Fixing our bankrupt council needs a longer-term, Greener view

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Croydon is in crisis. We need to deal with the immediate priorities, find a way out of it and make sure it never happens again, says PETER UNDERWOOD (pictured right)

As in any crisis, our first priority should be to look to those who are most likely to be badly affected.

Even after the serving of the Section 114 notice last week, which brings strict restrictions on council spending, we know that the council will continue to have legal obligations to look after the safety of children and families who might be made homeless. We will get more information on what services are not going to be continued in the near future, but the key thing for all of us is to keep an eye out for things that are not being dealt with and people who may be at risk. Continue reading

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Top midwife Rowland appointed as local NHS’ chief nurse

Chief nurse: Dr Gloria Rowland

The NHS in South West London, including Croydon, has announced the appointment of Dr Gloria Rowland as Chief Nurse.

Previously Director of Midwifery at Barts Health NHS Trust, the country’s largest maternity service, Dr Rowland has been recognised by for her “outstanding practice in the leadership and drive shown” to improve midwifery services in a report from the Care Quality Commission.

First trained as a registered nurse and midwife in Nigeria, Dr Rowland relocated to Britain to continue her nursing career, where she has gained further qualifications in BSc Midwifery, MSc Community Public Health Specialist Practitioner and doctorate in Clinical Practice. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon CCG, Health | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Dozen artists from Crystal Palace prepare for lockdown exhibit

A group of local artists based around Crystal Palace will be busting through lockdown with a unique online exhibition showcasing their work later this month.

The artists of Exhibit12 aim to provide a varied and exciting collection to browse through, and use the online exhibition as a way of introducing their work to the local community. Continue reading

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EastEnders star Kemp to front Children’s Trust TV appeal

Martin Kemp, the former star of Spandau Ballet and EastEnders, will be back on our television screens this Sunday, fronting an appeal for a south London-based children’s charity.

Martin Kemp recording the short film for The Children’s Trust, which airs on Sunday

The Children’s Trust, based in Tadworth and with charity shops in Cheam, Purley, Epsom and Redhill, is the country’s leading charity for children with brain injury, delivering rehabilitation, education and community services.

Kemp who has personal experience of brain injury, following an operation to remove a brain tumour in 1997. Today, he said: “I hope lots of people tune into the appeal to see why The Children’s Trust need your help. It’s a subject close to my heart and I hope the money raised continues to help more children and families across the UK access the vital support they so desperately need.” Continue reading

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Kerswell tries to gag council staff over Section 114 crisis

Council staff have been ordered not to read or talk to Inside Croydon. Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on how the council’s £192,000 per year CEO has quickly adopted the bunker mentality of her discredited predecessor

Katherine Kerswell: seeking to blame others for her own error of judgement

Katherine Kerswell has been working at Croydon Council for barely two months, but judging by reports from staff members who attended her latest “open” briefing meeting last week, she has already adopted the bunker mentality of her immediate predecessor Jo “Negreedy” Negrini and the discredited council leader Tony Newman.

“It was a lack of openness and transparency which to a large extent got us into this mess,” one staffer told Inside Croydon over the weekend, as the enormity of the council issuing a Section 114 notice and declaring itself bankrupt continued to be absorbed.

“The constant denials that there was anything wrong, the bogus claims of success and awards for things like Brick by Brick… oh yeah, and trying to blame Inside Croydon just because you report what is going on. That’s what Negrini and Newman used to do. Now Kerswell’s started to do it.”

Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Section 114 notice, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Croydon in Crisis: The questions the council refuses to answer

Council staff based in Fisher’s Folly had their questions ignored last week

Frontline council staff, having already this year been put through one “reorganisation” – meaning more than 400 job cuts – now believe that there are more jobs to be axed.

Seeking reassurance, these are just some of the questions which staff submitted for the “open” briefing session with Katherine Kerswell, the interim CEO, and Hamida Ali, the leader of the council, last Thursday. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Colm Lacey, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Report in the Public Interest, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

100,000 covid cases in borough so far say health officials

Staff at Mayday have now separated out all their covid-19 work from other medical work

Nov 18 UPDATE: The figures provided by the NHS to the council scrutiny committee were WRONG, and a vast overstatement of the number of covid cases in Croydon, as pointed out by so many of our loyal readers in the comments below. Please see our new report by clicking here

There have been more than 100,000 positive cases of coronavirus recorded in Croydon since March.

That’s according to the chief executive of the local NHS trust, in a presentation and report given to a council scrutiny meeting last week.

According to Matthew Kershaw, there have been

101,225

covid-19 cases in the borough by last Tuesday. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon NHS Trust, Health, Matthew Kershaw, Mayday Hospital | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Croydon primary schools offer pioneering food bank service

Four Croydon primary schools have started their own food banks to help support their communities during the second covid-19 lockdown.

Four Croydon primary schools have started a weekly foodbank service

South Norwood Primary, Woodcote Primary, Broadmead and The Crescent, all Pioneer Academy schools, took the initiative in the knowledge that during the first lockdown period earlier this year, when schools were closed to the majority of children, other schools in the group across Bexley, Bromley, Croydon and in Kent supported their families by supplying more than 3,000 food parcels.

“It is imperative that we are doing everything we can at this unprecedented and anxious time, to support our families in every way we can,” said Lee Mason-Ellis, the CEO of the Pioneer Academy trust. Continue reading

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Childline counsellors ready to help deal with cyberbullying

To mark the start of Anti-Bullying Week, charity volunteer counsellor RACHEL McCOURTY explains how the NSPCC’s Childline can help

Every year thousands of children contact Childline about their experiences of cyberbullying and tell us it can feel impossible to escape.

Lockdown has exacerbated these feelings for many young people and from April to October, our trained counsellors held more than a thousand counselling sessions with young people about online bullying. Continue reading

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How Croydon’s pandemic priests survived the Black Death

MARVELS OF THE MINSTER: Coronavirus is not the first pandemic that priests have had to cope with while ministering to the congregation at Croydon’s Parish Church, which has a history going back a thousand years.
By DAVID MORGAN

Croydon Minster has had to deal with plague and pestilence before

The year is 1348. King Edward III is 21 years into his long reign as monarch.

Gonville Hall, the forerunner of Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, is founded in this year.

Two Parliaments are called. The first one took place in the January and February, the second in April. That second one was the last Parliament to sit until February 1351.

A year that began normally was completely changed by a pandemic. Sound familiar? Continue reading

Posted in Church and religions, Croydon Minster, David Morgan, History | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Police make arrest in murder inquiry over sergeant’s shooting

England’s rugby players paid tribute at Twickenham yesterday to Matt Ratana, the rugby-playing police sergeant who was shot dead while on duty Croydon in September.

How Twickenham stadium and England rugby paid tribute yesterday

The emotive gesture came the day after the police announced that they had arrested a man on suspicion of the murder, which took place at the Windmill Road police custody station.

Sgt Ratana, 54, was shot in the chest as the handcuffed suspect was being taken into custody in the early hours of September 25.

The arrest of Louis De Zoysa has occurred now because the suspect’s condition has “stabilised”, the police said. De Zoysa suffered a gunshot wound and life-changing injuries during the incident. Continue reading

Posted in Old Walcountians, Policing, Rugby Union | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Friends group raises jaw-dropping amount for dinosaur repair

The Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs (yes, it’s a thing) have been successful in raising almost £25,000 towards the cost of restoring one of Crystal Palace Park’s Grade I-listed dinosaur models.

Jaw replacement: the Megalosaurus fund will allow work to get underway

The Megalosaurus sculpture is about 170 years old and was positioned in the park when the Crystal Palace was first transferred to south London after the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851.

In common with many of the other dinosaur models in and around the park’s lakes, it is increasingly fragile because of its age, and earlier this year it was the victim of vandalism which broke away part of its jaw. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Croydon parks, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Crystal Palace Park, Friends of Crystal Palace Park, History | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Unison warns Kerswell not to play blame game with workers

‘Our members did not cause this mess… our members did not approach the council’s finances with “corporate blindness”.’ Unions are gearing up for a battle to protect frontline jobs, WALTER CRONXITE reports

Winter of discontent: Unions are beginning to question the council management

Katherine Kerswell, Croydon’s interim CEO, has been put on notice by the largest union at the council that they will not accept their members being blamed for the disastrous mismanagement of the local authority by incompetent executive directors and its discredited political leadership.

Unison regional organiser Louise O’Hara sent a stern letter to Kerswell and Hamida Ali, the new leader of the council, yesterday. In the letter, O’Hara refers to the memo sent to staff by the CEO – and published exclusively by Inside Croydon – following the issuing of the Section 114 notice on Wednesday that declared the council bankrupt. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Report in the Public Interest, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

It’s official(ish)! Croydon’s a rotten borough – Murdoch says so

‘Croydon has not so much overspent as bet on losers,’ according to The Times today. KEN LEE reports on how, belatedly, the collapse of our council has finally become national news

The Thunderer has spoken.

The parlous state of Croydon’s bankrupt council has been the subject of commentary on the leader page of The Times today, an area usually reserved for important matters of state, at home and abroad.

It is fair to say that the Murdoch-owned paper is not impressed.

The only wonder is that it has taken them the best part of four years, and the council’s Section 114 notice on Wednesday, for them and the rest of national press finally to catch up with what The Times headline calls a “Rotten Borough” (in fairness to Lord Gnome, his magnificent organ Private Eye has been covering the Croydon crisis from the very start, in their excellent, ahem… Rotten Boroughs column). Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Local media, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

‘One of the biggest casualties of council crisis is our trust’

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Residents, such as New Addington’s SCOTT AINSWORTH-PAYNE (pictured right), have been shocked at some of the revelations coming out of the council over the last couple of weeks

I am flabbergasted by the state of things.

Croydon contains some of the most deprived areas in London which rely heavily on services the council provides.

It is deeply concerning and personally I feel betrayed by those who we elected to steer the council in the right direction.

I voted for Labour at the local elections as I wanted to support a party that’s main goals are to support the vulnerable, bring about social justice and to fund our much-needed essential services. But the opposite has happened and already I am seeing council services, vital services, cut back to balance the books. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, New Addington Residents' Association, Scott Ainsworth-Payne, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Union says it will oppose cuts to council staff pay conditions

The council’s frontline workers must not be made scapegoats for the errors of highly paid executive directors and the council’s leadership, trades union Unite has warned.

Unite says it will not accept a reduction in their staff’s employment terms

Unite represents staff in parks, social services and CCTV.

The union also has hundreds more members operating for Croydon’s sub-contractors including waste services, leisure, education and housing, who are all potentially affected by the council’s financial crisis following this week’s issuing of the Section 114 notice, effectively admitting the borough has run out of money.

“Any attempt to reduce workers’ terms and conditions and or cut hours will be fully resisted by Unite,” Clare Keogh, the union’s regional officer, said. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The cuts: Fisher’s Folly to be sold and 3-weekly bin collections

Croydon’s Council Tax-payers can expect even less service for their money

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The problem facing Croydon Council as it seeks to balance its books is that, after a decade of Tory austerity, there’s precious little left to cut. STEVEN DOWNES reports

The frustration with the slow pace of progress over the council efforts to reduce the authority’s spending was clear in the memo from chief executive Katherine Kerswell to staff on Wednesday and the report from Lisa Taylor, the chief finance officer, that accompanied her Section 114 notice which declared the council bankrupt.

“Too many of us are still operating like business as usual and are not facing up to our new reality that we are actually in a financial crisis,” Kerswell said.

“I am still not seeing an organisation that is taking the necessary radical decisions to stop all but essential expenditure,” Taylor wrote.

“We have not been able to identify enough savings proposals for this year and next that will help us balance the budget,” Kerswell told staff.

And there’s the rub. Continue reading

Posted in Adult Social Care, Alisa Flemming, Andrew Fisher, Children's Services, Croydon Council, Katherine Kerswell, Libraries, Lisa Taylor, Refuse collection, Report in the Public Interest, Schools, Section 114 notice, Timothy Godfrey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

£36m Brick by Brick ‘risk’ helped to trigger Croydon’s S114

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Council finance director says that the loss-making house-builder’s failure to pay dividends was a primary cause of her issuing the Section 114 notice. By STEVEN DOWNES

Brick by Brick proved good at producing child-like scribbled drawings, but much less-good at making payments

More than half of the council’s forecast £66million overspend in this financial year, which prompted the issuing of the Section 114 notice yesterday, is because of Brick by Brick’s failure to make interest and revenue payments.

That’s according to Lisa Taylor, the council’s chief finance officer, in her report to councillors.

According to the figures provided by Taylor in her report, Croydon’s projected overspend has spiralled by around £20million in just a couple of months.

But Taylor’s report said that it was the “greater risk than previously anticipated” around Brick by Brick, “being able to make interest and dividend payments due to the council this year and for previous years” that was one of the main causes of her to resort to the S114.

According to Taylor, the council’s loss-making house-building company was due to contribute £36million to the council’s coffers this year. Continue reading

Posted in Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Lisa Taylor, Report in the Public Interest, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Newman should be chucked out of Labour, say activists

‘It’s time to clean things up. It’s time for the truth to be told,’ according to one Labour councillor. WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, on the growing calls for the council’s discredited former leaders to stand down immediately

Hard hats: Tony Newman, right, and his former deputy, Alison Butler. Some Labour members are calling for their expulsion

Tony Newman, until last month the leader of crisis-hit Croydon Council, Alison Butler, his former deputy, her husband Paul Scott and Simon Hall, the one-time cabinet member for finance, should all resign as councillors and be expelled from the Labour Party.

That’s the view not just of the Town Hall’s opposition Tories after the council was yesterday forced to admit it was broke and issued a Section 114 notice. It is the opinion of a growing number of local Labour Party members, including some who worked as councillors under Newman’s “Gang of Four”. Continue reading

Posted in Alison Butler, Chris Philp MP, Croydon Central, Croydon Council, Croydon North, Croydon South, Hamida Ali, Jamie Audsley, Paul Scott, Sarah Jones MP, Section 114 notice, Simon Hall, Steve Reed MP, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Angry council staff have hard questions for exec directors

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The honeymoon period for interim chief exec Katherine Kerswell appears to be over after a memo, sent just as the Section 114 notice was issued yesterday, has prompted new anger among the already demoralised staff. KEN LEE reports

An exodus of disillusioned front-line staff from Fisher’s Folly could worsen the problems faced by the council

In the summer, as more than 400 council jobs were being cut but Croydon dodged a Section114 notice by virtue of little more than the stroke of a pen from a senior accountant working with the government, this website noted that it was a case of “Trebles all-round for the exec directors! P45s for the frontline workers!”

And while much has moved on since July, including chief exec Jo “Negreedy” Negrini (the blow of her departure softened with a £440,000 reward for failure), little has happened to calm the simmering discontent among council staff. Or at least, those council staff who are left.

Because it is not just the hundreds of staff being made redundant from the council who are leaving. There’s an on-going exodus of senior and well-regarded front-line employees, as they seek to quit Fisher’s Folly and resume their careers at better-run authorities. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

S114 notice will make cost-cutting ‘more stringent and tough’

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Chief finance officer Lisa Taylor sent out her report on the Section 114 notice at just after 3pm today, as her new boss, Katherine Kerswell, the interim council CEO, sent this email to all council staff

Katherine Kerswell: council staff have continued to seek growth and increased spending

Dear Colleagues,

As you know, our council is in a very difficult financial situation and at present is forecasting a significant overspend of many millions by the end of this financial year.

As one of the solutions to our financial difficulties; we have been in talks with government about them helping us to balance our budget through something called a Capitalisation Direction – a loan. To date, these have been supportive and positive. We are currently working with colleagues in their Rapid Review team who are meeting council staff and reviewing us. They will report back to [Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government] on our finances and other aspects of how we are facing up to our problems as part of their decision process on whether we get the loan agreed. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Costs of covid-19 not the cause of financial collapse, says Ali

CROYDON IN CRISIS: After three weeks in the job, Hamida Ali admits that it was the Labour administration’s own errors, and not extra spending on coronavirus, that has led to the issue of the Section 114 notice.
By KEN LEE, Town Hall reporter

Hamida Ali: ‘the council has made mistakes’

Hamida Ali, the leader of Croydon Council for less than one month, today admitted that the Town Hall’s financial problems were long-term and deep-seated, and she refused to use the millions of pounds of extra spending during the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for the administration’s failures.

“We need to be honest about the fact that, for a number of reasons, the council is on track to spend more than we have,” Ali said in a statement issued this evening, shortly after the council’s chief finance officer, Lisa Taylor, had issued a Section 114 notice – the formal admission that the council is broke.

According to the council today, the latest estimate of the council’s overspend this financial year is £66million.

Last week a “clarification” of guidance issued to CFOs, such as Taylor, made it clear that local authorities might escape having to issue S114 notices only because of the cost of covid-19, and Croydon’s problems are far more widespread than that.

Ali said, “The covid-19 crisis and a decade of austerity have had a major impact on our finances, but it’s clear the council has also made mistakes, and I am committed to fixing that. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Lisa Taylor, Report in the Public Interest, Section 114 notice, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Croydon In Crisis: Council forced to declare itself bankrupt

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Devastating blow’ for the borough as it has issued a Section 114 notice, making it the first local authority in London for two decades to admit it has gone bust. By STEVEN DOWNES

Croydon is the first council in London to go bust in 20 years

Croydon Council’s finance director, Lisa Taylor, today succumbed to mounting pressure to issue a Section 114 notice, an admission by the local authority that it has gone bust.

The move will see day-to-day control of the council handed over to government-appointed commissioners. Croydon will become only the second council in England in 20 years to issue a S114 notice, and the first in London since Hackney in 2000. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Report in the Public Interest, Section 114 notice, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

What is a Section 114 notice? What will it mean for the council?

Croydon Council today admitted that it had gone bust.

Under the Local Government Finance Act 1988, Section 114 (3) dictates that: “The chief finance officer of a relevant authority shall make a report under this section if it appears to him that the expenditure of the authority incurred (including expenditure it proposes to incur) in a financial year is likely to exceed the resources (including sums borrowed) available to it to meet that expenditure.”

This means that is the chief finance officer, or CFO, sometimes also called the Section 151 officer, who in Croydon is Lisa Taylor, has the role under law of being the most senior financial advisor to the wider council’s leadership on its financial plans. Uniquely across the public sector, the CFO has the power and legal responsibility to suspend a council’s spending for a period of time if they judge the council does not have a balanced budget or the imminent prospect of one. Continue reading

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Binmageddon!: Oval Road residents despair at rubbish service

A typical scene on Oval Road, where bin bags are hung from Victorian railings, often for days on end

Demoralised residents in Addiscombe have appealed to the council to sort out the mess that they have created on Oval Road, where rubbish bags are left festering for days, even weeks on end, often with their contents spewing out across the street.

This constant eyesore and potential health hazard is the consequence of a council “trial”, a move which all but admits that the Binmageddon of tens of thousands of wheelie bins inflicted across the borough two years ago did not work for some Croydon streets.

Oval Road residents were written to by the council and told to expect collections of their general waste and recycling every week – double the frequency of service provided to most Croydon residents. But the reality is that the residents are now getting a far worse service than the rest of the borough. Continue reading

Posted in Addiscombe West, Croydon Central, Croydon Council, Refuse collection, Sarah Jones MP, Sean Fitzsimons, Veolia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments