1 in 4 Labour councillors choose not to seek selection for 2022

Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, reports that Labour’s problems nationally are being reflected in the party’s selection process for next May’s council elections. Plus a change of mind by two of the council’s more notorious figures

Back for more: Newman loyalist Toni Letts suggested she would retire – in 2018

Almost one-quarter of the sitting councillors in the Labour group which controls Croydon Town Hall have not applied to be reselected by the party to stand as candidates in next May’s local council elections.

Ten of the council’s 41 Labour councillors have decided not to continue in local politics at the cash-strapped council.

That’s in addition to the three Labour councillors who resigned earlier this year, who included the discredited former council leader Tony Newman and his finance chief, Simon Hall, following their suspension from the party.

That 10/41 represents a significant “churn rate” among local councillors before the four-yearly elections, and is seen by insiders as a reflection of the brutal and bruising past few years of the administration under Newman and his “controlling” clique.

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Posted in 2022 council elections, Alison Butler, Felicity Flynn, New Addington North, Pat Clouder, Paul Scott, Robert Canning, Tony Newman, Waddon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fairfield Halls’ £70m fiasco: ‘BxB didn’t know what it was doing’

The Fairfield Halls reopened more than a year late, £40m over-budget and unfinished

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Trade newspaper The Stage has described the five-year saga of the Fairfield Halls refurbishment as a ‘catastrophic mess’ and a ‘£70m fiasco’. Now, the centre’s former artistic director has broken his silence over the bungling of Brick by Brick

Neil Chandler, the venue director at the Fairfield Halls who quit his job less than six months after the council-owned arts centre was reopened, has finally broken his silence over the lengthy delays and multi-million-pound cost overruns that have plagued the centre.

Chandler has been interviewed by theatre trade paper The Stage, and delivers some withering criticism of the people behind the bungled refurb project, including council chiefs and, naturally, Brick by Brick.

According to Chandler,  “Brick by Brick did not know what it was doing.” Continue reading

Posted in Arnhem Gallery, Art, Ashcroft Theatre, BH Live, Borough of Culture 2023, Fairfield Halls, Neil Chandler, Oliver Lewis, Sadiq Khan, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Anti-racism campaigner Wadsworth wins High Court libel case

Marc Wadsworth, the prominent anti-racism campaigner, journalist and broadcaster from Thornton Heath, has won his libel case against the Jewish Chronicle, with the newspaper agreeing to pay “substantial compensation” and issue an apology.

Court success: Marc Wadsworth (with mask) on the steps of the High Court yesterday

In an article on the publication’s website in March, the JC falsely accused Wadsworth of being part of a group of current and ex-Labour members targeting Jewish activists in the party.

Mrs Justice Collins Rice, who oversaw the public apology, said: “This was a serious mistake for the Jewish Chronicle to have made.”

Wadsworth was expelled from the Labour Party in 2018 on unsubstantiated charges, which he still disputes today.

Speaking on the steps of the High Court in London yesterday, Wadsworth said, “The Labour Party turned me into a media target by unjustly expelling me in 2018.

“My reinstatement campaign has received huge support since, including from Jewish people and many others. Continue reading

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Knife crime worsened by lack of hope offered to a generation

Founder of Lives Not Knives charity links latest wave of murders to the impact of austerity and the closure of 100 youth centres in Croydon.
By SANJANA IDNANI

The founder of a Croydon-based knife crime prevention charity has joined other community workers in linking the impact of a decade of austerity, which has brought wide-ranging cuts to youth services, to the latest wave of deadly violence on the streets of the capital.

According to figures from the Metropolitan Police, there have been 22 killings of teenagers in London so far in 2021.

The most recent two murders were both in Croydon this month. Camron Smith, 16, was fatally knifed outside his home on the Shrublands Estate. Nine days later another 16-year-old, Demarie Omare Roye, died after being stabbed on Bensham Manor Road. Continue reading

Posted in Charity, Crime, Knife crime | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Starmer’s Labour is ‘losing members, losing funds, losing staff’

Former Corbyn adviser warns that if the opposition leader can’t improve the fortunes of Labour, ‘then he has to go’, as it emerges that Croydon-based firm has been doing consultancy work as the party is making dozens of staff redundant. By WALTER CRONXITE, political  editor

Under the leadership of Keir Starmer, “Labour’s woes are deepening, rather than being solved”.

Time to go? Andrew Fisher has been critical of Labour leader Keir Starmer, here with Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE (right)

That’s the view of Andrew Fisher, the South Norwood writer and activist who was policy adviser to Jeremy Corbyn when he was Labour leader.

Fisher’s remarks come as the Labour Party nationally is axing 90 staff jobs as it rapidly runs out of funds, as members – tens of thousands of whom signed up at the peak of “Corbynmania” in 2016 and 2017 – are deserting the party and cancelling their membership direct debits.

The trades unions are withholding contributions, and the wealthy donors who funded Starmer’s leadership campaign 18 months ago have not come forward with any cash for the party under their choice of leader.

Yet while the Labour leadership hands out P45s with all the alacrity of a Tory tycoon, Inside Croydon has discovered that in the meantime a Croydon-based business has been working for the party, providing research and consultancy services. Continue reading

Posted in Alison Butler, Andrew Fisher, David Evans, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Councillor’s alarm call helps save lives in Thornton Heath fire

A Croydon councillor has spoken of how she called 999 in the early hours of this morning after she was woken up by “horrible screams” and “saw loads of black smoke coming out of neighbour’s house”.

Leila Ben-Hassel is a councillor for Norbury and Pollards Hill ward, and according to official reports from the London Fire Brigade, her prompt action at just before 4am may have helped avoid any serious harm coming to those living in a house in Thornton Heath, including three children.

“Half of the ground floor of a mid-terrace house was damaged by fire,” a LFB spokesperson said.

“Two adults and three children left the building before the Brigade arrived and were taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service crews.” Continue reading

Posted in Leila Ben-Hassel, London Fire Brigade, Thornton Heath | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Tram crash victims’ families call for retrial after inquest ‘farce’

Nearly five years since the tram crash at Sandilands, and following today’s inquest verdict of accidental  killing, the families of the victims say that they have been denied any justice

‘Justice has not been done today’, says mother of one of those killed in the 2016 Sandilands tram disaster. ‘The inquest has created more anguish and pain because we have been left with so many unanswered questions’

The families of seven passengers killed when the tram they were taking to go to work early on the morning of November 9 2016 announced today that they would call on the Attorney General to apply to the High Court to order a new inquest.

The families of the victims branded the inquest a “farce”, after the jury today delivered a majority verdict of accidental death. Continue reading

Posted in Sandilands derailment, Tramlink | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Coroner’s court verdict: Croydon tram crash was ‘accidental’

The tram was going at four times the speed limit when it left the tracks at Sandilands in November 2016

The jury in the coroner’s court inquest into the death of seven passengers on a Croydon tram in November 2016 has delivered a verdict of accidental death.

The jury of 10 had earlier this week been directed to deliver a majority verdict, after failing to reach a unanimous decision following more than two weeks of deliberation.

The inquest at Croydon Town Hall had spent two months going through evidence of the circumstances that led to the disaster, the worst tram crash in this country for more than a century.

Family members of the victims who sat in the public gallery to hear the verdict branded the inquest as a “farce” and claimed “justice has been suffocated”, as they pledged to continue to campaign over the events that led to the disaster. Continue reading

Posted in Sandilands derailment, Tramlink | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Developers given free rein from a council with no controls

You raise me up: because council planners failed to specify key details for these flats on The Ridge Way, the developers have gone ahead  and built the block overlooking neighbouring homes

Many Croydon residents feel ill-served by the council’s developer-friendly planning department while being ignored by the Town Hall’s somnolent planning enforcement team. Here, STEVE WHITESIDE examines a case in Sanderstead where developers have been given virtual free rein as the result of council incompetence

When an application was submitted in 2018 to demolish a house on The Ridge Way, a residential street off Sanderstead Road, almost 300 people objected, including several existing residents on the street.

Among other things, they were concerned that the proposed block of flats would overlook their properties and harm the road and area more generally. Croydon Council’s planning officers disagreed.

In approving planning application 18/05896/FUL (for nine flats across three or four storeys) in March 2019, the planning committee did so without attaching the usual string of “conditions”, which supposedly ensure that pretty much all of the “detail” is sorted later, by council staff alone, using their “delegated powers”.

It is, of course, a practice that is wide open to potential abuse, often to the detriment of existing residents. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Planning, Sanderstead | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

BME Forum to open second health space in Whitgift Centre

By SANJANA IDNANI

The Croydon BME Forum is to open a Health and Wellbeing Space in the Whitgift Centre in October.

New services: the BME Forum opened its Wellness Centre in the Whitgift Centre last year. A second centre will be opening in October

The space will provide services similar to that available at Croydon BME Forum’s other space, The Wellness Centre, which is also in the Whitgift Centre, and will offer free high-quality mental and physical health support to help alleviate stress, anxiety and isolation.

The new centre – which will be located on the first floor, not far from Marks and Spencer – will also have more up to date technology such as QR codes and iPads to manage appointments in a contactless way. The Croydon BME Forum is also investing in a more interactive website for customers to use if they don’t feel comfortable or are unable to come into the centre. Continue reading

Posted in Charity, Community associations, Croydon BME Forum, Health, Mind in Croydon, Whitgift Centre | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Comedian Perkins is put in charge of her ‘favourite game’

By SANJANA IDNANI

Sue Perkins, the Croydon-born broadcaster and comedian, will be the new host of BBC Radio 4’s long-running panel show Just a Minute.

Sue Perkins: Croydon comedian takes charge at a national institution

Perkins succeeds Nicholas Parsons, who hosted the programme from its first broadcast in 1967 until shortly before his death in January last year.

Over the past year, Radio 4 has used a series of guest presenters, drawn from regulars on the show, including Jo Brand, Gyles Brandreth, Paul Merton, Stephen Fry, Nish Kumar and Perkins herself.

Perkins – who first appeared as a panellist in 2000 and has appeared as a guest 57 more times since – takes over for the show’s forthcoming 87th series in September, when she will provide the rulings on cases of hesitation, repetition or deviation. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Comedy | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Job vacancy: Project coordinator, Croydon Mencap

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Coroner to allow majority verdict at tram crash inquest

Sarah Ormond-Walshe, the Coroner in the inquest into the deaths of seven people in the Sandilands tram crash in November 2016, has today directed the jury that they can deliver a majority verdict.

There is to be a memorial service next week to mark the third anniversary of the crash

The inquest at Croydon Town Hall had been long delayed, first because of lengthy investigations by British Transport Police and then, last year, because of the covid-19 pandemic.

The coroner’s court was originally expected to spend 13 weeks hearing witness statements and other evidence, but the jury was sent out to consider its verdict after less than two months.

Ormond-Walshe told the jury on July 7 that they had a choice of verdict of either accidental death or unlawful killing. The jury – initially of eight men and three women – has been unable to come to a unanimous decision since then, after nearly two weeks.

Dane Chinnery 19, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, Robert Huxley, 63, and Philip Logan, all from New Addington, and Donald Collett, 62, and Mark Smith, 35, both from Croydon, were killed in the crash. Another 50 passengers suffered injuries, some life-changing. Continue reading

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Tory minister Scully accused of ‘bungling’ over covid app gaffe

Paul Scully, the Tory MP for Sutton and Cheam, was derided as “bungling” today over his failure to understand his own government’s laws on covid-19 and self-isolation.

Confused: Tory MP Paul Scully during his round of broadcast interviews today

In a live broadcast interview this morning, Scully claimed it was up to individuals to decide if they should self-isolate after being “pinged” by the NHS covid-19 app.

Thousands of firms have been sending workers home to self-isolate as a result of the “pingdemic” caused by soaring cases.

Scully’s unhelpful intervention is just the latest contradictory statement and U-turn from the Conservative government over the coronavirus pandemic, in which more than 128,000 people in Britain have died – one of the worst death rates from covid-19 in the world. Continue reading

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Mystery of the ‘lost’ £600,000 expert report into Fairfield Halls

Sound stage: a report into the planned refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls, commissioned from construction consultants Mott MacDonald in 2016, cannot be found by the council

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Suspicions mount over the business of Brick by Brick and the scandal surrounding the Fairfield Halls refurbishment. But even members of the Town Hall’s scrutiny committee are being denied vital information by council directors. By STEVEN DOWNES

Senior executives appointed by council CEO Katherine Kerswell have told councillors on the scrutiny committee that they can’t have a vital consultants’ report into the £69million refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls – because they don’t know where to find it.

The facts behind the failure of council-owned Brick by Brick, the house-builders who were supposed to deliver tens of millions to the council but who ended up costing Council Tax-payers hundreds of millions, remain a mystery, even to elected councillors serving on the scrutiny committee.

Why Brick by Brick’s flagship project to refurbish the Fairfield Halls took so long, and managed to spend so much public money, and who is going to be held responsible, are among the questions which remain stubbornly unanswered. Continue reading

Posted in Asmat Hussain, Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, Robert Ward, Sarah Hayward, Sean Fitzsimons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Whitgift care homes bring a smile back to children’s faces

Whitgift Care has announced that it is partnering with the children’s cleft charity, Smile Train UK, writes Sanjana Idnani.

Whitgift Care Homes are run by one of the borough’s largest charity foundations

Smile Train UK helps locate children who need treatment for cleft palates and provides training and financial support for local medical professionals so they can perform surgery and related care.

Around 200,000 babies are born with a cleft worldwide every year, Cleft lip and palate is the most common facial difference in the UK. More than 90 per cent of these children will die if they do not receive treatment. To tackle this issue, Smile Train has supported more than 1.5 million cleft surgeries worldwide. Continue reading

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Cyclists still forced to ride on dangerous roads to nowhere

Split decision: Croydon’s cycling provision remains woeful

CROYDON COMMENTARY: A recent report on the state of the borough’s  unhealthy streets has caused dismay for DAN MAERTENS

Dismay.

That was my first thought when reading the report on Inside Croydon about our borough’s poor rating as far as “healthy” streets.

My dismay was not because of what the article contained, but because it is all so depressingly familiar.

The links to previous articles on that page demonstrate that well: “A once in a generation to opportunity to shape a new Croydon“; “£20m for cycling strategy could get Croydon on their bikes“; and “Cyclists’ manifesto wants an end to carnage on Croydon’s roads“.

We still have the opportunity, but not the strategy, at least not in terms of anything that brings real change on the street, as opposed to wordy aspirations.

What is going wrong? Continue reading

Posted in Boris Bikes, Commuting, Cycling, Environment, TfL, Transport | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Croydon Labour spread the word – and a risk of the virus

Croydon’s group of inept Labour councillors is back doing what they do best: being inept. Political editor WALTER CRONXITE reports

Gormless: Stuart Collins, right, council deputy leader under Tony Newman, enjoying Saturday’s canvass with Maddie and Mark Henson

As a third wave of covid lets rip (nearly 1,200 new cases of infection in the last seven days in the borough, with more than 300 cases per 100,000 population), Croydon’s Labour councillors were out at the weekend, going from door to door potentially risking spreading death and disease.

The borough’s councillors, who all receive at least £11,000 per year in publicly funded allowances, seem never happier than when conducting political lobbying, rather than doing the dull and boring work of holding the council’s paid executives to account and conducting meetings to manage the borough’s affairs.

But with the nation in the continuing grip of a pandemic, and the council still wrestling with the consequences of its financial collapse, for the vast majority of Croydon’s councillors there is little, if any, official business at the Town Hall for nearly three months. The next meeting of full council is not until October 11, a gap of 14 weeks.

So instead, the councillors are using the time to spread their “message” (such as it is), and possibly also coronavirus. Continue reading

Posted in 2022 council elections, Addiscombe East, Addiscombe West, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Maddie Henson, Sean Fitzsimons, Stuart Collins | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Three-quarters of iC readers say they will still wear masks

More than three-quarters of Inside Croydon readers say that they will continue to wear a face covering in public places, despite today’s government relaxation of precautions against the spread of covid-19.

Today marks what some have tried to characterise as “Freedom Day”, with the lifting of a range of lockdown measures, while others, concerned at the rapidly rising rates of infection in a third wave of coronavirus, point to recent trials of unmasked mass gatherings as super-spreader events.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show more than 48,000 new cases of covid-19 in the last 24 hours, 25 per cent higher than seven days earlier. The majority of new cases are from the Johnson variant,  known by some as the Delta variant. So much for “data before dates”. Continue reading

Posted in Health, Inside Croydon | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The show must go on: theatre groups prepare for reopening

SANJANA IDNANI reports on how local theatrical venues and amdram groups have been dealing with the covid lockdown as they prepare to put on their summer shows

Library performance: next week’s concert has been rehearsed under covid rules

Theatre companies and performers across the borough have faced their fair share of uncertainty and difficulty over the past 15 months of the covid-19 pandemic, and ensuring that the show can go on this summer has come with its own set of exceptional circumstances.

Theatre Workshop Coulsdon and Daniel Stockton Productions are both working to put on live shows in the next few weeks.

For the first time since its Christmas 2019 production, TWC, one of the borough’s leading amdram groups, is returning to the stage for the Agatha Christie whodunnit And Then There Were None from July 31. Daniel Stockton Productions is bringing six professional performers together to Upper Norwood Library to perform musical classics in a production called West End at the Library next Sunday, July 25.

While the shows have been planned for after July 19, the date when almost all legal covid-19 restrictions will be lifted, the groups have had to rehearse under stricter social distancing rules, and also work out how to put their audience, performers and crew at ease once the curtains go up. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Coulsdon, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Libraries, Music, Theatre, Theatre Workshop Coulsdon, Upper Norwood Library Trust | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fore! Golf course and hotel latest properties in council fire sale

Chipper: the Coulsdon Manor golf course is being sold by the council

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Four public-owned properties, not mentioned in the council’s original disposals list, are now being sold off as the Town Hall gets itself out of the hotels business. By PEARL LEE, our south of the borough correspondent

The cash-strapped council’s fire sale continues, with a former primary school, garages, a scout hut and a hotel and golf course among the latest public assets that are being flogged off to try to plug the gaping holes in the Town Hall finances caused by Tony Newman and his numpties.

Included on the same council report as the controversial plan to lease Heathfield House to a special needs school, last week’s cabinet meeting also rubber-stamped proposals for the sale of the former CALAT adult education centre in Coulsdon, as well as a garage site on Windmill Road (both had been sites earmarked for development by Brick by Brick) and the vacated scout hut on Peppermint Walk. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Business, Coulsdon, Coulsdon East, Croydon Council, Golf, Old Coulsdon, Sarah Hayward | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Canon Harford found sweet music to be good for the souls

MARVELS OF THE MINSTER: A Victorian curate went on to carve a special niche in the use of music, as DAVID MORGAN explains

Frederick Harford had wide-ranging artistic skills. This portrait is now in the British Museum collection

What’s your favourite piece of music?

It might be one that you have enjoyed for many years or may be you recently encountered something new? Of course, it can depend on your mood.

Music has the ability to raise the spirit, soothe a troubled mind and, indeed, invoke many memories. Some people use calming music to settle them into a night’s slumber. We might disagree with each other’s choices but for the vast majority of us, music is an integral and important part of our lives. None more so than when we are feeling under the weather when music has the potential to lift us.

Over the last hundred years music, has played an increasingly important role in helping the healing process. It is widely acknowledged that music can help to bring you out of a dark place. Patients who have lost much of their ability to recall recent events can be stimulated to remember earlier times in their lives through songs of their youth.

One of the people responsible for realising the therapeutic and healing use of music was Rev F K Harford. He ended his ecclesiastical career as a Minor Canon at Westminster Abbey. Frederick Kill Harford had begun his career at Croydon Parish Church, where he served his curacy from 1856 to 1858. Continue reading

Posted in Church and religions, Croydon Minster, David Morgan, History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Those in power are enabling a whole culture of racism

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The overt racism that was witnessed following last Sunday’s Euro 2020 penalty shoot-out did not come as any surprise.
By SANJANA IDNANI (right)

This week, the nation has been shocked by racist abuse directed at Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka following England’s loss against Italy in the Euro 2020 football final.

Support: Bukayo Saka is comforted by Gareth Southgate. Within hours, he was a target for racists

The players missed penalties in the shoot-out and immediately faced a torrent of racial abuse on social media.

For many people of colour, such as me, this was devastatingly easy to predict.

The hate targeted at these players was another stark reminder that our English identity remains based on our ability to perform and assimilate to a certain standard.

If Sancho, Rashford and Saka had scored, they would have been lauded as champions and patriots,  just as they had been when England played their way through to their first tournament final in 55 years. But because they missed, “fans” now challenged their human dignity and Englishness, with some comments even telling the players to “Go back to their own country”. Continue reading

Posted in Chris Philp MP, Crime | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Children’s ‘Summer of Play’ gets delayed in Croydon by council

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Following a promise from a Labour cabinet member, volunteers are still waiting for permission to allow children to play on the streets where they live

Despite assurances from senior council officials that there would be no road blocks to play streets going ahead in the borough during London’s “Summer of Play”, volunteer neighbourhood organisers say that even though the threat of charges have been dropped, they continue to encounter administrative delays from Fisher’s Folly.

The award-winning play street in Love Lane has been placed at risk of ending because of council charges and delays

“No one at the council seems to want to take responsibility for signing off the road closures,” one of the organisers told Inside Croydon today.

The charity Play London emailed Croydon’s volunteer organisers with details of who they needed to contact at the council in order to get the permits and paperwork in order.

The charity had to take on this task for Croydon residents because the council failed – or refused – to do so. Even so, by the middle of this week, the council had still yet to identify the named official who would be a point of contact for the dozen or so play street organisers around the borough. Continue reading

Posted in Charity, Community associations, Croydon Council, Croydon parks, Education, Hamida Ali, Muhammad Ali, South Norwood, Woodside | 1 Comment

Share your thoughts on national Windrush Memorial designs

A national memorial to the Windrush Generation will be unveiled next year

The government is commissioning a permanent national monument to the Windrush Generation to recognise how they have enriched our nation’s history. The monument will be positioned at Waterloo Station, the point of arrival in London for many, as a permanent tribute to a generation of arrivals from the Caribbean to this country – from the arrival of MV Empire Windrush in 1948 and in the decades that followed.

The finished monument is expected to be unveiled on Windrush Day, June 22 next year, and the public is now being asked for its views on four proposals. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Black History Month, Education, History | Tagged , | 1 Comment