Mayor Perry is told to wait for £18.5m Levelling Up boost

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Business interests in the town centre will benefit from Government cash for cycling and walking schemes. But doubts surround whether Mayor Perry will manage to deliver a six-year-old Labour plan to open up College Green. By our Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE

Business partners: Jason Perry and Matthew Sims (right) both sit on the board of Croydon BID

Croydon’s Tory Mayor Jason Perry has been crowing about £18.5million in Levelling Up money that the Conservative Government has shovelled his way.

This is what local businessman Perry once said at a development conference staged in the town centre: “We can take investment money and make it work for the benefit of Croydon.

“We are a borough that is open for business and focused on delivery. That is what we are about.

“We are on site and we are here to help you invest and deliver London’s next big opportunity.”

That was Jason Perry in November 2012, when he was the council cabinet member for planning, regeneration and transport, full of enthusiasm for the new Westfield regeneration of the town centre that he and his Tory mates – including “bamboozled” Boris Johnson – had recently inflicted on the borough.

The Westfield scheme, in its various guises, was promised to be a £1.4billion redevelopment – 100 times the size of the Levelling Up grant announced for Croydon yesterday. But it has never been delivered, and has blighted Croydon town centre for more than a decade.

Here’s Jason Perry again: “I am determined to bring much-needed investment to Croydon, starting with our bid for almost £20million of Levelling Up funding, which would firmly put town centre regeneration back on track, making us a destination where people want to live, work and visit.

“With this funding, we plan to make necessary changes to reconnect, refresh, revitalise and regenerate key areas of our town centre – restoring a sense of local pride in Croydon.”

Tired old bid: five masterplans, gathering dust in the council’s offices, were presented as a package for the Levelling Up fund 16 months ago

That was Jason Perry in July 2022, when he announced the submission of the borough’s bid for Levelling Up cash.

In fact, what those proposals amounted to were re-hashed schemes from old masterplans that had originally been knocked up during the period when Jo Negrini was Croydon’s go-get-em chief executive.

Included among the requests originally submitted was a £11.8million ask for “walking, cycling, public realm” for something the council insists on calling “Fair Field”. That’s a throwback to the time when Labour’s Paul Scott was in charge of planning and doling out multi-million-pound contracts to his architect acquaintances. Most Croydon residents still consider the place to be called College Green.

The plans and drawings at the heart of the council’s submission are by now at least six years old.

Effectively, “Fair Field” represents nearly two-thirds of the entire Levelling Up grant that was approved in principle yesterday, to be used to landscape and open up the plot of land between the Fairfield Halls and Croydon College – work that was supposed to have been completed alongside the budget-busting £70million refurbishment of the arts complex but was never done. The Fairfield Halls re-opened after its refurb more than four years ago.

Dodgy claims: the council’s presentations for the Levelling Up money were poorly drafted and delusional

Given Perry’s instinctive pro-pollution, anti-cyclist preferences, the schemes which he has championed to the Department of Levelling Up represent considerable investments in new bike lanes and other pedestrian-friendly measures.

There was a £3.9million ask to green up Roman Way, the six-lane urban motorway that speeds past Croydon Minster and splits Old Town from Waddon.

Then there was £1.4million requested for “walking, cycling, environmental enhancements” – probably a cycle lane and a few trees – along Wellesley Road, another of the town centre’s divisive motorways.

There was £500,000 for “walking, cycling, bus priority and public realm” at East Croydon Station. Does that mean someone might powerwash the grease off the pavement outside Boozepark (you don’t get much for half-a-mill these days)?

And there’s a similar amounts requested for similar broad-stroke proposals at West Croydon Station and along the High Street from South End to North End, too.

Back in July 2022, it all totted up to £19.9million. It is not yet clear where the mandarins in Whitehall have trimmed £1.4million from the Croydon pitch to come up with the £18.5million announced yesterday.

But what is clear is that, however you dress it up, none of the schemes taken individually are likely to provide the kind of “transformation” that recurs throughout the council’s own propaganda. Collectively, they represent just 1% of what was promised with the Westfield development.

In short, it all smacks of more than a bit of desperation.

And what Perry has not said is that even the payment of the grants is not altogether nailed down.

Tory minister: Jacob Young wants to check Croydon’s submission before confirming the grant

The latest round of £1billion Levelling Up Fund grants have been made to those schemes submitted in 2022 and initially rejected. Including Croydon’s.

This round of grants has short-circuited the previous system, avoided another round of painfully patronising Powerpoints, and just doled out large dollops of public money around the country. Call it a pre-election bribe if you like.

Croydon’s was one of 55 such schemes from what Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove described yesterday as “communities that have, for too long, been overlooked and undervalued”. Which is nice.

In a letter from Levelling Up minister Jacob Young to Mayor Perry, however, it was made clear that the £18,498,777 was only provisionally awarded to Croydon. The men (and women) in suits in Whitehall want to re-check Croydon’s rough workings. And, given our council’s problems with making numbers add up correctly, who can blame them?

“Due to the time that has passed since your application was submitted,” Young wrote, “we will require a short check to ensure the bid will still benefit from Government funding and remains a local priority.

“We will also ask you to confirm that the bid has not changed significantly, is still deliverable by March 2026, and still represents value for money.” For anyone who’s been following Croydon’s council for a couple of years or so, there’s a couple of serious red flags right there…

Young also caveated the award by saying, “The money cannot be used to support activity that is substantially different…”, before adding that he recognises that “project adjustments” may need to be made. We will see…

For Perry’s sake, let’s hope that Gove, Young and the Whitehall beancounters don’t look too closely at some of the wild claims that Croydon Council made in its original bid documents.

In the Powerpoint presentation that went before Perry’s council cabinet in the summer of 2022, they claimed, in all seriousness, “Croydon town centre is a hub of social and economic prosperity.” What do you mean, you spat out your coffee?

  • They also claimed: “Croydon town centre is known for being an accessible, safe and
    inclusive environment.”
  • The council presentation said: “Croydon town centre is healthy, green and pleasant.”
  • Oh, and this was a good one: “Investors have confidence in Croydon.”
  • The borough which has an annex of a university that is not ranked within the country’s top 100 also claimed: “Students choose Croydon’s educational institutions.”
  • And the real zinger was saved to last: “New retail, hospitality and leisure businesses choose to locate in Croydon.”

In its announcement issued yesterday from the council’s propaganda bunker in Fisher’s Folly, they said, “The vision for the project is to ‘Reconnect, Refresh, Revitalise and Regenerate’ the town centre, as part of Executive Mayor Jason Perry’s priority for the wider regeneration of Croydon town centre.

“The projects will provide improved connections throughout the town centre, so residents and visitors will be able to travel more easily through safer, greener and more pleasant routes.”

And in November 2023, Jason Perry is supposed to have said: “I’m delighted we have been successful in the Levelling Up Fund…”

‘New’ vision: the council has been dusting off similar graphics for the past decade

Apparently ignoring the fact that the public funding is only 1% of the value of the regeneration of the town centre he first promised 11 years ago, Perry said, “This will be a huge boost for Croydon town centre and will form part of my determination to restoring pride in our community, reconnect and regenerate Croydon.”

But there was one other comment from July 2022 which might inform judgement on the impact, or lack thereof, of the various piecemeal schemes put forward by Croydon Council. “The business community has got behind the bid with wide-ranging support,” according to Matthew Sims, the chief executive of business group Croydon BID, “… as we work together to strengthen Croydon as a destination where businesses can thrive.”

So was this a pitch for public money for private interests made by Croydon’s part-time Mayor?

Jason Perry is a director of Croydon BID.

Read more: Westfield boss says Croydon scheme could take 15 more years
Read more: Crunch! Cyclist seriously injured after crash in sabotaged lane
Read more: What will the ‘new’ Westfield deal really mean for Croydon?

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4 Responses to Mayor Perry is told to wait for £18.5m Levelling Up boost

  1. The prospect of all that money being wasted on cycling will come as terrible news for the Mayor’s pet paedo

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    Clearly West Croydon to Norbury has again been ignored in that levelling up.
    So the most populous and deprived wards most in need of ”levelling up are left to sink further into chaos and disregard by public services.

    Croydon Administrations treat these wards as a problem. Yet all of those wards problems are created by those exact same public authorities and their actions and decisions.
    Many residents feel like they are being treated like non humans with contempt. North Croydon has over 35% of the population of the Borough and does not get anything close to decent services and too often has no services.

    What is provided is doled out in a manner not much better than contempuous alms giving by people so supercilious and arrogant even scrooge would look like Mother Teresa.

    If you think that is harsh just look at Regina Court, the drug, vermin, and rubbish stren emergency housing we are paying for in North Croydon along London Road and Thonton heath at usurious costs.

    Those are places so bad the crack and drug users and their dealers prefer the rubbish strewn streets and doorways to conduct their affairs. Even those flats above Paddy power have crack dealers in the walkways – this is accomodation used for mother and babys – supposedly safe places!

    How about a cycle lane the lenght of the London Road off the pavement? That in itself will create a safe walking space so people can take a stroll in safety. Remove the rubbish flowing from door to kerb in places and impassible at times.

    Wash the streets more than once a half decade, especially in dry spells. have a library open from 9 – 21.00
    Just one go on dare you.

    Perry and £20m? Johnson and £20m? Remember this of the £70m £20m specifically for Croydon
    ”The fund is designed to provide swift improvements, so money could be invested in transport, the buying and rebuilding of affected properties and funding business rate relief as well as supporting employment.

    Mr Johnson said: “We will rebuild and repair every part of our city that has been damaged and help London’s businesses get back on their feet.

    “For the most badly affected areas, Croydon and Tottenham, it is vital we also use the opportunity to deliver long term improvements and create new jobs and skills that will benefit these communities for generations to come.

    So one part of rebuilding on the London road has not even started another has only just been completed and one is still in the process of being built. Over 12 years later.

    That was Rouse as CEO Fisher as Leader and Perry in his regeneration shit.

    The three stooges? (Ok perhaps not fair to Mr Rouse now a CBE as he left a couple of years later to do Healthy stuff.)

    Fisher just left £1Bn debt, but Perry sadly for him as last stooge standing has his mitts all over that profligacy and his enablement to Newman during the interim.

    Yep lets help Newman suck the debt in and we can blame him for it all when it hits the shitter.

    Its not blind party politic’s that makes people in North Croydon Vote Labour despite its flaws.
    It is that the alternative is so shockingly self serving, self interested, and devoid of ethics and is unable to deliver anything at all effectively along with always giving excuses, proselitizing the undeliveralbe, or just ignoring those itty bitty facts with silence.

    Trust this guy with £18million? yes? I am sure that will be another perfectly legal development!

    What a great advert for how not to level up – Boris and Gove must be wetting themselves laughing that gullibility is alive and kicking!

  3. D Nicholls says:

    A useful public amenity would be the re-establishment of public toilets such as were located in the underground car park beside Fairfield Halls.

  4. derek thrower says:

    Good to see Mayor Perry at last making a positive contribution to the quality of life.

    Finally you can escape from dystopian central Croydon in a far more pleasant and environmentally friendly way.

    Not exactly sure how these rehashed and reheated old chestnuts attract new business investment and turn over a decade of blight around with less than 20 million quid on cycle paths and trees though.

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