auditors, investigators Kroll, had so far found… nuffink: Fairfield: £300k council fraud investigation and still no answers.
Undaunted, Katherine Kerswell, the council’s £190,000 per year chief executive, has since then hired Kroll for another “investigation”, to discover who leaked the Penn Report to Inside Croydon. More money well-spent we have heard no one say…
- The third and final part of our Review of 2022 comes tomorrow, complete with a royal death, Downing Street revolving doors and ministerial sackings (plural!) for a local MP, TV revelations, the Penn Report is published at last (by this website), and a (virtual) trip to the High Court courtesy of Croydon’s dysfunctional council…
- Check out Part 1 of our Review of 2022 by clicking here
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