Bureaucrat decides to kick credit union out of council offices

Croydon’s credit union, a community finance organisation that provides low-cost loans to thousands of residents in and around the borough, is being kicked out of the council offices on Monday because, officials say, the local authority needs the space for “its own operational needs”.

No Access Croydon: the council is kicking CroydonPlus out on to the street

Credit unions are community savings and loan cooperatives. They don’t have “customers”, but members, and the credit union operates as a co-operative – more like old-style mutuals and building societies.

Owned by and run for the benefit of the members who use its services, credit unions might not provide access to cash machines and many of the other facilities of a bank, but they provide savers with better interest rates and lenders with cheaper loans.

Importantly at a time of a cost-of-living crisis when many people might be short of cash, Croydon’s credit union has helped to keep hundreds of residents out of the grasp of rapacious payday loan companies, which trade on desperate people borrowing money at sky-high interest rates.

Founded in 1999 as the Croydon, Merton and Sutton Credit Union, it is now known as CroydonPlus and is part of a movement that has been in existence for more than 150 years.

“As we have grown, our purpose has remained the same: to provide local people with an accessible, secure and ethical way of saving and borrowing money,” CroydonPlus says on its website.

CroydonPlus has about 8,000 members, three-quarters of them living in Croydon. Many of those who turn to CroydonPlus for financial help are among the poorest and more vulnerable members of the community, and many of them are council tenants.

The loans taken out from CroydonPlus are often used to help pay council rent or even Council Tax.

“From Monday, the credit union won’t be able to have face-to-face contact with the people it loans money to because of this decision by the council,” according to one council source.

CroydonPlus occupied 10 or 12 desks in Fisher’s Folly, as well as using Access Croydon to meet clients and members.

Total rental value for the CroydonPlus office area is reckoned to be less than £50,000 per year, but their presence in the building, and their ready availability to residents at Access Croydon, is reckoned to have potentially saved the cash-strapped council at least 10 times that amount each year by helping people keep up to date with their rents and Council Tax.

Access Croydon is the public space on the ground floor of Fisher’s Folly (which some people refer to as Bernard Weatherill House, or the snappy “BWH”). After a series of controversial incidents and complaints, including one accusation of verbal and physical assault by security guards on a young woman refugee, Access Croydon was closed for a month for urgent re-arrangements. It is thought to have re-opened today.

CroydonPlus was first sent a notice to quit on October 6 by a council lawyer.

This was followed up this week by a further passive-aggressive email sent from another jobsworth working within the same building: Huw Rhys Lewis, someone who revels in somewhat pompously parading a series of letters after his name – BSc, BArch, MSc, MRIBA, MRICS, MAPM…

BSc, BArch, MSc, MRIBA, MRICS, MAPM: Huw Rhys Lewis

Lewis is formally the Tory-run council’s interim “director of commercial investment and capital”, who was brought in to flog off as many public assets as he can possibly manage in efforts to drive down the council’s own mountain of debt.

It seems very likely that Lewis had a role, for instance, in managing to sell off the Colonnades retail centre on the Purley Way, a viable business making a steady return in rents for the council, but which Croydon managed to flog for £25million less than its purchase price six years ago.

That’s the kind of business deal that only a business genius with 25 letters after their name could possibly secure.

And now penny-wise, pound-foolish Lewis seems to want to do a bit of penny-pinching in his own office building, by kicking CroydonPlus out on to the street, starting from Monday by denying them access to… ahem… Access Croydon, and then, by the end of the year, evicting them from their office space.

Inside Croydon has been told that Lewis’s latest love letter to CroydonPlus stated, “We expect Credit Union to comply with the notice to quit.” He couldn’t even bother to get the organisation’s name correct.

Inside Croydon contacted CroydonPlus to seek an official statement on their situation, but no one was prepared to comment.

Huw Rhys Lewis has yet to kick the over-staffed press office out of their propaganda bunker at Fisher’s Folly, although he might as well, because they never respond to any questions put their way…

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9 Responses to Bureaucrat decides to kick credit union out of council offices

  1. Leslie Parry says:

    Yet another attack on a public community service.

    In my role as Vice Chair of the Tenant & Leaseholders Panel and being one of the 8,000 members, I frequently visit BWH for meetings and there are rafts of unused space. In particular the 7th floor which has around 29 tables set up for meetings etc

  2. Lancaster says:

    This is sad after the Credit Union has been part of the Council for well over 3 decades helping residents and staff.

    Given the hot desking and working from home post pandemic; the quote that the organisation needs the space for its own operational needs sounds like an excuse. Can they specify what these needs are ? The building is rarely full. What about the floors rented out to the private sector, generating income for the council; space that once used by Council staff.

    After being told to surrender desk space in BWH in 2018 and 2019, I took a desk cont of all desks on my floor, 3 times a day for over 17 months; morning noon and mid afternoon. The average staff desk attendance on my floor was less than 60% usage, 40% of desks unused throughout the day; spread sheet with figures and desk usage available.

    Also interested to know when the Council changed its policy of prohibiting staff from using their professional qualifications; or is this just for the highly paid ? We were told it was unnecessary and intimidating !

    • Ian Kierans says:

      Some time ago as I received emails from a certain planning person with all credentials intact. Neither impressed nor intimidated with letters and saddened by the manner and content of the missive that Public service had gotten so unprofessional since I retired.

      The purpose of gaining a qualification is for employment and/ or trade.
      Professional ones show qualification to practice. Thats it. If a person wants to parade those qualifications – well they earned that right.

      But they should consider why they feel the need to perpetually parade them outside of professional usage.

      • Lancaster says:

        It might be odd if my GP did not call themselves Dr; or my legal representative KC !

        I am in favor of hard earned learning being recognised rather than dumbing everything down to a mediocre generic soup.

        I want to know that those acting in a profession actually have a background in their discipline; rather than someone with a business and finance course at a Polytechnic being in charge of our armed forces and national defence.

        • Ian Kierans says:

          Very true and thats the purpose of those professional qualifications. But an MSc has not a lot of relevance outside of the field of that specific science the qualification as gained and no right to practice in another field does it? So as I said it was earned and they have that right. So why feel that people would be intimidated by that or impressed?

  3. Ian Kierans says:

    I note previously that the builing is not well occupied albeit as IC pointed out mostly full mainly from commercial renting.
    Considering with ”Storm” of haplessness emanating from Fishers Folly with the deluge of despair and torrents ofcrocodile tears along with the gale force hot air from Perry’s dancing monkey machine one thing sticks out.

    What operational needs?

    Leaving aside the asides and ribald comments of what Croydon Concil considers an ”operation” – it has stated it is slimming itself with even more cuts and job losses.
    So moving forward there is even less requirement for space. What gives?

    Could this just be a euphemism for charging a higher rent to another tenant but getting rid of another to pace that way to squeezr more cash? It really does come across like that!

    From another perspective
    Mr Fisher ably assisted by Mr Perry left a debt of a Billion mainly due to this building.

    (Mr Newman doubled down on that investing in other ventures assisted by BXB and Lacey who also ploughed pounds into a building. (being unbiased both had fault)

    Can I suggest that IC has a peep at the rationale used to move across the road and all that blurb issued then about how wonderful and neccessary this was with its IT and the Digital age and just compare that to the reality of its usage today.
    What an eye opener into how local administrations are betrayed.

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    There is a remarkable Nationwide Advert – The actions of the Council are so like the Anybank CEO and his attitude to customers.

  5. JohnG says:

    When did the Council forget that it is the facilitator and provider of public services. By withdrawing their support for providers of community services someone else has to foot the bill. The bill very often lands back with the Council in other ways. Can the Council Officers please provide a cost/social and commercial benefit of this decision.

  6. Huw, you forgot these: M.D., A.D., D.D.S., F.L.D., F.F.F. und F.

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