Croydon in crisis: Government cash is only ‘a sticking plaster’

A government coronavirus bail-out for councils is “no more than a sticking plaster”, and represents only a small fraction of the £10billion black hole confronting local authorities, as today’s announcement of an extra £500million leaving many Town Halls short-changed.

Robert Jenrick, the friend of developers, will need his hard hat to deal with angry councils

The cash equates to less than £2million each for Croydon and the other 342 local authorities in England – with extra money for those in Scotland and Wales.

Croydon and other local authorities have had to break the bank and bust their budgets to keep services running through the coronavirus emergency.

Croydon Council is now undergoing an urgent financial review, conducted by outside auditors and finance directors, and – as exclusively revealed by Inside Croydon – is facing making 15per cent cuts to its operations in order to make good the £62million gap between what it has spent during the first two months of the covid-19 lockdown and what it has received so far from government.

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Brick by Brick could be blocked by rare butterfly’s tiny egg

The chair of the council’s planning committee has given a public undertaking that the application by Brick by Brick to build an ugly four-storey block of flats next to a wildlife reserve in New Addington has been shelved until a proper and full ecological survey can be undertaken.

And that might delay the application at least until October this year, when the eggs of the endangered brown hairstreak butterfly might be observed on blackthorn hedges on the site. The same hedges which the developers say that they want to destroy to make way for the car park spaces for their 11 flats.

It means that a council-backed housing development worth potentially millions of pounds could now depend on the discovery of an insect egg measuring just one millimetre across. Continue reading

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No laughing matter as East Cheam is placed on election map

BERTIE WORCESTER-PARK reports on the latest threat to the LibDems’ one-party state in south London

Stone me: Sutton’s LibDems got a ward named after a Tony Hancock creation, but little else from the Boundary Commission

Sutton residents are to get an additional councillor. And the sacred memory of Tony Hancock is to be enshrined with one of the borough’s wards to carry the name of “East Cheam”.

But for Sutton’s Liberal Democrats, who have controlled the council with a vice-like grip for 30 years, that’s about as good as the news gets, after a set of boundary changes have been delivered ahead of the next local elections in May 2022 which could end their hegemony.

It’s been a challenging six months for Ruth Dombey and her LibDem councillor colleagues: first Tom Brake, the borough’s last LibDem MP, lost his seat, then the residents of New Mill Quarter rumbled the rip-off heating system that the council had imposed upon them.

Now the Local Government Boundary Commissioners have delivered a report which seems likely to strengthen Tory hopes of winning back the council for the first time since 1986, and even provides a glimmer of hope for electoral success for Labour. Continue reading

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Generation Rent warns of half-a-million in covid arrears

Homelessness will triple this year unless the government acts to end the rent debt crisis faced by private renters as a result of the economic shock of coronavirus, the campaign group Generation Rent has warned today.

While the government has suspended all eviction cases in the courts until August 24, there is no protection beyond this point for renters who are in arrears.

Generation Rent suggests that rates of rent arrears have risen from 4 per cent before the pandemic to 13 per cent, which could make 45,000 households homeless, costing councils an extra £117million in temporary accommodation and other support. Continue reading

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Free online employment advice sessions, Jul 8 and 15

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Croydon in crisis: 500 jobs to go in council ‘reorganisation’

EXCLUSIVE: Our Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE, on the unhappy consequences of the council’s poor management that has created ‘the perfect financial storm’

Jo Negrini

Council CEO Jo Negrini: 15% cuts across the board, though perhaps not to her own £220,000 salary

Croydon Council is to launch wide-ranging consultations tomorrow, July 1, as it begins what in councilspeak they like to describe as a “restructuring”, but what in plain English will mean that more than 500 council staff will be losing their jobs in the next few weeks.

Less than two weeks ago, Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour-run council, was promising, “We are taking all the necessary steps possible to protect the key front line services that our most vulnerable residents depend upon.”

Yet Newman now faces some uncomfortable conversations with union shop stewards and his councillors over the scale of the cuts being proposed.

The 15 per cent reductions in staff are the price to be paid for the coronavirus cash crunch that the council found itself in after spending more than £80million to deal with the immediate demands presented when confronted with the emergency. According to the council, even after receiving £20million in emergency finding from Whitehall, Croydon has a £62.7million-sized hole in this year’s budget. Continue reading

Posted in Children's Services, Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Fears grow at Fairfield Halls over operator’s unsigned lease

The Fairfield Halls may be in “hibernation” until next year because of coronavirus, but Croydon Council is now facing another crisis over its ill-fated £43million refurbishment project, with growing fears that the company appointed to manage the arts complex could hand back the keys and walk away at any point.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan with Croydon’s Tony Newman and Ollie Lewis at the reopening of the Halls. Who will be running the venue after lockdown?

The council appointed Bournemouth-based swimming pool operators and conference organisers BH Live to run the arts programme at Fairfield Halls in early 2017.

A council report revealed that the deal with the social enterprise company included options to last for up to 15 years, and could ultimately be worth as much as £180million to BH Live.

Under the terms of the operating agreement, the council would no longer have to provide any day-to-day funding for running the venues, while BH Live would get to keep all receipts from ticket sales and bar and restaurant concessions.

When the deal was announced, BH Live had just over a year to wait before the curtain could go up at a refurbished, prestige venue, where the council was carrying out what was supposed to be a £30million modernisation.

But with rookie in-house developers Brick by Brick put in charge of refurbishment works, BH Live and the Croydon public were kept waiting until September 2019 before the five-times-postponed opening night could finally be staged, at a venue where building and refit works were still unfinished and some promised improvements were left incomplete.

Reluctantly, earlier this year, the council finally admitted that the over-running works had cost at least £43million. It is widely believed that that figure could rise yet further. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Ashcroft Theatre, BH Live, Borough of Culture 2023, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, Neil Chandler, Oliver Lewis | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Understanding Your Finances free online session, Jul 2-Jul 16

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Learning lessons from teaching remotely during lockdown

Secondary school teacher KEN TOWL on how he and his pupils have managed to master the technology and the etiquette of staff meetings during the coronavirus quarantine

Some pupils have settled into remote lessons better than others

With just 10 minutes of the lesson to go, instead of the expected paragraph evaluating the achievements of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of my Year 8 history pupils – let’s call him Andy to protect his identity – sends me a message via Microsoft Teams.

“Sorry sir, I don’t understand what we have to do.”

Andy has been struggling with remote learning since it began on Monday, March 23. He is isolated and unhappy and worried about his grandparents. He knows, as well, that asking for help so late in the lesson will probably not go down too well with his teacher. It is possible that this concern is at least part of the reason for his follow up message: “Here’s a picture of my new ducklings. There are three of them.” Continue reading

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Police receive complaint after Wellesley Road #BLM incident

Croydon Police are dealing with a complaint after a violent incident on Wellesley Road on Friday in which a young black man was chased and restrained by at least eight officers after a brief chase.

Friday’s incident on Wellesley Road was captured in a 50sec video that was seen by hundreds on social media

The Police say that no one was hurt and no one was arrested, but some who saw the incident drew obvious comparisons with how George Floyd was restrained and killed by a single police officer in Minneapolis last month, his death prompting global Black Lives Matter protests.

Witnesses say that they saw the man hit and kicked by officers. A 50second video of the part of the inciddent was widely circulated on social media together with the hashtag #BLM.

“The guy looked terrified and the way the police kick and hit him, I’m not surprised,” one eyewitness tweeted, asking the Police for an explanation.

Today, Superintendent Andy Brittain, the Borough Commander, issued this statement to Inside Croydon, “On Friday, June 26 at 14.14hrs, officers in a marked vehicle on proactive patrol on Wellesley Road, Croydon, observed a man run away on seeing police. Continue reading

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