History Update 31 July

Sunday 1 August. Emancipation Day

See Emancipation Day Matters? Materiality and Cultural Contestation in Jamaica

via the UWI Museum YouTube livestream 

Sunday 1 August. 7pm. The Masque of Anarchy

Actress Maxine Peake reads Shelley’s poem.


Monday 9 – Friday 13 August. Transatlantic Slavery Symposium

Joint venture between the Robert H. Smith Scholarship Centre at Benjamin Franklin House in London.


This five-day virtual symposium will be hosted by the Robert H. Smith Scholarship Centre at

Benjamin Franklin House in London, the Fred W. Smith National Library at Mount Vernon and

the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello from Monday 9 to

Wednesday 18 August. 5.30pm. Scotland’s Black History Matters

Alex Renton (author of Blood Legacy) and Lisa Williams (founder of the Edinburgh Caribbean

Association and creator of its Black History Walking Tours) will take part in a live Q&A on

Wednesday 18 August at 5.30pm BST, discussing inheritance, the case for reparations and how

You can book a place to watch online at


Tuesday 31 August to Sunday 5 September. A  Modest Little Man

7.30pm each evening except Sunday, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

The Gatehouse in Highgate Village.  

To book tickets £16 with £2 off for concessions.


To Sunday 5 September. Gold And Glory: Henry VIII And The French King

Hampton Court exhibition.


On 22 July Channel 5 showed Lion TV’s production Hampton Court: Behind Closed Doors which included discussion about John Blanke, the Black trumpeter believed to at the Field of Cloth of Gold. until Sun 10 Oct 2021 purchase/57221

Open daily, 10am-5pm

To 10 Sunday October. Lessons Of The Hour- Frederick Douglass

10 screen exhibition at Scottish National Galleries


Thursday 28 – Saturday 30 October.  Yale and Slavery

See image below.

Courses On Line

Black Tudors: The Untold Story

FutureLearn and Dr Miranda Kaufmann Black six week course which can be started a date of your choosing.


Labour History  WEA/GFTU


Delighted to see GFTU doing this. I helped with some residential courses on labour history in the 1990s.

See Edda Nicolson (Wolverhampton) on the early history of the General Federation of Trade Unions, 1899-1926.



Enslavement & Black Atlantic







Connecticut’s Venture Smith

Story of rise from slavery to become a successful farmer, fisherman, and trader in the American Revolutionary era.


Secrets of Bajan Rebel Slaves

The Guardian. 18  July.

Exploring The Dvořák-Burleigh Connection In Song


Emmett Till


The Moral Descent of Cremorne Gardens


Naoroji. Pioneer of Indian Nationalism

See image below


Hyndman And Anti-semitism

Hyndman’s anti-semitism and opposition to it in socialist left is discussed by Steve Cohen.


Canadian Conference On Slavery 2023

A conference examining the histories and legacies of slavery in Nova Scotia, Canada, and beyond is to be held in Halifax in 2023.

It will be hosted by Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College in collaboration with the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia. 


This should be an excellent Conference. Back in 2015 I was in Halifax giving a talk on British and Candanian black connections at Dalhousie at the request of Professor Afua Cooper, who I had met the previous year while staying with my cousin. Afua then visited London to see her daughter who was a student here. Afua and I did a joint talk at the University. I also gave a talk at the Annual 18thC Studies Annual Conference in January 2016. One of my projects is to produce a pamphlet on the connections. I would love to go to the 2023 Conference, but only  time will tell re-cost and health.

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Deprivation & Poverty Issues Loom Over Croydon

It is ten years since the disorders triggered by the shooting of Marc Duggan. Croydon was badly affected. A study in today’s The Guardian ‘A tinderbox of tensions still in place’ has a map of Croydon. It shows the Borough by areas of different degrees of deprivation. It highlights Thornton Health, Addiscombe and the Town Centre as the areas badly affected are which were either in or bordering on areas of high deprivation. We know that deprivation has increased in Croydon over the decade, and will have been further aggravated by the COVID pandemic and is likely to get worse.


The pandemic has adversely affected those on benefits, low incomes, zero hours contracts, the self-employed. Many will be hit by the Goernment’s plans to end the £20 Universal and Tax Credits addition and the furlough scheme on 30 September. Croydon Council and the Chamber of Commerce are calling on the Chancellor  to delay phased withdrawal of furlough. A series of national reports on Universal and Tax credits, Council Tax, water debt, the digital divide and bailiffs action raise a wide range of issues, which need to the considered in the on-going debate in  Croydon over economic recovery.


The End Of Furlough 



50,000+ Croydonians Could Lose Universal Credit Boost


Nationally 46%  of adults in 5m households on Universal Credit, and 1m on working tax credits  are worried that the upcoming £20 cut will affect their ability to afford food according to national poverty charity Turn2us. 44%  will struggle to pay bills, 29%  don’t know if they will be able to continue pay their rent or mortgage, and 20% will not be able to stay out of debt.


Christians against Poverty (CAP) say the  planned cut to should be cancelled.  Their new report looks at the impact of problem debt on financial and mental wellbeing. It demonstrates how all forms of wellbeing are compromised by a lack of income and social security, which are essential to underpinning health and setting a course for positive futures. It recommends that the UK’s financial wellbeing should be measured, that problem debt should be named a public health issue, that further research should be conducted to understand the link between wellbeing, support networks and debt advice outcomes, and action taken to help those declared insolvent.

Council Tax After Covid

As with all Councils Croydon has arrears in receipt of Council Tax. In England the total is £4.4bn. A study by the Money Advice Trust shows that more than 7m people in Britain (14%) are worried that they won’t be able to afford their council tax bills over the coming year. Some vulnerable groups are most at risk of falling behind on their council tax – people with disabilities or long-term health conditions are three times more likely to be in arrears. 59% of British adults are supportive of the Government increasing the amount of money given to councils to allow them to help households who are struggling to pay. Money Advice Trust recommends that the Government introduce a permanent increase in funding for local authorities to deliver Council Tax Support schemes that cover up to 100% of bills for the most financially vulnerable. It should reform out-dated council tax collection rules to prevent the rapid escalation of debt and ensure people in debt are treated fairly. All local authorities should exempt people receiving Council Tax Support from bailiff action in recognition of the fact they have already been identified as vulnerable.

Will Croydon Back New Approach To Bailiff Regulation?

Croydon residents in debt often have visits from the bailiffs.  The way bailiffs operate and are managed by those hiring their services has been an on-going issue I have watched since the 1970s, and occasionally been involved in lobbying work.

The Centre for Social Justice  is proposing to replace bailiff self-regulation by an Enforcement Conduct Authority with  ‘a clear mandate to ensure fair treatment and appropriate protection for people subject to enforcement’. The debt advice sector ‘Taking Control’ campaign has welcomed the proposal, as an important opportunity to raise standards and protect people in financial difficulty from unfair practices. However the proposals fall far short of the full statutory regulation they have called for.


Will Croydon Council support the idea?

Water Debt

As far as I am aware the extent of water debt in Croydon is not known. In its annual Water Matters study, the Consumer Council for Water argues that more support with water bills is needed. It is calling on water companies to improve the way they engage with their customers to ensure those that are struggling most to afford their water bills do not miss out on support. It found that just over 1 in 4 households across England and Wales felt their finances had changed for the worse during the last year and those who were already struggling to afford their water bills faced even greater hardship, The unemployed or those working in hospitality and call centres, people under 30 and those from an Asian or mixed ethnicity background were among those that felt their finances had got worse during 2020.  Some of these customers remain in the dark over the support available to help pay their water bill despite water companies’ efforts to bolster help for low-income households during the pandemic through schemes such as social tariffs and payment breaks. CCW recommendations include measures to overcome low awareness of existing support, such as  making communications much clearer and more accessible, improving data sharing to better identify customers in need of help and taking more proactive steps to understand the communities they serve can help the industry target the hardest to reach customers.


The Digital Divide And Telecoms Debt

As I keep arguing in my blog postings and representations to the Council there is still a lack of understanding about the nature and the digital divide. Ofcom is warning mobile phone and broadband firms that they must do more to support people in financial difficulty, or they could face new interventions to better protect customers. New research shows that  many people on low incomes are struggling to pay, and not all of them are getting the support they need. 2m households struggle to afford internet access. 2% of broadband and 3% of mobile customers are in arrears, while 0.1% and 0.2% are disconnected by their provider every month. Between January 2020 and January 2021 total debt among broadband and mobile customers increased from £475m to £550m. Only six providers offer targeted affordable ‘social’ tariffs for customers on low incomes. Ofcom is consulting on whether the protections in place for customers in debt or struggling to pay should be strengthened until 5pm on 30 September.


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Croydon Update 31 July

To  8 August. Big Butterfly Count


Monday 2 August. 3 Libraries Expand Offer

Bradmore Green, Sanderstead and Shirley libraries will be opening their doors to allow browsing, computer access and study spaces two days a week.


Saturday 7 August. Folk & Blues Festival Ruskin House

Tuesday 10 – Friday 13 August. 9am-3pm. LBSU Drop In Sessions

Electric House, 3 Wellesley Rd, Croydon CR0 2NW


Summer Sport Etc Activities For Children & Young People

Cabinet member Alisa Flemming explains at:


24 August. Close of Survey for LTNs in S. Norwood and Woodside


Let’s hope the Council has learn from the work of the Parsons Mead Action Group against the Broad Green LTN. Not happy with the Council survey  it ran its own, showing that 353 of 374 people in 18 streets say no to the LTN.


Saturday 18 September. 11am. Clean Up South London

 Park Hill Park

The Ups & Downs Of Children’s Services

Purley Oaks and Shirley Children’s Centres have been reprieved from closure by the Council following more than 1,365 responses were submitted to a consultation that closed in June, with 725 people saying they disagreed with the changes. The Council will still have to find £1m cuts.


Cabinet member Alisa Flemming explains.


Meanwhile Ofsted is concerned that cuts the children’s services are having an adverse effect on vulnerable children.


Meanwhile Charlotte Davies of Croydon based Fit2 Learn continues to comment on issues relating to children’s learning and tackling learning difficulties most recently on children’s learning and mental health and on good sound processing.




Shortage Of HGV Drivers Hits Refuse Collections

Veolia says that a combination of Brexit and the pandemic has led to a shortage of qualified drivers as training, recruiting and keeping drivers has become more difficult.



Planning Committee Ends in Chaos

Thursday evening’s Planning Committee ended in chaos following a member of the public throwing water down from the public gallery on to Committee members. It appears that the security presence in the gallery failed to deal with the member of the public who had been keeping up a barrage of verbal comments. As someone who has made verbal interventions from the public gallery  I support the right to reasonable verbal protest. Throwing things down is another thing, especially water given the electrics of the microphone system. The meeting had to be adjourned to enable the water to be cleaned up and wet Councillors sort themselves out. Given the lateness of the hour I adjourn the Sub-committee on 82 Pollards Hill North in Norbury until next Thursday. Obviously there will have to be an investigation into why the security system failed. It is be hoped that the public gallery will not be closed as this will be seen as the Council being less than open, transparent and accountable. I have always thought that the public attending the Committee should be seated at the back of the Council Chamber rather than the gallery.

Council Progress With High-Rise Block Repairs


Sign Up To Council’s Tree Sponsorship Scheme


One issue that needs to be addressed is the number of street trees which have died. Has the Council surveyed streets and prepared a re-planting programme?

 COVID Deaths In Care Homes

In Croydon, 140 care home residents died with Covid-19 between April 10 2020 and March 31 2021. The total in England was more than 78,500 in around 7,000 care homes. 39 individual care homes in Croydon reported at least one Covid-19 related death.


Planning Applications Week 18 July


Business Enterprise News

Croydon’s Nina Nduwayo and Claudine Reid are on the shortlist of 39 Black professionals of the Black British Business Awards 2021.


Start Up Croydon

The former Chair reflects on n40 years of supporting businesses.


Nina Nduwayo and Claudine Reid MBE are included in a shortlist of 39 Black professionals across the country selected for outstanding professional achievements and the personal work they do to defy stereotypes and reshape the business world

Thornton Heath Chronicle

July’s issue is another excellent edition covering everything from planning and development, crime, sport, local and Windrush history, the proposed transformation of Surgeon’s College and local charities. Congratulations to the editor Andrea and the designer Jo Dawson.


The Croydonist

The July postings include:

Shaniqua’s Voices of Croydon

The right conditions (art store in Whitgift)

Pioneering Purley


London Issues

On London has the following postings of interest:

The Labour Government’s debate about the creation of the London Mayor and the GLA

Re-thinking congestion and air quality

Planning Reform

The Challenge of Retrofitting


History News

Windrush Memorial

The Council is urging people to give their views on the Government’s consultation on which Windrush memorial should be chosen.


History of Coombe

Chris Harman’s talk for Sanderstead Local History Group can be seen at:


COVID Delays Croydon Area Remodelling Scheme

Network Rail has replied to my Freedom of Information request that the future of the Croydon Area Remodelling Scheme.

My Questions

(1) When does NR envisage being able to start work on the CARS?

(2) Whether this is a delay on its original programme?

(3) Whether the CARS is having to be shelved and if so for how long?

(4) How many jobs are envisaged to be created for the CARS work?

(5) How many apprenticeships are envisaged to be created for the CARS work?

(6) How many jobs are envisaged to be created in the supply chain for the CARS work?

Response Questions 1-3

‘I can advise you that the development of CARS, and associated TWAO4 application, has been delayed due to issues concerning the uncertainty about future passenger behaviour and demand after the COVID-19 pandemic and funding constraints following the Government’s 2020 Spending Review. Given the significant investment required to deliver this scheme, we are taking time to consider how the pandemic may affect passenger behaviour and travel patterns in the future, and how any such changes should be reflected in infrastructure investments such as this. At this time, we do not know when the proposed scheme may proceed. We recognise the significant positive changes the proposed scheme could bring to a heavily used and constrained route and are continuing to develop the case for the scheme in a way that responds to these wider uncertainties. This will help us to build a stronger business case for the proposed scheme and ultimately improve the chances of securing a positive decision for moving the project to the next stage of the Government’s investment pipeline.

Response  Questions 4-6

We ‘do not have any forecast figures for employment created by CARS.

Whilst we don’t have a detailed forecast of actual numbers at this stage, CARS would provide substantial employment and training opportunities during the construction period, with creation of a local supply chain involving large numbers of skilled specialist jobs. This would help provide a regenerative benefit prior to any passenger benefits being seen.’

Climate Change And Air Travel Debate

Unite, the trade union has supported the expansion of Bristol Airport. Croydon Green activist and member of Unite’s  Retired Members branch, has written to object.

‘As a Unite member and lifelong socialist and internationalist, I am very disappointed that, by supporting expansion of Bristol airport, you are not taking seriously the immense damage to people all over the world caused by climate change.

Flying, most of which is done by a privileged minority of the populations in the developed world, contributes to climate change both through carbon emissions and by depositing particles and water vapour at high altitudes. Relying on possible alternative fuels, or on the mirage of offsetting, will not prevent the damage being done now and in the future by aircraft flights (see Tahir Latif’s response to recent DfT policy on flying).

Of course livelihoods are important – no one would disagree with that, least of all trade unionists like myself. But we need to think outside the box, as the Lucas Aerospace shop stewards Combine did, redirecting existing skills to socially-useful low-carbon jobs, while also, where necessary, retraining aviation workers (with pay) for a range of such jobs.

Diversification protects livelihoods while also reducing the harmful emissions that cost human lives and health, while destroying the environment on which we all depend.’

Closer to home is Gatwick Airport raising questions for Croydon’s climate change activists about its future.’

Tariq Ali’s response can be seen at:


See also his views at:


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Call For Croydon Black History Month Activities

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Ruskin House Folk & Blues Festival 7 August

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The Green Credentials of Eurostar Discussion 4 August

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Marc Wadsworth Paid Compensation By Jewish Chronicle And Helps Establish New Black Led Anti-racist Alliance The Liberation Movement

On 22 July Croydon based anti-racism campaigner Marc Wadsworth won his libel case against The Jewish Chronicle, with the newspaper agreeing to pay “substantial compensation” and issue an apology.

The main news media have failed to report it. Other media reporting the outcome have been The Morning Star, City A.M, and The Canary, and several blog sites.

The Jewish Chronicle had to originally print an apology on 26 May before the final agreement on compensation.

Marc can now fully concentrate his energies on developing the new anti-racism alliance he has been working with others to create: the Liberation Movement. 

The Liberation Movement

The Movement’s founding statement can be seen here:


setting out why the Movement should be black led with white allies.

There is a separate page to enable individuals and organisation to join.

The Movement is asking organisations to adopt the following resolution:

‘This…gives its support to the new Black-led anti-racist Liberation Movement, which is being set up by Black activists with the cross-party support of white allies in the labour movement and communities around Britain, including Clive Lewis MP. This welcome initiative comes at a time when racism and support for the far right is reaching alarming proportions, fuelled by Boris Johnson’s bigoted government. Recent examples include the sickening racist online abuse against three Black England football players. We acknowledge that African Caribbean and Asian people must be in the leadership of the fightback against all such hatred. We pledge to promote support for the Liberation Movement and its activities’.

Donations are welcome.

Marc’s book can be ordered from:


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Tooting’s Sprout Gallery Community Arts Loan Scheme

Further details at:


What an excellent initiative.

Can the idea be copied elsewhere?

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Croydon Planning Committee And Infrastructure Funding Gap Up-dates

Planning Committee Thursday 29 July 6pm

116 Reddown Road,  Coulsdon

Demolition of existing dwelling and erection of two 3 storey terraced blocks comprising 8 3 bedroom dwelling houses. 289 objections, including East Coulsdon Residents Association. It has raised concerns about access to emergency services, the design and scale being out of character within the surrounding area, traffic generation and cars parking, overlooking of neighbouring properties, surface water and lack of social infrastructure particularly in the southern geographic regions of Croydon. The image of the frontages shows an a large area of hardstanding instead  green landscaping.

158 Purley Downs Road

Demolition of existing dwelling and garage and erection of two 3-storey buildings, comprising of 7 residential units. 117 objections, including Sanderstead Residents Association. The latter arguments include that it is overdevelopment, the cycle and refuse enclosures to the front of Block B will be dominant and untidy features detracting from the overall appearance, rear gardens to Block B are small and out of character with locality, front amenity areas to Block B are not acceptable, whilst rear gardens to Block B exceed minimum size standards, overlooking and loss of privacy for No.160. It recommends that Block B be reduced to 2 houses allow redesign and overcoming overlooking concerns, increase garden areas and successfully integrate cycle parking and refuse storage to create an acceptable and harmonious scheme. Block A is substantially higher than current house and would appear dominant and obtrusive within the streetscene given its location on the hill it will be highly visible from long views. Additional parking would result in worsening highway safety given the already dangerous junction with North Down with its lack of visibility due to topography of the land. If the site is developed it is recommended for a proposal for a house or pair of semi detached houses at the rear of the garden. The applicant is increasing units without consideration for the well being of future occupants and the current pandemic has shown that people want space in their homes with reasonable outside space.

22 Hartley Down, Purley

Demolition of the existing dwelling and erection of a three storey building containing 7 flats. This site has a long history of applications. There have been 22 objections, including the Hartley and District Residents Association. It has raised the following (summarised) concerns: issues with the details of the Construction Logistics Plan and the lift viability study, the quality of accommodation proposed including bathrooms with no windows, the quality of the proposed child play space, lack of meaningful amenity space and impact on the character of the surrounding area.

1-3 South Drive, Coulsdon

Demolition of existing buildings, and erection of a part 5, part 6 storey (plus lower ground floor) block of flats. 489 objections. Coulsdon West Residents Association argues that inaccurate documentation was submitted, the scheme is overdevelopment, the proposed height and massing will overbearing, there will be adverse impact on parking in local area and operation of the highway, adverse impact on biodiversity, inappropriate mix of units, insufficient amenity space proposed, daylight levels for proposed flats does not meet BRE criteria. The scheme will create an unacceptable precedent for the area.

East Coulsdon Residents Association also argues that it is overdevelopment, an incompatible use of the site, and the design is out of keeping with locality. It argues that the topography of site will mean that its height will be exacerbated rising above the buildings on the High Street. There will be adverse amenity impacts for adjoining properties. Inadequate car parking will adversely impact on parking in local area and operation of the highway. Coulsdon does not need the further provision of 1 and 2 bedroom flats. Insufficient private amenity space is proposed. (In my view the block is just another unimaginative design eyesore and is not be set within a green context.)

Planning Committee Thursday 29 July 8pm

82 Pollards Hill North

The Loss of Bungalows

The worst aspect of the South Drive scheme is the loss of two bungalows. Developers across the Borough are buying up them up. Such housing is needed by people with physical frailties and disabilities who need to live on one level. They are ideal for residents with those needs who need to move from their larger homes while staying in their local area, and releasing their current homes for new family use. The future of bungalows needs to be considered in the Local Plan Review. Those Associations with bungalows in their area could usefully set up a joint working party to examine the issue and prepare a report with recommendations for lobbying before the Cabinet approves the Local Plan Review in the autumn and at the Inspector’s Examination.

Failure To Require Significant Carbon Reduction

To Help Meet Climate Change Crisis Challenge

The Planners are proposing that there be a condition on the four schemes above to require the official national 19% reduction in carbon emissions. This means they have failed to persuade the applicants to outline measures to increase it. If approved these schemes will therefore not be contributing to meeting the climate change crisis challenge. Given the requirements of the Government’s National Planning Framework rules and the London Plan, there may be no planning grounds to reject the schemes. If the Planning Committee Councillors reluctantly approve the applications, they should minute their concerns. They may wish to explore additional conditions about the kind of energy equipment to be installed and an increase in trees and shrubs, and ask the applicants to agree to this.

In the light of the RIBA highlighting the carbon emission problems involved in demolition the Committee members should question the applicant about  the carbon emissions from the demolition and the new builds will be. I suggested this recently when they were considering the pre-application on 121 Canterbury Rd. Needless to say I received no email back from any of them saying whether or not they did discuss the issue. If schemes emissions are high then the proposed 19% carbon reduction condition is farcical especially with respect to South Drive.

Tory Contradictions

he Tory members of the Committee are likely to find themselves in the position where they argue against the schemes despite the fact that its their Government that underpins the Planners’ recommended approval. Their MP in Croydon South Chris Philp does not appear to be publicly lobbying for a change in Government planning rules that will protect the character of his constituency and require any developments that are agreed must contribute to the climate change crisis. Its time the residents of South Croydon campaigned to pressure him to publicly oppose the Government’s existing and future  planning rules.

Croydon’s £1,651m Shortfall

For Infrastructure Plans

Croydon has a shortfall of just over £1,651m in funding for its projected  infrastructure plans, most of it on what is classifies as critical projects: at just over £1,282m.

The first figure below shows total identified costs and the second total funding available.

Education: £10,340,000; £20,550,000

Transport: £1,908,759; £406,795,000

Technology & arts: £53,205,000;  £10,488,000

Green grid: £3,862,000; £2,892,000

Sports & leisure: £19,039,000; £19,084,000

Utilities : £1,180,000; £1,127,000

Health: £146,650,000; £39,700,000

Emergency services – –

Public realm & Masterplans: £118,835,000; £109,986,000

Total: £2,261,879,000; £610,622,000

Critical: £1,678,580,000; £396,379,000

Essential: £315,011,000; £190.677,000

Important: £317,793,000; £74,433,000

The Infrastructure Delivery Plan

In response to a Freedom of Information request I submitted the Council explains:

‘As part of the statutory plan making function of the Council, the Council is required to produce an Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP), which sets out the infrastructure required to support the development growth for the borough as outlined in the Local Plan.  The current Local Plan 2018 is supported by the updated IDP 2019.  This can be viewed via the link below and includes the information requested regarding funding and wider context by infrastructure type. Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 theefore applies, ‘Information reasonably accessible to the applicant by other means’.

Because the Delivery Plan is on the Council website, the Council is not required to provide me with the specifics of the shortfall between housing and other developments, nor what is the estimated shortfall in infrastructure funding required to meet the target for new homes under the Local Plan.

Up-date Plan Needed

The Plan also does not contain the finances on projects which have not been costed. With so much that has been happening the figures contained in it will altered. There appear to be changes relating to transport in the Cabinet papers on 26 July. It also includes finances related to Brick by Brick which are now out-of-date.

I have emailed Councillors Stuart King and Callton Young saying ‘Given that this will be a document in the forthcoming Inspector’s review of the Local Plan, it is important that this is up-dated for submission to the Inspector. If it is not it may require time to be spent trying to have up-to-date figures. This would be an unnecessary waste of time.

It would be helpful if you would consider the need for an-up-date.’

Ideally an updated Delivery Plan should be published before the official approval of documents by the Cabinet in the autumn for submission to the Local Plan Review.This will make it publicly clear what the challenges are and enable those planning to give evidence at rhe Inspector’s Inquiry a chance to question the detail in the hope that the final Delivery Plan for submission is improved.

Housing Target

Contrary to what several of us thought the housing target for Croydon has been not been reduced under the new London Plan Mayor’s Plan for London, but increased by 434 from 1,645 per to 2,079 per annum. That is an increase from 16,450 to 20,790 over ten years.

In response to my Freedom of Information question the Council tells me:

‘The current Local Plan Review will plan to accommodate this revised housing target as conformity is a requirement of planning legislation.  The Local Plan Review will be supported by a new IDP taking account of this increased housing target and will be examined by a Secretary of State appointed Planning Inspector when the Local Plan Review is submitted to the Secretary of State.’ 

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Croydon Financial Crisis & Governance Up-date

On Monday 26 July the Croydon Council Cabinet will be considering a number of aspects of the progress with tackling the financial crisis and governance changes: £4.m overspend in May, extra funding for rough sleepers, the new Housing Improvement Board, funding for 2021 for improvements in private sector housing mainly re-disabilities, transport action plans dependent on funding, transfer to Council of Brick by Brick Fairfield Halls Contracts. I have asked Cllrs Stuart King and Challton Young to question the basis of the pay back of the debt on Bernard Weatherill House in the light of a Freedom of Information response to my questions about it. The purpose is to help residents understand the debt provision. On Wednesday members of the Tenants’   Leaseholders Panel look as if they will be grilling the Council especially with two papers submitted by three of the members proposing a Residents Charter of Principles and critique of the organisation of the Housing Department.  Finally none of the Council papers up to now have spelt out what the debt burden of Bernard Weartherill House has been. I have had to submit a Freedom of Information request. I set out at the end of this post the reply and discussion on it.

May Financial Performance Report

At the end of May the Council was heading for a gross overspend of £4.034m against budget. The £11.841m estimated of further risks is worrying.  The separate HRA is indicating an overspend of £1.595m (down from April’s £2.117m).

Key elements of the overspend are:

  • £2.9m due to pressures in Parking, SEN transport costs and the Selective Licencing Scheme
  • £0.2m forecast pressures on homelessness budgets in anticipation of restrictions on evictions coming to an end offset by £0.3m of staff savings across resident access budgets.
  • Street Lighting additional electricity charges due to revised rates within the new contract above inflationary increases projected
  • Increased spending on disposal Contract due to an increase in Residual Waste Tonnage & property growth not factored in budget and unachievable events in parks income due to the impact of Covid.
  • a shortfall in Surrey Street Market income historic pressure due to vacant plots on market and unachievable pavement licenses, skips and scaffolding income due to the impact of Covid.
  • a shortfall in income due to the Secretary of State not approving the Selective Licensing Scheme.
  • Special Education Needs contract costs.

Extra Funding For Helping Rough Sleepers

The Council has been allocated a total of £1,703,733 funding in 2021-22 to fund specific interventions with rough sleepers.

Tranche 1, received April 2021, being represented continuation funding for 1/4/2021 – 30/6/2021 of £329,158, at the same level as 2020-21 RSI funding, plus an uplift of £130,000 uplift to enable the Council to continue to provide accommodation and move on for rough sleepers accommodated as a result of the pandemic.

Tranche 2 to be paid in autumn 2021, ‘on receipt of a projection of spend for the remainder of the year and confirmation from the Council’s s151 officer that funding has been spent as set out in the award letter. Underspend of £152,619 will be deducted from this tranche, leaving a balance of £1,551,114 to be paid. Any interventions funded will be contained within the funding envelope and no match funding or additional administration costs are required to accept and manage the funding. Successful outcomes will reduce future costs arising from repeat homelessness, and associated costs to the public purse from rough sleeping. In the 2015 Hard Edges report, the costs of rough sleeping to the public purse were calculated to be between £14,300 and £21,200 per person per year. The higher cost being incurred if rough sleeping occurred alongside substance misuse and offending. This is 3 to 4 times the average cost to public services of an average adult (approximately £4,600).’

The New Housing Improvement Board Opens Up Council Accountability

Following the Regina Rd flats the Cabinet is seeing up a Housing Improvement Board. It looks like it is an important new model for making the Council accountable.

It will  report and make recommendations to the Cabinet including on the development of the Croydon Housing Improvement Plan. ‘It will hold the Council to account for the delivery of the CHIP through the review of performance improvement data against a plan of action approved by Cabinet.’

The Board will have an independent Chair,  representatives of Croydon tenants and leaseholders (3 including from Regina Road);  Tenants & Leaseholder Panel (T&LP), the  Croydon Improvement and Assurance Panel, the Local Government Association,  Housing Association/London Council – housing, and the voluntary and community sector in the area(s) of family support &/or, housing experience &/or equality and diversity. So there are no Councillors as members. Elected members, including the Leader and Cabinet member for Homes, and officers, including the Chief Executive and Executive Director of Housing, will be in attendance in an advisory capacity. Others will be invited as required, including the Chairs of the General Purposes and Audit Committee (GPAC) and the Scrutiny and Overview Committee (S&OC). Its meetings will be held in public and consideration will be given to webcasting board meetings. Members of the public may therefore attend as observers. The Board will be able to receive representations from members of the public and have a question and answer session.

Private Sector Housing Assistance Policy 2021

A total of £2.5m grant funding  is being included within the 2021/22 (provisional) Housing Investment Programme for expenditure on the housing renewal programme: £2m Disabled Facilities Grant and £0.5m Empty Homes Grant. This is increase of £0.59m on the original budget.

On 26 July the Cabinet will approve the details.

  • mandatory disabled facilities grants
  • loans for Home Investment , Home Repair, Croydon Energy and Empty Property.
  • a 6 month pilot Simple Adaptations Grant scheme of up to £5,000 for single adaptations such as a ramp or stair lift or hoists recommended by an  Occupational Therapist.
  • continuation of the exiting £25k per unit to landlords to bring empty properties back into use on condition that the Council is given nomination rights to the property for 5 years
  • addition of £5000 where landlords agree to make the property accessible (wet rooms etc).
  • an increase for Home Investment Loans from £20,000 to £30,000 to reflect increases in both material and building costs, to give more assistance in renovating and repairing the homes of the most vulnerable residents, where appropriate.
  • increase the Home Repair Loan limit from £3k to £4k including annual service costs of equipment once out of warranty, i.e. stair lifts, hoists etc.
  • removal of assistance to tenants or landlords to apply for energy loans, as this is felt to be the responsibility of the landlord under the terms of their tenancy agreement.

Funding Transport Projects

The Council’s overall programme set out in the report to Cabinet ‘2021/22 (Part) Local Implementation Plan Funding, Bus Priority Funding and Active Travel Funding Programme’

is intended ‘to speed delivery of the Mayor of London’s Healthy Streets objective, to help all to travel actively and sustainably, to walk and cycle and use public transport, bringing benefits in terms of healthy weight, improved air quality, free/low cost travel, benefits expected to accrue more strongly to the most deprived communities.

The Cabinet is considering the programme on 26 July on the basis that there ‘is no certainty as to what funding will be made available to Croydon, or in what form over the remainder of the financial year.’

The evolving potential programme comprises:

  • London Rd Priority Cycle Lanes linking into West Croydon/the Town Centre via the ‘Healthy Route’
  • Broad Green 1 Healthy Neighbourhood experimental scheme
  • Brighton Road upgrading of existing advisory cycle lanes and making them mandatory, and making bus lane operation 24/7
  • Healthy walking and cycling route between Crystal Palace and Croydon Town Centre
  • Mitcham Road/Roman Way/Old Town cycle infrastructure

Developments With Brick by Brick Fairfield Halls Contracts

In accordance with the agreement in principle of Cabinet on 17 May, the Council has been in the process of novating (transferring) to itself the building works and professional services contracts from Brick by Brick to allow for the final accounts to be reviewed and completed

On 26 July the Cabinet will approve the transfer of the Fairfield Halls contracts ahead of the completion of the final accounts to ‘give the Council the ability to assess the works completed, commission any further works needed, and take on all risks associated with the venue.’

This means that the Council ‘will take on financial responsibility for any remaining projected payments to the relevant contractors, contract administrator, quantity surveying and other professional services as part of the final accounting processes for the Fairfield Halls Refurbishment Project.’

November 2013 – the Council commissioned plans for a refurbished Fairfield Halls timetable

September 2014  – refined with plans presented to Cabinet for a Cultural Quarter, including a refurbished Fairfield Halls at the heart of the redevelopment.

June 2016 – Further details of the refurbishment financing and cultural vision for the venue were provided in two Cabinet updates

August 2016 – Brick by Brick commenced refurbishment of Fairfield Halls.

Governance Of Croydon Council Companies

On 26 July the Cabinet will approve the establishment of a Croydon Companies’ Supervision and Monitoring Panel (CCSMP) chaired by the S151 Officer undertake strategic oversight, supervision and monitoring to ensure good governance practice in relation to legal entities in which Croydon has, or may in future have, an ownership interest.

The Panel will:

  • meet at least quarterly
  • be attended by Council nominated directors and member representatives for each Group entity and other officers as may be invited from time to time
  • report and make recommendations

Residents Charter Of Principles

Three members of LB Croydon Tenants and Leaseholders Panel, Yaw John Boateng, Les Parry and Kim Wakeley, have drawn up a Residents Charter of Principles, ‘to help foster good relationships between landlord and residents of the London Borough of Croydon following the issues at Regina Road and must be in read conjunction with the findings of the ARK Report and Recommendations. There are five principles supported by specific actions:

  • To treat residents with respect
  • Facilitate the complaints process whilst mitigating situations that lead to Tenant complaints
  • Be transparent and make performance data readily available, including advertise it on the Council Website
  • Provide a safe and clean environment that residents will be proud to live in
  • Give residents a voice and encourage meaningful decision-making activities

Housing Department Reorganisation

The three above members of the Panel have also produced a critique of the organisation of the Housing Department.

‘Current structure is divided between two Directorships and multiple Heads of Service the work ethic is not a united philosophy and needs a radical change. It is suggested that there should be one Director giving outstanding Leadership. Regarding Head of Service areas it is suggested that Tenancy and Housing Needs(allocations) should be with one Head of Service including garages and leaseholders. Tenant Members can give examples of fragmented working that affects dealing with tenant issues and a recent example is that of Housing Voids as presented to the CEO Council Leader and Cabinet Member.’

They then outline a critique on the following matters: digitisation , housing stock management, accessibility, complaints customer service, self service systems, repairs and health & safety.

They conclude: ‘The council must undertake greater consultation of tenants and put the tenants needs first. To do this the starting point must be a higher profile for existing Tenant Involvement Groups, public tenant forums throughout the borough and improved contact/communication systems with tenants. All recommendations from the ARK Report of May 2021 must be accepted by Council Leaders and all Managers and implemented as a first step to change with an associated timeline. Tenant Representatives must be part of any review and recommended changes to LBC Housing Department and it`s processes.’

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