Children’s services suffers 30% cut in social workers

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Concerns are growing at Fisher’s Folly that cutbacks on hiring agency workers, implemented since January this year, could adversely impact some of the borough’s most vulnerable. KEN LEE reports

Croydon Council’s children’s services department, which was given a “Good” grading by Ofsted only in March this year following nearly three years rated as “Inadequate”, has seen almost one-third of agency social workers leave their posts since April.

With fewer social workers, might Croydon’s children’s services spiral back to the standards which were criticised by Ofsted?

Similar agency social work positions in Croydon’s adult services have been halved in the same period, from April to August this year.

The figures have been obtained from Croydon through a Freedom of Information request which asked for the number of qualified social workers who were on temporary or agency contracts with Croydon.

The response provides a startling insight into the council’s reliance on agency staff, and confirms the worst fears of council workers and unions who have predicted that too wide-ranging cuts in social workers could see the borough’s children’s services department begin a downward spiral to the state it was in in 2017, when Ofsted inspectors declared that some children or young adults in the care of the local authority were at serious risk of harm.

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Posted in Adult Social Care, Children's Services, Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Simon Hall, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

LibDem campaign disarray over candidate’s antisemitic tirade

Well, that didn’t last long.

Juiced: Millionaire Geeta Sidhu-Robb was not properly vetted by London’s LibDems

Geeta Sidhu-Robb has been forced out of the race to be the Liberal Democrats’ candidate for London Mayor after it was revealed she had delivered a public antisemitic tirade in 1997, when a Tory parliamentary election candidate.

The LibDems’ London election campaign was already looking half-arsed, as there was dither and delay over finding a replacement for their original Mayoral candidate, Siobhan Benita.

Sidhu-Robb had only been named as a potential replacement candidate last Wednesday, so her “campaign”, such as it was, lasted barely 48 hours before her dodgy past was exposed. Continue reading

Posted in London Assembly, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Regime change’ at council as costly consultant leaves

In what could be the first sign of “regime change” at Fisher’s Folly, following Jo Negrini’s departure as chief executive, the lead on something called “Croydon 2023” left the council abruptly last week.

Gone: Amy Wagner. But what did she do?

Amy Wagner was never employed as a staff member, but through her company Wagner Consulting was hired on what is reputed to have been a six-figure annual fee.

There is no mention of her time at Croydon Council on Wagner’s online personal profile, though there were effusive, self-assuring messages on social media from Wagner and her immediate council colleagues at the end of last week.

Calling herself a “digital and agile coach”, Wagner describes her role, “I specialise in coaching teams in Agile and Lean techniques while working to transform and improve delivery across at the entire organisation.” Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Neil Williams | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Croydon BME Forum: Components of Business, Oct 8

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Great North Wood 2021 calendar’s photo competition

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Wookey’s whole-hearted effort pedalling to John O’Groats

A 72-year-old business owner from Coulsdon is cycling 72 miles a day from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for Maggie’s, the charity for people with cancer which has a centre at the Royal Marsden.

Lone rider: Ray Wookey before he set off on his Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge

Ray Wookey founded Energise E-bikes in Coulsdon in 2011. He had originally planned to tackle the 1,008-mile journey going the whole length of mainland Britain for his 72nd birthday in May. However, restrictions caused by covid-19 threw his plans and training schedule into disarray.

Wookey set off on this gruelling challenge last week, and after pedalling for seven to eight hours every day, he hopes to reach the most northerly point on the British mainland by Saturday, September 19.

“This will be a real challenge,” he told Inside Croydon. Continue reading

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No panic says Rams boss after 13-game win-less streak

Near-miss: this header from Marcus Travers (wearing No5) was one of the chances spurned by Croydon Athletic in their latest defeat on Saturday

NON-LEAGUE NEWS: Tough times at the Mayfield, while Croydon FC are enjoying their games on the road, as ANDREW SINCLAIR reports

Croydon  Athletic have certainly picked up where they left off in the covid-abandoned 2019-2020 season, their 2-0 home defeat at the Mayfield Stadium on Saturday meaning that they have now gone 13 league and cup games without a win.

January 11 this year, before anyone had heard of coronavirus, was the last time Kevin Rayner’s side had the sweet taste of success, with only a 1-1 draw with Erith and Belvedere last week offering Athletic anything like some hope so far this term. Continue reading

Posted in AFC Croydon Athletic, Balham FC, Croydon FC, Football, Sport, Whyteleafe FC | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photographer’s loving portrait makes it into Gallery exhibit

Competition-winner: this portrait of her grandfather, by Nina Robinson, is now part of an exhibition by the National Portrait Gallery

A Crystal Palace-based photographer, Nina Robinson, is to have one of her pictures included in a National Portrait Gallery exhibition after her photo of her grandfather in lockdown was named yesterday among the top 100 images in a competition.

“Hold Still: A Portrait of our Nation” is a digital exhibit which attracted 31,000 entries, and where the judges included Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” Robinson told Inside Croydon after the news of the 100 hand-picked portraits was announced. Continue reading

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Five more local schools affected by coronavirus positives

At least five more schools in Croydon and Sutton, including two large secondaries, have been hit by positive tests for covid-19 among their staff or pupils, after just the first full week of the new school year, with one borough director of public health admitting that he “expects further incidents to occur”.

Crescent Primary, one of seven local schools known to have been affected by covid-19 after less than two weeks of the new term

And a leader of a national trades union which represents 250,000 people who work in schools has warned that “it is only a matter of time before someone dies”.

London’s school pupils began returning to their classrooms this month, with individual schools in Croydon allowed to check that their covid-safe precautions for the return were satisfactory, without any outside supervision from the council.

By Saturday, as Inside Croydon reported, West Thornton Primary and Ridgeway Primary, in Sanderstead, had both swiftly been forced to change their plans or postpone the return of pupils after staff members had shown symptoms of covid-19 and tested positive for the virus.

Now, Inside Croydon understands that Crescent Primary, in Selhurst, and the Virgo Fidelis girls’ convent school in Upper Norwood have also both had their plans disrupted after covid-19 positive tests within the first few days of the new term. Continue reading

Posted in Education, Health, John Fisher School, Schools, Sutton Council, Virgo Fidelis | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Nuffink to do with us, guv’: council chiefs blame everyone else

The council will have only its second full meeting since March, with an Extraordinary Council Meeting being staged on September 28, called as a result of a motion of no confidence in council leader Tony Newman and his finance chief Simon Hall.

Tony Newman: hasn’t resigned yet

Having used coronavirus as an excuse for not staging scheduled meetings of the full council, even virtually, except once in July, the no confidence motion from the borough’s opposition Conservatives was submitted 10 days ago.

It took Newman (£56,000 per year in council allowances) and the Labour group a whole week to think up a response, which was finally released on Friday evening with an emergency motion of his own, but one which takes no responsibility whatsoever for the parlous state of the cash-strapped council’s finances. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Simon Hall, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Newman excludes councillors from emergency budget details

  • 20% budget cuts expected to be announced
  • Jo Negrini’s pay-off figure confirmed as £440,000
  • Redundancy process for 400 council workers enters final two weeks
  • Katherine Kerswell begins work as interim chief exec

The final phase of redundancy discussions begins at Fisher’s Folly today

Tony Newman and Simon Hall will be presenting an “emergency budget” at the council cabinet meeting next Monday, but they don’t want anyone to know about it.

In the time-honoured fashion of this “open and transparent” council, no details of the emergency measures for the cash-strapped council have been revealed, even to the majority of Newman’s Labour councillor colleagues. And because the emergency budget is being set before the council cabinet, there will be very limited opportunity for public discussion. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Simon Hall, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Roald Dahl: From pilot and spy to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, James and the Giant Peach… generations of children and adults have been delighted by Roald Dahl’s books. Today is Roald Dahl Day, and here Dahl fan and former primary school teacher LAURA STEELE, of educational resources company PlanBee, shares some interesting facts about the much-loved author

Peachy: Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is one of the most famous authors in the world. His children’s books have been translated into 60 languages and sold more than 250million copies worldwide.

Dahl was born on September 13, 1916, in Llandaff, South Wales to Norwegian parents who named him after the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, who in 1911 was the first man to reach the South Pole (Roald’s first name is correctly pronounced “Rooo-al”, with a silent “d”). Continue reading

Posted in Art, Libraries | Tagged | 1 Comment

School report: teachers are coronavirus’s new frontline workers

CROYDON COMMENTARY: After the first full week back in the classroom following six months of lockdown, one locally based teacher* offers their thoughts on what life is like under the ‘new normal’

The sanitation stations with their alcohol-based gel are new, of course, and, so far at least, neither the Year 11s nor the teachers appear to have started drinking from them.

Every year group bubble has its own designated toilet

A week into the “new normal” term and, while there have been tears (shed mostly by members of middle management), the pupils are doing fine and appear to be happier to be in school than they ever were back in March.

From a teacher’s point of view, it is great to see the pupils again but strange to have to keep reminding them to give us two metres.

They are in “bubbles” and can mix freely within their year group, but we teachers are not, since we all teach across the year groups. If we get too close, we risk bursting their bubbles. Continue reading

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Second Croydon primary school hit by covid-19 positive case

West Thornton’s staff are in quarantine for 14 days after a covid-19 positive test

Two Croydon primaries have been forced to postpone or alter plans for the return of pupils after members of staff tested positive for covid-19 in the past week, what was supposed to be the first full week of the new school year.

West Thornton Primary notified parents and guardians in a letter on Monday, barely 24 hours before many children were expected to return to one of the school’s two sites after the six-month coronavirus closure.

This followed Ridgeway Primary, in Sanderstead, having a member of staff test positive for covid-19 last Saturday, after having attended staff training during the preceding week. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Education, Health, Sanderstead, Schools, West Thornton | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Newman’s ‘sickening’ defence of Negrini’s £400,000+ pay-off

  • Newman failed to brief party colleagues on departing CEO’s pay-off
  • ‘Golden handshake’ to Negrini may be even bigger than first estimated
  • Negrini was given a £4,000 pay rise just days before she left Croydon
  • Threat of backbench revolt by Labour councillors

‘Sickening’: Labour leader Tony Newman

Tony Newman, the leader of Croydon’s crisis-hit council, has refused to brief his Labour councillor colleagues about the £400,000-plus pay-off which he authorised to be made to departing chief executive Jo Negrini.

Instead, he has tried to defend the amount paid to Negrini, describing as “sickening” the notion that she might in some way have been denied her gold-plated pension.

Newman is facing mounting anger at his shambolic handling of the council’s cash crisis, as Town Hall officials issue warnings that the council could run out of money altogether before the end of this month.

Newman, meanwhile, continues to make public promises about “protecting” key services, even as council executives are going through the process of handing out redundancy notices to hundreds of staff. Continue reading

Posted in Alison Butler, Andrew Pelling, Bensham Manor, Croydon Council, Jamie Audsley, Jo Negrini, Joy Prince, Paul Scott, Robert Canning, Simon Hall, Tony Newman, Waddon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mustafa admits council had finance problems at start of year

Croydon’s stand-in CEO Shifa Mustafa has told the unions that, “the council’s finances were challenging at the start of the year”, a significant admission by a senior figure that the Town Hall’s cash crisis was not caused solely by covid-19 spending.

Shifa Mustafa: council’s problems existed before covid-19

Mustafa, who has been a stop-gap chief executive for a fortnight, was responding to Unison’s damning criticism of the on-going consultation process under which drastic cost-cutting action has put more than 400 council jobs under threat.

The council entered 2020 with £1.5billion debt and only £10million in reserves, and with warnings about its resilience – or lack of it – in writing from CIPFA, the local authority finance professional body, and their own auditors. When covid-19 hit, the council spent £62million in the first few weeks of lockdown – money it doesn’t have.

The council is in imminent danger of going bust, and has warned it could run out of money by the end of this month.

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Posted in Croydon Council, Shifa Mustafa | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Gemütlichkeit! Croydon brewers launch Oktoberfest lagers

Croydon-based brewers Anspach and Hobday have launched four new Oktoberfest beers.

The Anspach and Hobday Oktoberfest cans go on sale for the first time next Wednesday, September 16, and orders are already being taken for delivery later that week.

The Oktoberfest beers – The Festival Lager, The Gose, The Rauchbier and The Hefeweizen – pay tribute to some classic German beer styles. All cans are 440ml as standard and are available as a four-pack, 12-pack or full case of 24. Or you can order a mix of them. Continue reading

Posted in Anspach and Hobday, Business | Tagged | 1 Comment

Addiscombe care home serves up cake for frontline workers

Croydon police station received a delivery of pastries and doughnuts

Peony Court, a newly opened care home on Addiscombe Road, celebrated National Emergency Services Day this week by showering local frontline heroes in gifts of cakes, cookies and brownies.

Peony Court’s head chef Marc Aplin created a large variety of sweet treats, boxed up safety and securely to be hand-delivered to Croydon’s fire, police and ambulance stations.

“Today has been all about celebrating our local heroes within the emergency services sector and it has been great fun for everyone,” said Amanda Davies, the general manager of Peony Court.

“It was a small way to show how grateful we are for them.” Continue reading

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Special trial offer: Free online guitar lessons by top teacher

B O U N C E B A C K  F R O M  L O C K D O W N
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Unison: ‘irresponsible’ job cuts will have ‘devastating impact’

Trade union officials have strongly criticised Croydon Council’s plans to axe more than 400 jobs, saying that the on-going review is being rushed through “with little thought” and without proper consultation, and describing the job cuts at the Labour-run local authority as “irresponsible”.

Union officials have described the job cuts at the council as rushed and irresponsible

The cuts, the union warns, “have the potential to have a devastating impact on the residents of Croydon at a time when they rely on the services provided by the council most”.

A formal response from Unison was delivered yesterday to Shifa Mustafa, the stand-in council CEO. It was signed by Louise O’Hara, Unison’s London region organiser, and Yvonne Green, the Croydon Unison branch secretary who is known for working closely in the local Labour Party with Tony Newman, the council leader.

O’Hara and Green’s findings, and their survey of Croydon Unison members, are unlikely to be considered helpful to beleaguered Newman’s current plight. Continue reading

Posted in Adult Social Care, Children's Services, Croydon Council, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Student author signs £1m publishing deal for debut novel

A student from Croydon has been signed up by publishers for her debut novel in a two-book deal that could be worth more than £1million.

Booked: Faridah Abike-Iyimide

Faridah Abike-Iyimide’s Ace of Spades will be on sale in June 2021, published in this country by Usborne Publishing and in the United States by Macmillan. Now 21, she has been working on the book since she was 19, while studying English, Chinese and anthropology at Aberdeen University.

When she was told the size of her publishing deal, “I started panicking because I come from a very working-class background and I have never had even close to that amount of money,” she said. Continue reading

Posted in Art | Tagged | 1 Comment

LibDems finally reveal candidates to run for London Mayor

The human dynamos who run the Liberal Democrat party today finally got round to naming their candidates for selection to be the fourth-placed finisher in next May’s London Mayoral election – a mere six weeks after their original choice announced she didn’t fancy the task any longer.

Luisa Porritt: Camden councillor

Yet it will be another four weeks before they make up their minds whether it will be Luisa Porritt or Geeta Sidhu-Robb’s name that goes on the ballot paper for elections where most believe Labour’s Sadiq Khan will be returned comfortably.

The LibDems have just taken nine months to choose Kingston MP “Sir” Ed Davey as their party leader – from a vast choice of 11 MPs.

It was July when Siobhan Benita withdrew as the LibDem candidate for London Mayor, saying that the extension of the campaign because of coronavirus was too much of a burden.

So now the Liberal Democrats have managed to come up with a couple of replacement contenders who even fewer Londoners will have heard of. Continue reading

Posted in 2020 London elections, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Shaun Bailey, Sian Berry | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

It’s ok not to be ok: East Croydon station gets the message

The busiest railway stations on the GTR network have all had the artworks spray-painted on to the entrances and exits ahead of Suicide Prevention Day

Commuters using East Croydon station this morning will have seen their route to the platforms made more colourful by a series of artful messages, installed by Govia Thameslink Railway across some of its busiest transport hubs today – Suicide Prevention Day – to raise awareness of the company’s ongoing support and understanding to those who may be feeling vulnerable.

Working closely with Samaritans, Network Rail and the British Transport Police, GTR has appointed its first suicide prevention manager, Laura Campbell, making GTR the only train operator to have someone working in such a role. Continue reading

Posted in Commuting, East Croydon, Transport | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Croydon in crisis: Whitehall imposes new chief exec on council

EXCLUSIVE: Borough to get its third CEO in two weeks, as government parachutes in a ‘safe pair of hands’ on Newman’s Croydon clique.

Troubleshooter: Katherine Kerswell

A hastily arranged meeting of Croydon Council’s appointments committee will convene this morning to rubber-stamp the appointment of Katherine Kerswell as the interim chief executive of the authority.

Kerswell, who is expected to take up her duties at Fisher’s Folly on Monday, will thus become the third CEO in the space of a fortnight at the crisis-hit council.

Shifa Mustafa, the Croydon exec director who was hurriedly installed by the council leadership as the interim replacement for Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, will return to her planning and development duties after a period in charge briefer than Chris Cowdrey’s time as England cricket captain. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Shifa Mustafa, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Tory leader Perry shows ruthless streak by sacking Creatura

Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, on the latest game of musical chairs at the Town Hall

Mugged off: not-so-super Mario Creature

Mario Creatura has been sacked from his front bench job with the Town Hall opposition group in a reshuffle of the Croydon’s Conservative councillors by their new leader, Jason Perry.

Creatura was once regarded (mainly by himself) as a Tory rising star: it is little more than a year ago that he was working in Downing Street as a special adviser to the Prime Minister and was the Conservatives’ prospective parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central.

But the shine on his once-promising career has worn off quickly, tarnished by his reckless association in the run-up to last December’s General Election with a dodgy, cult-like church which has since become subject of multiple official investigations, including for fraud and abuse. Continue reading

Posted in Andrew Stranack, Croydon Council, Gareth Streeter, Helen Pollard, Helen Redfern, Jason Perry, Mario Creatura, Scott Roche, Tim Pollard, Vidhi Mohan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment