Cuts to Council Tax Support: this is what you need to do

There’s 10 days remaining to respond to Croydon Council’s consultation on its proposed cuts to Council Tax Support. As Inside Croydon has reported, 20,000 households around the borough will lose out as a result of the cuts proposed, some by as much as £29 per week.
Here is a briefing paper prepared by the South West London Law Centre to help guide you through the proposed changes, and what you can do about them

Explanation of terms:
Council Tax Support = financial support available to people to help manage their Council Tax
Claimant = person applying for support with their Council Tax
Non-dependant = someone over 18 and living with you as part of your household
Non-dependant deduction = reduction made to the financial support you receive due to someone over 18 living with you as part of your household
Means-tested benefits = Claimants need to show a “means” of income and capital below a certain level to get means-tested benefits. A current list of means-tested benefits would include: Council Tax Support, Housing Benefit, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Pension Credit, Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, Universal Credit. To be eligible you typically have limited means, capital and savings. Continue reading

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Time to mask up as covid positive cases are on the rise again

Compulsory: from today, the public must wear a face mask when using public transport

Rachel Flowers, the council’s director of public health, has issued an appeal to Croydon residents to adopt fully the latest rules on face mask-wearing in shops and on public transport, as the borough has seen cases of covid-19 increase again in recent weeks.

“It is vital that we all play our part to keep ourselves safe and protect those around us,” Flowers said.

“To continue to slow the spread of the virus, we must return to being more cautious.”

New rules came into force today, as the government responded to concerns around Omicron, the latest variant of the virus. Continue reading

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Jazz at The Front Room, St George’s Walk, Dec 9-Dec 30

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The enforcers: residents making plans for council court action

Is something shifting in the Town Hall planning department? Amid news of the exit of a senior manager, and of director Heather Cheesbrough correcting her false claims on her online CV, and now a High Court ruling against the council’s lack of enforcement, STEVE WHITESIDE checked out the latest meeting of the planning committee

Knock it down and start again: developers broke so many rules on Hyde Road, they were forced to demolish their work. Their second effort is not much better

Every now and then, there appears a glimmer of hope that at some point the council’s planners’ rampage through the borough’s suburbs might be brought to an end. At the latest planning committee meeting, there was another flicker, maybe two.

On that particular evening, what has typically become a routine “win” for developers – the demolition of a large family home and replacement with a block of never more than nine flats, none of them “affordable” – was refused by councillors who decided to go against the planning official’s recommendation.

The decision was made over an application for 41 Fairdene Road, Coulsdon. The council’s decision notice states that, “The proposed block of nine flats would be out of keeping with the character of the area and fails to respect local character and heritage, contrary to policies SP4, DM10 and DM18 of the Croydon Local Plan 2018 and policy D3 of the London Plan 2021.” They are our italics, for emphasis. Continue reading

Posted in Coulsdon, Croydon Council, Nicola Townsend, Planning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Downland Chorale: The Armed Man, Old Coulsdon, Dec 11

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On Croydon’s Tudor trail to track down the court of Henry VIII

Redinge’s will: There’s plenty of evidence to show Croydon was a focal point for the Tudor royal court and visits from Henry VII and Catherine of Aragon

MARVELS OF THE MINSTER: The lost brasses of what used to be known as the Croydon Parish Church provided rich accounts of the town’s important role in English history, writes DAVID MORGAN

Historic: but many of the Minster’s links with the past have been lost

Entrepreneurs really have missed a trick in Croydon.

Or “Ye Olde Croydon Towne”, as they might have it if eager marketing executives had gone into quaint cliché overdrive to pitch attractions which draw on the place’s strong Tudorbethan historical links.

Old Town could have a delightful Tudor Tearoom, while the nearby traditional sweet shop might be stocked with “Henry’s Humbugs”, “Catherine’s Creams” or even “Margaret’s Mints”. Continue reading

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‘Challenging’ deal caused bus shelter delay, councillor says

Ominous: the council-issued CGI of its long-delayed new ‘smart’ bus shelter, positioned outside a previous procurement disaster, the Fairfield Halls

Street-side advertising specialist JCDecaux refused to accept payments to keep its bus shelters in place in Croydon until replacements could be ready, according to a senior member of the council.

Muhammad Ali is the council cabinet member for “sustainable” Croydon.

He has responded to widespread public criticism of the new “smart” shelters, which were supposed to be installed by autumn 2021, by revealing that the council’s efforts to continue with the existing street furniture were thwarted when JCDecaux refused to agree a deal with Town Hall officials. Continue reading

Posted in Connected Croydon, Croydon Council, Muhammad Ali, Neil Williams, Opama Khan | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Anti-vax conspiracy theories are covid’s ticking time bomb

It is not just new strains of the coronavirus which are hampering Croydon’s public health efforts to reduce its spread, but also dangerous and deliberate misinformation from the United States

When a TikTok user filmed himself shouting “liar” at England’s chief medical officer in a London food market in February, the video gave a glimpse of the fevered covid conspiracies spreading among young people on social media.

On the march: far-right supporters and anti-vaxers gather outside Boxpark earlier this month

An anti-vaxers and anti-maskers march through Croydon at the start of this month was attended by some with links to the far-right and the QAnon movement in America, where covid conspiracies have been ladled into all kinds of Trumpian online urban myths.

As well as abusing and threatening public service workers and those simply queuing to get their own covid jab, the demonstrators distributed leaflets with wild and baseless claims – such as the covid vaccine can “magnetise” those receiving it.

Many on that march were from minority groups, either drawn by the rap music being blasted out by one of the event’s organisers, or perhaps convinced by some of the more lurid claims being made about the use of the vaccines. Continue reading

Posted in Andrew Brown, Asian Resource Centre of Croydon, Community associations, Croydon BME Forum, Croydon NHS Trust, Health, Mayday Hospital | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kerswell culls 58 more jobs as council wrestles with budget

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Struggling to cut another £38m from its already trimmed spending, council chiefs’ response is to make more frontline workers redundant. By our Town Hall correspondent, KEN LEE

More cuts: Katherine Kerswell

Croydon’s cash-strapped council is struggling to make the further multi-million-pound budget cuts necessary to satisfy the Whitehall mandarins who are overseeing the running of the bankrupt borough, as CEO Katherine Kerswell yesterday wrote to what’s left of her staff to reveal that dozens more jobs are to be axed.

According to sources at Fisher’s Folly, as many as 58 jobs are to go in this latest round of redundancies.

The £192,000 per year chief executive, who was parachuted into Fisher’s Folly in September 2020 initially as a temporary measure, has so far increased the number of executive director-level (now cunningly re-titled corporate directors) positions at the dysfunctional council, while around 500 frontline positions have already been cut or left unfilled since before the first covid lockdown.

Kerswell’s staff email was circulated just ahead of the publication of an official report for the budget-setting council cabinet meeting on December 6. For all the empty platitudes proffered by council leader Hamida “Apologetic” Ali in the accompanying press release, the report provides a series of strong indications that senior officials are struggling to make the £38.4million-worth of cuts required for 2022-2023. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Improvement Board, Katherine Kerswell, Richard Ennis, Section 114 notice, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

LibDem leader accused of ‘putting two fingers up’ to residents

Our Sutton Council reporter, BELLE MONT, on how the pressure is mounting on the LibDems’ leadership

Time running out: ‘Calamity’ Jayne McCoy has failed to respond to the calls for her to resign

Sutton Council’s opposition Tories are demanding that “Calamity” Jayne McCoy, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat-controlled council, should resign from her role as chair of the housing, economy and business committee, from where she has presided over the multi-million failed council heating network, SDEN.

McCoy is accused of lying to councillors and residents and being “happy to put two fingers up to taxpayers and residents” over the misfiring heating system, which has caused anguish and increased energy costs for those unfortunate enough to be tied in to a monopoly supply deal at the New Mill Quarter development in Hackbridge.

The call was made at a council meeting on Monday night by Catherine Gray, the Conservatives’ lead member on the HEB, who followed it up with a letter sent to McCoy on Wednesday. Having not received even an acknowledgement, Gray made her letter public last night. Continue reading

Posted in Catherine Gray, Environment, Jayne McCoy, Sutton Council, Waste incinerator | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Councillor tells officials: ‘Apologise for this incompetence’

A Labour councillor has accused Croydon officials of ‘playing us all for fools’ and says that the council ‘should be apologising to residents for this incompetence’ over the borough’s vanishing bus shelters

At least one Croydon councillor is, as Oscar-winner Peter Finch put it in the movie Network, “as mad as hell and I’m not going to take any more”.

Waddon ward’s Robert Canning’s patience snapped yesterday over the dumb insolence he has encountered from council officials, who have failed – or refused – to answer his councillor questions over issues brought to him by the residents he represents.

In this case, the final straw was the latest self-congratulatory press release issued from the council’s propaganda bunker in Fisher’s Folly which proclaimed the eventual arrival of so-called “Smart City” bus shelters as some kind of success. Continue reading

Posted in Connected Croydon, Croydon Council, Neil Williams, Opama Khan, Robert Canning, TfL, Transport, Waddon | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Council to be rocked by second Report In The Public Interest

£70m fiasco: the auditors have spent nearly a year trying to trace where all the money has been spent on the Fairfield Halls refurbishment

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The £70m ‘Fairfield fiasco’ has provoked serious concerns with auditors over the potential misuse of public money, with bungling developers Brick by Brick under scrutiny.
EXCLUSIVE
By STEVEN DOWNES

External auditors are to issue a Report In The Public Interest to Croydon Council within weeks.

It will be the second RIPI to rock the cash-strapped council in barely 15 months.

This latest stern legal warning over the council’s mishandling of public funds has been raised because of the £70million spent (so far) on the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls arts complex, what was supposed to be a two-year project that in the end took more than three years and was left incomplete and unfinished despite going £40million over budget.

It follows nearly a year’s painstaking, forensic accountancy work conducted by auditors Grant Thornton in an exercise which was prompted by their previous RIPI issued in October 2020 when they found “collective corporate blindness” among the borough’s senior employees and political leaders. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Ashcroft Theatre, Brick by Brick, Business, Colm Lacey, Croydon Council, Fairfield Halls, Hamida Ali, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Paula Murray, Report in the Public Interest, Richard Ennis, RIPI II: Fairfield Halls, Sean Fitzsimons, Shifa Mustafa, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Club kept in the dark over light bulbs at council-owned Arena

NON-LEAGUE NEWS: Croydon FC fear dire consequences over the poor lighting at their council-owned ground, while Athletic try to get over a crucial game where six players were sent off. ANDREW SINCLAIR reports

Anyone got a spare lightbulb?: Croydon Arena’s floodlights are overdue repairs and replacements

Croydon FC’s brightish start to the season is under threat of a black-out if something is not done, urgently, about the dim floodlights at Croydon Arena.

Sources at the club say the situation is approaching “crisis point”.

Clubs at all levels of the football pyramid, even Croydon’s relatively lowly Tier 10 in the Southern Counties East Football League Division One, are required to play their matches in conditions where the players can at least see the ball, and each other. And ever since the clocks went back to Greenwich Mean Time last month, there’s been a need to use floodlights for all competitive matches, even Saturday afternoon 3pm kick-offs.

But according to one senior club official at the Trams, despite repeated requests to the operating company that runs the council-owned Croydon Arena, nothing has been done to replace dead or faulty bulbs on the grounds’ floodlight pylons. Continue reading

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

E-bike battery fire prompts renewed warnings from Brigade

Firefighters have issued a safety warning after an e-bike caused a fire at a house on Beechwood Avenue in Thornton Heath last night.

Burnt out: the e-bike after last night’s house fire in Thornton Heath, thought to have been caused by an overheated battery

Part of the ground floor of a mid-terraced house was damaged by the fire. Two women and three men were assessed on scene for smoke inhalation and a child was taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service crews as a precaution.

The Brigade’s fire investigators believe the fire was caused by an e-bike and its battery, which had been left leaning against a radiator in the home and overheated.

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “Electric bikes and scooters are often stored and charged in escape routes in homes or communal areas, so when a fire does occur, escape routes are blocked which immediately makes an already serious situation much more frightening for those involved. So please do be mindful of where you’re storing them. Continue reading

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Food bank use up 74% in 5 years as London faces winter crisis

Food insecurity: UC cuts, rising heating bills and rents are placing more pressures on food banks and charities

The need for food banks is still well above what it was before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and is a shocking 74per cent higher than it was in 2016, according to the latest figures from charity the Trussell Trust.

The figures have prompted one London Assembly Member to predict a poverty crisis across London this winter, made worse by the withdrawal by the Tory government of the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift.

The Trussell Trust handed out 935,749 parcels over the six months to October 2021, more than one-third of which (356,570) went to children. Continue reading

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Wheatley is appointed as chair of housing improvement panel

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Nine months after the conditions in council flats in South Norwood caused a national scandal, and after spending £104,000 on one director who never bothered meeting the Regina Road Residents’ Support Group, the council has got around to forming a housing improvement board. BARRATT HOLMES, housing correspondent, reports

Flats broke: Conditions in council flats on Regina Road caused a national scandal

Croydon Council has named Martin Wheatley as the independent chair of its new housing improvement board.

The council cabinet agreed in May to establish the board, in the wake of the scandal of the mouldy walls, dripping ceilings and dodgy electrics that were exposed by ITV News reports from council flats in Regina Road, South Norwood.

It will be December before the housing improvement board’s first public meeting will be held, at Stanley Halls in South Norwood. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Housing, Regina Road Residents' Support Group, South Norwood, South Norwood Community Kitchen, South Norwood Tourist Board | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rail operator Govia faces landmark £73m tribunal challenge

Transport correspondent JEREMY CLACKSON reports on a landmark court case which seeks to show that the rail operator behind Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express services has been over-charging passengers

GTR is cutting back services across south London

A legal claim for compensation of up to £73million was made today against Govia Thameslink Railway  – the operator of the Southern, Gatwick Express and Thameslink trains which run through East Croydon – as an estimated 3.2 million passengers are overcharged for their rail fares.

GTR is alleged to have not made “boundary fares” sufficiently available for Travelcard holders to purchase, nor making passengers aware of their existence, leaving commuters to pay a higher fare than was necessary. It is calculated that since November 2015, 240million journeys could have benefited from boundary fares on the various GTR services if travellers had been aware of them.

The multi-million-pound legal action comes two months after Govia was stripped of their Southeastern operation and threatened with a possible Serious Fraud Office investigation into the withholding of £25million of payments going back seven years that were due to the Department of Transport. Continue reading

Posted in Commuting, East Croydon, Norwood Junction, Transport, West Croydon | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chief digital officer quits council after splashing the cash

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Our Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on the latest high-profile departure from the council

Transformation: Neil Williams has quit his £100,000+ per year job as head of the council’s digital service

That loud splashing sound heard outside Fisher’s Folly yesterday?

Could it be the noise you hear when another rat dives off the council’s sinking ship, from one of the upper decks where the “directors” are to be found..?

Neil Williams, the Negrini appointee as Croydon’s first chief digital officer who was promoted by Katherine Kerswell only two months ago to take on additional responsibilities, has taken another job, with the British Film Institute at Waterloo, where it has been announced that he will start in early 2022 as their new “executive director of technology and transformation”. Continue reading

Posted in Connected Croydon, Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Neil Williams | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pankhurst points the way for a piece of Coulsdon history

Fine finial: Emmeline Pankhurst is the latest historical figure to grace a Coulsdon lamppost

Emmeline Pankhurst and Britain’s first public railway are the latest additions to the Coulsdon finial history and art trail, a community project designed and managed by local residents.

The first three finials – small, stylised metal models – were positioned atop lampposts and signposts early this year.

“These finials commemorate the history of Coulsdon and Smitham Bottom and were selected from a list of suggestions that were put together from a public consultation by Pauline Payne when she was secretary of East Coulsdon Residents’ Association,” Charlie King, one of the movers behind the project, said. Continue reading

Posted in Art, Community associations, Coulsdon, East Coulsdon Residents' Association, History | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Plastic pollution is reaching a high tide mark on our rivers

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Want to do your bit to help clean up the environment, while trying to avert even worse effects of climate crisis? Inspired by a Croydon-based activist, LEWIS WHITE has tried, but like Greta Thunberg, has had a predictable response from those in power

Water, water everywhere: Lizzie Carr’s plastic-picking efforts have inspired Lewis White. But what are the authorities doing?

I wish all the best to Lizzie Carr, the Purley-based environmental activist as she paddleboards her way, litter-picking the waterways of England and beyond.

But it would be great if Lizzie could turn her attention to stopping litter blowing into the rivers in London, and turn the attention of Britain’s politicians, councils, water authorities and port authorities to take action to do the same on the tidal Thames.

On a number of visits to London’s South Bank and the Thames path, I saw plastic cups and bottles, and glass bottles and paper cups, being left on the top of the river wall by picnickers, many of whom could have walked a few metres to a litter bin. I also saw bins full, with rubbish left next to the bins on the paving. Continue reading

Posted in Charity, Environment | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Council rewrites its misleading Council Tax consultation

Croydon Council has removed a misleading reference to Universal Credit from some of its online material in its consultation over its axing of Council Tax Support. But according to one activist, the council’s misinformation about its planned multi-million-pound cuts will have undermined the consultation.

How can residents have a fair chance in the Croydon Council Tax consultation in an informed way when the information shared is inaccurate?” asked Sophia Moreau on social media.

The council wants to save nearly £6million next year by reducing the number of people who qualify for its Council Tax Support, in a move which will affect 20,000 of the borough’s poorest households. The Labour-controlled council is introducing a form of means-testing to determine who will in future qualify for the benefit. Continue reading

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Be a hero to stop youth crime says ex-Chelsea star Canoville

Paul Canoville, Chelsea’s first black player, has been named as the first ambassador of Fearless – a new youth service from the charity Crimestoppers.

Fearless: Paul Canoville (centre, back row) and local schoolchildren at yesterday’s Fearless launch at Stamford Bridge

The announcement has been made less than a week since the murder of 14-year-old Jermaine Cools in West Croydon; Fearless provides a channel for teenagers and young adults to report their concerns about crime, with guaranteed anonymity, in the hope of reducing the number of tragedies occurring on our streets.

The Paul Canoville Foundation has joined forces with Crimestoppers in a partnership which aims to fight hate crime, including racism, and provide support for young people. Continue reading

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Family of murdered 14-year-old speak out: ‘We forgive them’

The family of 14-year-old Jermaine Cools, who died on Thursday night after being stabbed in a fight near West Croydon Station, has spoken out for the first time since the incident to say that they forgive their son’s killers.

Shrine to loss: family and friends have laid flowers near the spot on London Road where Jermaine Cools was stabbed

Jermaine was the 27th teenager to be murdered on the streets of London in 2021, and the third teen murder victim in Croydon alone this year.

There have been no arrests as yet resulting from the police’s murder investigation.

Julius Cools and his wife, Lorraine Dudek, visited the scene on London Road yesterday to lay flowers on the spot where the fatal incident occurred. Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central, also attended the scene.

“I don’t know what happened,” Lorraine Dudek told the BBC. “I still can’t understand.

“We have to change this, something has to change.

Continue reading

Posted in Crime, Knife crime, West Croydon | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Man behind failing SDEN’s plan is re-hired on £800 per day

We’re in the money: Simon Woodward (left), Amanda Cherrington and the then council chief exec Niall Bolger three years ago at the opening of the Barratts-built New Mill Quarter, where SDEN has misfired ever since

EXCLUSIVE: LibDem-controlled council accused of ‘double dipping’ after it reveals it ‘won’ £310,000 grant to fund work on extending its misfiring heating network… even though that work has already been completed. CARL SHILTON, investigations editor, reports

Last week, Sutton Council reconvened its SSB, its shareholdings board committee, to consider the adjourned discussion on SDEN, the Sutton Decentralised Energy Network Ltd, the loss-making council-owned company that was heavily criticised in a recent independent report by accountancy watchdog CIPFA.

At tonight’s full meeting of the council, the CIPFA report will be up for debate again, in what could prove to be one of the livelier nights in the half-century of Sutton civic history.

The CIPFA report castigated the council for its inflated financial model for SDEN, what has been shown to be a deliberately faulty business plan that relied on non-existent homes and non-existent government grants to order to reach the financial threshold the company needed to proceed.

SDEN has been proven to be a blatant effort by Sutton’s ruling LibDems to greenwash the incinerator, where Viridor is due to benefit from a £1billion waste contract over 25 years from four south London boroughs, including Croydon.

SDEN is supposed to use “green energy” from the polluting Viridor incinerator at Beddington to heat homes at the New Mill Quarter estate at Hackbridge, although after nearly four years, it is still yet to deliver as much as a single kettle’s-worth of boiling water from the incinerator.

Continue reading

Posted in Jayne McCoy, Neil Garratt, Niall Bolger, Sutton Council, Tim Crowley, Waste incinerator | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let the drains take the strain: council acts to avoid flooding

Officials ask residents to report blocked gulleys to help reduce the risks of floods this winter

New drains: the council hopes that their latest works will reduce flooding risks in Riddlesdown and Kenley

A £162,000 flood alleviation project carried out in an area near Riddlesdown Station has been completed by the council before the worst of the winter weather sets in.

A range of measures have been put in place to help prevent or reduce flooding and, in the event of severe weather, enable the council to respond swiftly. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Environment, Kenley, Muhammad Ali, Purley, Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments