Half-term report: Is 49% really a pass mark for this test?

CROYDON COMMENTARY: After the respite of a week away from the virtual chalkface, the borough’s teachers are warily preparing themselves to be subject of the latest ‘Boris Big Bang’

Getting back to the classroom will have some advantages, but many disadvantages, too

As the UK slips down the rankings for the highest per capita death rate from coronavirus to fifth place behind Slovakia, Portugal, Czechia and Hungary, with a “mere” 3,335 deaths this week, I found myself in a Zoom meeting with an ex-colleague I haven’t seen for a while.

He is in Malaysia (85th place this week, 60 deaths). He likes to ask how things are going in the UK. He particularly likes to ask how the weather is and what the government is up to, between references to his swimming pool and the friendliness of the local geckos.

The other five of us in the meeting are all working at a variety of schools in this country and, inevitably, after catching up via the usual niceties, we ask each other to speculate about The Great Return. Continue reading

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Two executive directors in shock resignations from council

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Staff were told this afternoon that two of the ‘executive leadership team’ who were suspended from duty last week have quit their jobs. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Resigned: Croydon exec director Guy Van Dichele

Guy Van Dichele, Croydon’s executive director “health, well-being and adults”, and finance director Lisa Taylor have both resigned from their jobs.

The news was announced to staff at the cash-strapped council this afternoon in an internal memo from Katherine Kerswell, the borough’s interim CEO.

Van Dichele and Taylor were among the four execs to be suspended last week, pending a disciplinary process which formally got underway at a secret meeting of the appointments committee yesterday afternoon.

The suspensions were announced soon after Kerswell received the Penn Report, backed by the Local Government Association, into “possible wrong-doing” at the council in the couple of years that led to the authority going bust. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Guy van Dichele, Hazel Simmonds, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, Lisa Taylor, Shifa Mustafa, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Council faces tricky task to find 37 new polling stations by May

Orders from the government to not use schools on election day could cause serious problems in Croydon

If you have a garden shed that is not being used on Thursday May 6, or an empty garage perhaps, you might want to give Katherine Kerswell a call and offer your space up for a juicy commercial rental.

We might all be better off just using postal votes

Because Kerswell, the council’s interim chief executive and therefore the returning officer in charge of running elections, is on the hunt for nearly 40 alternative venues to act as polling stations on election day in just 11 weeks’ time.

There is growing concern in Croydon over arrangements for the staging of the London elections on May 6 because of the borough’s reliance on schools to provide polling stations. At recent elections, 37 Croydon polling stations have been based in schools – but because of covid-19, the arrangements for voters to be able to attend and exercise their democratic rights in a covid-secure environment makes using schools a health and safety minefield.

The government confirmed that elections – many of which, as in London, had been held over from 2020 because of the pandemic – will go ahead across the country on May 6. Because of coronavirus, electors will have to go to the polls equipped with their own pencils.

That, though, could be the least of many voting areas’ worries, according to the Association of Electoral Administrators. Continue reading

Posted in 2020 London elections, Croydon Council, Schools | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Minutes show plan to end services to 200 families in Sutton

EXCLUSIVE: Sutton Council has been criticised by a local MP for being ‘insensitive’ to parents of children with SEND, while an official complaint has been lodged over a senior LibDem councillor’s conduct.
By our Sutton investigations editor, CARL SHILTON

Confidential board meeting minutes from Cognus, Sutton Council’s controversial company responsible for delivering SEND services in the borough, reveal shocking plans to cut provision and therapies to 200 families across the borough this year to balance the corporate books after making a £700,000 loss.

Sutton Council is in trouble again over its failure to provide proper services to SEND children

A parents’ campaign group has called the action “disgraceful”, and accuses council officials of lying to them over the future provision of services.

The minutes relate to meetings held in November 2019 and September 2020, and they show that Cognus making plans to “cease or reduce therapy” for children, teens and young adults in the borough with special educational needs and disabilities.

That includes Cognus’ plans to cease providing educational health care plans for 200 SEND children this year.

The minutes also reveal how Cognus passed off as “independent” a report that they “managed” themselves to help them pass an Ofsted inspection last year. The confidential minutes even show that a senior Liberal Democrat councillor edited the report before it was delivered to Ofsted. This discovery has resulted in an official complaint being made about the conduct of the councillor who chairs Sutton’s “people committee”.

Sutton Council and Cognus issued joint statements this week after being caught out when the minutes were made public. Their response was condemned by Elliot Colburn, one of the borough’s MPs, for being “insensitive”. Continue reading

Posted in Community associations, Education, Health, Marian James, Sutton Council | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Whitgift School offers tributes to former head David Raeburn

A private family funeral service is to be held at 3pm this afternoon for David Raeburn, a former headmaster at Whitgift School and Oxford University academic.

David Raeburn, 1927-2021

Raeburn died at Abingdon Hospital on February 1. He was 93 years old.

He was head at Whitgift from 1970 to 1991. Prior to taking charge of the South Croydon independent school, Raeburn had been head at Beckenham and Penge Grammar, and after he retired he spent nearly 20 years tutoring Classics at New College, Oxford.

The school reports receiving a large number of tributes from former pupils and colleagues who remember Raeburn with fondness and gratitude. Continue reading

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Despite all the walking and talking, every day is like Sunday

CROYDON COMMENTARY: ‘Every day is silent and grey…’. Lockdown has stirred memories of songs and sitcoms for RICHARD PACITTI (right)

During the coronavirus restrictions, a friend sent me an email with the heading No Particular Place To Go, a light-hearted song reference to life under lockdown. In reply, my header was another song reference, Every Day Is Like Sunday, Morrissey’s 1988 record.

For those of us of a particular age, lockdown has perhaps reminded us of how life used to be on Sundays – everything closed and nothing much to do. For Morrissey, everything is “silent and grey”.

Which got me thinking about my cultural influences growing up – and in particular, the interweaving of pop music, television comedies and “kitchen sink” films and books of the 1960s and ’70s. Continue reading

Posted in Comedy, Health, Music | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Councillors demand urgent sight of Town Hall bullying report

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Claims that the council might be more ‘open and transparent’ ring hollow, as questions are raised at the bankrupt borough over other serious allegations. By STEVEN DOWNES

Councillors from both political parties at Croydon Town Hall have expressed concern that the borough’s most senior lawyer has delayed releasing an important report on bullying at the council.

Jacqueline Harris-Baker: who monitors the Monitoring Officer?

Labour and Conservative members of the council’s ethics committee raised the delay at a meeting of the ethics committee last week.

That meeting was only the second held by the ethics committee in the last 12 months. But on the previous occasion that they met, in November, the borough’s monitoring officer, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, “committed to circulating the report to members”.

Borough solicitor Harris-Baker, one of former council CEO Jo Negrini’s closest colleagues, was not present last week – apparently off work, sick. So when the committee’s vice-chair, Thornton Heath councillor Pat Clouder, mentioned that she had never been sent the report as promised, Harris-Baker was not available to offer any explanation. Indeed, none of the other council officials attending were able to explain the delay. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, Jo Negrini, Joy Prince, Katherine Kerswell, Pat Clouder, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Council admits its ‘pub protection policy’ may not work

City Hall has ruled that a developers’ scheme to demolish a previously thriving East Croydon pub and turn the site into (yet another) block of flats does not meet local planning regulations. But Croydon’s own planning department looks ready to cave-in to the demands of the developers.

The Glamorgan has been allowed to decay since its closure

The Greater London Authority published its report on the proposals for the site of the Glamorgan pub on Cherry Orchard Road earlier this month. The scheme for an 11-storey block of 36 flays, with a small area for a “pub” on the ground floor, had been submitted last year by Butlers Walsall Ltd and their architects Buckmaster Batcup.

Residents keen to save the Glamorgan, backed by their Labour ward councillors, had previously won ACV status – Asset of Community Value – which offers some protection from redevelopment and should effectively give local groups first refusal to purchase the property. Continue reading

Posted in Addiscombe West, Community associations, London-wide issues, Planning, Property, Pubs, Sean Fitzsimons | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Mayor Khan announces further £30m to tackle London crime

In the midst of what he called “huge financial challenges”, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has today announced a further £30million investment in policing to ensure that more than 1,000 Met officers will continue to patrol the streets of the capital for the next four years.

More funding: Mayor Sadiq Khan London’s police are still short-changed by the government

With Mayor Khan’s funding over the last three years, the Metropolitan Police has been able to recruit an additional 1,300 police officers to tackle crime.

Today’s announcement ring-fences funding from City Hall for the next four years for those additional officers, whose posts might have been at risk because of the impact of covid-19 on business rates income.

On top of this, the Mayor has proposed a further £8million of new Council Tax funding on additional violence prevention programmes. Continue reading

Posted in Crime, Knife crime, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Policing, Sadiq Khan | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Park life: Shawcross has plenty of appeal in her new role

EXCLUSIVE: Val Shawcross, the former leader of Croydon Council and Deputy Mayor of London, spoke to CLARA MURRAY about her new role as chair of the Crystal Palace Park Trust and the excitement over their latest projects

New role: former deputy mayor of London Val Shawcross

Crystal Palace Park has featured prominently throughout Val Shawcross’s throughout her 30-year political career.

As a Croydon councillor in the late 1990s, she opposed a regeneration project which would have brought an enormous multiplex cinema to the top of the park.

Shawcross was elected to the London Assembly in 2000. Ken Livingstone – who would later select her as his running mate for the 2012 Mayoral election – tasked her with a big-budget master plan for the park’s restoration. Continue reading

Posted in Charity, Community associations, Croydon parks, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Crystal Palace Park, Crystal Palace Park Trust, Friends of Crystal Palace Park, History, Ken Livingstone, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Val Shawcross | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Purrrrley Way store hands £2,000 over to Croydon cat charity

Cats Protection Croydon received a surprise donation of £2,000 over the weekend to help provide for pets in its care during the pandemic.

Cats Protection Croydon has continued its work finding loving homes for pets during lockdown

The donation was made by Support Adoption For Pets – the UK’s largest grant-giving animal charity started by Pets At Home – to recognise the tireless efforts and hard work at Cats Protection Croydon since the covid-19 pandemic began.

In total, the charity is giving away nearly £600,000 to rescue centres up and down the country, to help them look after the animals in their care as the financial hardship of covid-19 continues. Continue reading

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‘Unintended consequences’: government scraps pay-off cap

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Political editor WALTER CRONXITE finds that the era of half-million-pound rewards for failure might not be over at the council just yet

Will any of the council’s exec directors be forced to clear their desks this week?

Those council exec directors on six-figure salaries who are sweating on the outcome of a possible disciplinary process at a couple of committee meetings later this week might be a bit less concerned than previously, after the government scrapped its £95,000 cap on public sector “golden handshakes”.

Jo “Negreedy” Negrini walked away from the job as council chief executive last year with a breathtaking £440,000 pay-off – just weeks before the cap was introduced.

But now the government has backed down on its attempt to block such egregious misuse of public money on “payments for failure”, after a court action by trade unions. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Guy van Dichele, Hazel Simmonds, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Shifa Mustafa | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Removal of LTNs was unnecessary says cycling campaign

Croydon Council acted prematurely in removing its Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes in Crystal Palace and South Norwood, according to the London Cycling Campaign.

There’s growing evidence that LTNs work to reduce traffic and air pollution

The council decided to remove the planters and other measures following a ruling from a High Court Judge last month. The Croydon schemes had been subject to repeated vandalism and loud complaints from the Open Our Rat Runs campaign, which is fronted by a bankrupt businesswoman and supported by prominent motoring lobbyists.

But the LCC says that there was “no requirement to suspend or remove any Streetspace changes while [Transport for London’s] appeal is in progress”. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Cycling, Environment, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, South Norwood, TfL, Transport | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Rebel councillor kicked off traffic committee on eve of meeting

Our Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE, on the latest twist in the saga of the borough’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes

Pat Ryan, right, is dropped from tonight’s committee, similarly to his mate Tony Newman being dropped by Labour

Pat Ryan, the veteran councillor for Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood ward, has been removed as a member of the Traffic Management Advisory Committee, ahead of a crunch meeting tonight to decide the next steps for the borough’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes.

No official announcement nor explanation has been given for the removal of Ryan from the committee, which tonight will consider the use of CCTV cameras on key side streets off Church Road in Upper Norwood to reduce traffic and deter rat-runners, while making the streets less hostile places for pedestrians and cyclists.

“It’s probably meant to spare Pat from embarrassing himself and voting with the Tories  again,” a Katharine Street source said today.

At the previous meeting of TMAC, Ryan, a former Labour chief whip at the Town Hall, voted with the opposition Conservatives, who themselves managed to vote against the traffic-reducing policies of their own government.

In the past, Ryan has been appointed to positions at the council by Tony Newman, the disgraced former leader of the council who was suspended from membership of the Labour Party last week, pending an investigation into his role in the financial collapse of the council. Ryan is also a staunch supporter of Progress MP Steve Reed OBE.

Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Cycling, London-wide issues, Pat Ryan, Shifa Mustafa, South Norwood, Steve Iles, TfL, Transport | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

MyT: Easy Accounting with software from Croydon-based firm

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

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Wool, perriwigs and rotten boroughs: the Gorgeous Georgians

The rebuilt Parish Church as it looked more than 100 years ago, before the six-lane dual carriageway bulldozed through the neighbourhood, including part of the churchyard

MARVELS OF THE MINSTER: Many old memorials for rich, influential families placed in the Parish Church were destroyed by fire 150 years ago. But DAVID MORGAN has managed to track down the story of one of the lost tombs of Croydon

Among the lost memorials in the fire of 1867 were tablets to a Member of Parliament, Samuel Marsh, and his family.

Marsh was the MP for Chippenham from 1774 to 1780, at the time of King George  III, the “mad” king, and during a period which included the American War of Independence. Continue reading

Posted in Church and religions, Croydon Minster, David Morgan, History | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Police make 28 drug- and violence-related arrests in one week

More than 200 people were stopped and searched and 28 arrests were made in the past week, as extra police took to the streets of West Croydon as part of Operation Cleveland, in the aftermath of the spate of knife attacks across south London and the murder in Selhurst last weekend.

One of the ‘nasty adapted weapons’ recovered during Operation Cleveland

The police say that “The operation targeted drug-related offences and the violence it so often causes on our streets in West Croydon.”

After 215 stops and searches in the operation, nine weapons were recovered and what the police describe as “countless quantities of drugs”.

In an update on the first week of Operation Cleveland, the police said that officers had conducted 174 weapons sweeps in West Croydon, mainly knives, but including what they described as “a nasty adapted weapon”.

“Intelligence from the public and residents has seen us be able to execute three warrants this week all with successful arrests being made and a number of firearms being taken out of circulation to be destroyed,” the police said. Continue reading

Posted in Andy Brittain, Crime, Knife crime, London-wide issues, Policing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Council staff to start six-week covid-19 testing programme

Nearly a year since the country first went into lockdown because of the covid-19 pandemic, frontline staff at Croydon Council are to be part of a six-week rapid testing programme for coronavirus, starting from Monday.

Testing time: council staff have been offered covid-19 tests

In an email to staff this afternoon, Katherine Kerswell,the interim chief executive, wrote, “This testing offer will play an important role in boosting our defences against the virus and protect people on the frontline, their families, loved ones, and our residents.”

Kerswell explained that staff eligible for the testing have already been contacted directly. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Health, Katherine Kerswell | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Newman presided over ‘shocking bullying’, claims councillor

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Questions have been raised over Labour’s decision not to suspend the former deputy leader of the council, while Town Hall chiefs prepare for a flurry of disciplinary meetings next week

Suspended: Tony Newman

Yesterday’s “administrative suspension” of councillors Tony Newman and Simon Hall by the Labour Party prompted some of their erstwhile colleagues to come forward and call for further sanctions, amid allegations of “shocking bullying” within their party’s Town Hall group.

Inside Croydon understands that Newman and Hall have been suspended by the Labour Party, pending a formal review of their part in the financial collapse of the council. The suspensions have come because Newman and Hall are both named in the Penn Report, the investigation conducted into possible wrong-doing at the council, carried out by Richard Penn backed by the Local Government Association.

Last night, a council committee was told by Elaine Jackson, the borough’s recently appointed assistant chief executive, that her boss, Katherine Kerswell, “had very recently received that report”. Continue reading

Posted in Alison Butler, Croydon Council, Elaine Jackson, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, Jason Cummings, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Paul Scott, Section 114 notice, Simon Hall, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Weekend rail services into Victoria to be disrupted until June

Tomorrow will see the start of a near-two-year programme of signalling engineering works on the railway lines into Victoria Station which will see services into the London terminus from East Croydon cancelled or diverted on eight weekends through until June.

Rail passengers will need to plan weekend journeys into Victoria

Network Rail is modernising the 1980s track and signalling system in and around Victoria, a mullti-million-pound project that will install 93 new LED signals, 186 new axle counters and 120 miles of cabling for signals and power supplies.

On the following dates, trains will be diverted to London Bridge, with limited rail replacement buses between East Croydon and Clapham: Continue reading

Posted in East Croydon, Transport | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Berry’s mayoral campaign goes for solar-powered bus stops

Hold very tight please! An artist’s impression of the Greens’ new bust stops

The Green Party has today unveiled plans for a vastly improved new bus stops for London’s streets.

Sian Berry, the Greens’ candidate for Mayor in the London elections on May 6, has pledged that she will commission a full redesign to be used for all Transport for London bus stops as soon as possible.

The key features of the Green proposals include:

  • Real-time bus arrival time and air pollution information
  • Shelters with proper, comfortable seating, with arms to help older and disabled people stand up
  • A ban on unethical advertising, and ring-fenced advertising space for local small businesses and services
  • Solar generating glazing
  • Attractive, bee-friendly planting on the shelter rooftop, alongside further solar power generation
  • Zebra crossings across any cycle paths next to the bus stop and new pedestrian crossings in the right place for every main road bus stop

Continue reading

Posted in Caroline Russell, Croydon Greens, Environment, London Assembly, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Sian Berry, TfL, Transport | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Purley Station’s new artworks offer inspiration from history

Purley BID’s efforts to enhance their district centre has seen them commission three giant artworks for the local railway station.

Platform 6 at Purley now has some ‘inspirational’ art

A collaboration of works by Dan Cimmermann and Morgan Davy, the project was supported by Southern Rail, with the art being installed at Purley Station last month.

The striking pieces provide an eye-catching welcome to train travellers with motivational messages of “inspire” and “innovate”. The designs are drawn from the area’s rich history.

The portraits, which have been installed on the wall of Platform 6, depict three distinguished people with historic relevance to Croydon: Continue reading

Posted in Art, Business, Purley, Purley BID | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Newman and Hall are ‘administratively suspended’ by Labour

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Five months after their resignations, two of the key figures in the financial collapse of the council have had their party membership suspended. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Tony Newman: suspended

Tony Newman, a councillor in Croydon since 1994 and leader of the Labour group at the Town Hall for 15 years until his resignation last October, has been suspended by the Labour Party.

An “administrative suspension”, as it is referred to by the press office at the Labour Party, has also been applied to Simon Hall, the councillor for New Addington and the cabinet member for finance under Newman’s leadership.

At the time of his resignation as a cabinet member in October, Hall said that he was “proud” of his achievements in the six years since 2014 when he had been in charge of the borough’s finances.

Last month, Newman and Hall gave a joint interview in which they gave no indication that they were prepared to stand down as councillors, and strongly suggested that they would seek re-election in 2022.

Having their party membership suspended, pending an inquiry, does not affect Newman and Hall’s positions as councillors. But they are banned from taking part in Labour Party business, including policy meetings among their erstwhile party colleagues on the council. Continue reading

Posted in Croydon Council, Section 114 notice, Simon Hall, Tony Newman | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

We’re in the money! Bexley gets its government bail-out

True Tory blue Bexley -with its own shiny civic offices, is also in need of a government bail-out

While Croydon Council waits on anxiously for the deliberations of Whitehall civil servants over whether it will be allowed its multi-million-pound bail-out, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last night announced that it would be granting permission to four other local authorities for their capitalisation directions.

Tory-controlled Bexley, LibDem-run Eastbourne, Peterborough City Council, where there’s a Conservative majority, and Labour-run Luton, which is cash-strapped because its airport has been all but out of action due to coronavirus, have all had their applications granted. Continue reading

Posted in Bexley, Croydon Council, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Outside Croydon, Section 114 notice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Surge testing’ for South African variant starts in Streatham

Lambeth today began carrying out “surge testing” for the South African variant of covid-19 in Streatham.

It is the second area bordering Croydon to be subject to surge testing in a week, following cases of the South African variant being found in Pollards Hill.

On-the-spot doorstep tests, home testing kits and mobile testing will be deployed in Streatham. The Department of Health said the move will help “control and suppress the spread” of the variant. Continue reading

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