Issues Involved In Croydon Council ‘s Decision To Draft Revised Constitution To Reflect Governance By Elected Mayor

At tomorrow’s Extraordinary Meeting Croydon Council will note ‘that a report will be brought to a future meeting of Full Council with the proposed constitutional and governance amendments to enable operation of the new governance model from 9th May 2022, following the first election for the Directly Elected Mayor taking place on 5th May 2022.’

It appears that not there is no standard model among the constitutions and explanation documents of Councils with existing Mayors in post, so it is important that Councillors review these constitutions in order to see if there are elements in them that should be in Croydon’s. They will need to ensure that there is maximum provision for them to hold the Mayor to account.

Role of Councillors

The Newham constitution sets out the key roles of Councillors as follows.  They will:

  • collectively be the ultimate policy-makers and carry out a number of strategic and corporate management functions;
  • contribute to the good governance of the area and actively encourage community participation and citizen involvement in decision-making;
  • effectively represent the interests of their ward and of individual constituents;
  • respond to constituents’ enquiries and representations, fairly and impartially;
  • participate in the governance and management of the Council; and
  • maintain the highest standards of conduct and ethics.

Salford has has a similar list but without the sections underlined above. Croydon should consider adopting Newham’s wording.

Given the past failure of many Croydon Councillors to act in this way, perhaps there should be a provision for an annual review of how they have met their roles.

Budget and Policy Framework

While Mayors are elected to lead the community, speak up for their Borough and make key decisions about local services, they propose a budget and a policy framework. It is for the full Council to agree or change these. Lewisham explains that ‘Once the framework is set, the mayor can make decisions, within the framework, on implementing the policies.’

Tower Hamlets sets out dispute resolution procedures where the Council does not agree to the Mayor’s proposals in respect of budget and policy framework reports.

The Mayor’s Powers

Limitations are placed on the Mayor. Newham explains that the Mayor is a member of the Council and ‘is subject to the same rules  as Councillors. S/he can attend and speak at any meeting of the Council, its committees and sub-committees, except for the Council’s Standards and Overview and Scrutiny Committees and the latter’s  Commissions.’ The Mayor can only attend the latter if invited.

The Executive/Cabinet

At present Croydon’s Leader appoints the members to the Cabinet. In Councils with Mayors there is provision for an Executive or Cabinet. Doncaster,  Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets provide for the Mayor to choose between two and nine councillors to form the Cabinet. Bristol provides for between one and eight. There is a strong case for nine given the complexity of the portfolios. If Croydon’s Mayor chooses less than nine it is to be hoped that the full Council will reject it.

Only Councillors can be appointed to the Cabinet. Newham explains ‘There may be no co-optees, deputies nor substitutes of executive members.’

The Chair and Vice Chair of the Council and Councillor members of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee nor any of its Commissions cannot be members of the Executive.

Newham shows that the Mayor has some flexibility. The size and composition of the Executive is ‘solely …. a matter for the Mayor to decide. S/he may choose to appoint councillors from any political group on the Council or those not in a political group. The Executive need not reflect the political balance of the Council as a whole.’

If this applies in the future in Croydon then it will be interesting to see if a Tory Mayor only appoints Tory and a Labour Mayor only Labour Councillors. An independent Mayor is more likely to appoint from across the parties.

Newham makes it clear that  ‘The Executive must make its decisions in accordance with the Council’s budget and policy framework, where the decision proposed is not in line with the agreed framework the matter must be referred to full Council to decide.’

Doncaster makes it clear that ‘A motion of no confidence in one or more Members of the Cabinet by the Full Council is NOT sufficient to terminate the office of that Member or those Members.’

Committee Structure

Apart from the statutory Committees like planning and licensing, there are some differences as to what Committees operate. All have Scrutiny Committees, and rightly their members cannot be Executive/Cabinet members.

Lewisham provides for Councillors to form select committees to examine specific issues, co-ordinated by a business panel coordinates the select committees, ‘which has the power to call-in any key decisions made by the mayor and cabinet.’

Newham has nine Community Forum areas, each made up of 1-3 wards. The Members within those wards are consulted on local issues as part of the decision making process. Each Forum Area has a Lead Member who is responsible for coordinating the work of the Forum Area. Community Forum events festivals, projects and activities are held in each area to enable residents to influence local priorities, services and improve local communities in their areas. They involve councillors for each particular area and their meetings are held in public.’

‘Each Community Forum Area event is supported by an Active Community Team, which are made up of local people who volunteer to support the events and projects that take place.’

Bristol has six area committees which make decisions on how local CIL and Section 106 funds are spent to support improvements in their area.  The Committees ‘make their decisions based on the knowledge they have of their community.’ Unfortunately this role is very limited and they only meet once a year, with an option for a second meeting if needed. 

Salford has eight area Community Committees ‘to give local citizens a greater say in council affairs’ comprising the local Ward Councillors as voting members and ‘representatives of community groups as non-voting co-opted members who are entitled to make recommendations to the elected members of their Community Committee.’ Each Community Committee ‘has a devolved budget and is responsible for making decisions in relation to this devolved budget’. Members of the public are allowed to address the meeting subject to the approval of the Chair, and cannot  vote.

Doncaster has provision for Area Committees but has not set any up.

In Croydon there is a strong case for following the Salford example.

The Role of the Ceremonial Mayor

At the moment Croydon Council elects a Mayor annually to chair the full meetings of the Council and to be a ceremonial figure head. In Tower Hamlets the ceremonial Mayor is called the Speaker, in Bristol and Liverpool it is the Lord Mayor.

Tower Hamlets sets out the Speaker’s duties as follows:

  • ‘to preside over meetings of Council so that its business can be carried out efficiently and with regard to the rights of Councillors and the interests of the community;’
  • ‘to ensure that Council is a forum for the debate of matters of concern to the local community and the place at which Councillors who are not on the Cabinet can hold the Mayor and Cabinet Members to account in public;’
  • ‘to promote public involvement in the Council’s activities;’
  • ‘to be the conscience of the Council’.

It is clear that in the past Croydon’s Mayors have not ensured that full Council meetings have held the Leader/Cabinet to account in public. It is not clear what is meant by ‘the conscience of the Council’. It implies a degree of independence from their political grouping. Does it mean that the ceremonial Mayor as Chair  can make statements suggesting that the elected Mayor, Executive/Cabinet and Councillors are not operating for the benefit of residents? It is a pity that Croydon’s Mayors did not act as ‘the conscience’ in the past. Interventions may have stopped the fiasco of Brick by Brick much earlier, and the housing maintenance and management crisis. This failure also raises questions about the quality of advice from previous Chief Executives and Borough Solicitors.

Deputy City Mayor

Legislation requires the Mayor to appoint a Deputy. In Salford the Mayor has appointed a second one as well.

Learning From Experience

It is important that lessons are learnt from the experience of the Mayor system elsewhere. The inquiry by a Government Inspector following  the arrest of the  former Liverpool Mayor, led to the Council agreeing to implement  a new code of conduct and associated training for elected members and officers, including a specific code of practice for developer engagement to provide. In June the Local Government Chronicle reported that ‘Liverpool’s improvement plan states that the code of practice provides a “clear framework and guidelines for elected members and officers in relation to invitations from applicants, developers, contractors, agents and investors to meet, sponsor and/or represent the council, the city, or the mayor, including at events (local, national and international), particularly in relation to the risks of perceived endorsement and too close an association in respect of the discharge and functions and responsibilities relating to planning, development, building control, licensing, and environment regulatory matters”.

It also says that all elected members, when meeting with a developer, agent, contractor or investor, must ensure that an officer with responsibility for that area is present for the entire meeting and that a written record of the meeting and any discussions is kept.’

The Government Inspector was also ‘critical of councillors for failing to keep their registers of gifts and hospitalities updated, and the new code says all such offers must be declared and registered properly, as well as all outside interests.’

Does Croydon’s code need to be tightened, especially given the powerful position developers have played in the Borough, and the Council’s past involvement in MIPIM, the developers’ jamboree at Cannes?

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Where Is Croydon Headed? & Update

Where is Croydon Headed?

I wonder whether those readers of this blog who have tried to be constructive friends to Councillors in shaping policy and practices, feel like I do that Croydon is like the Titanic heading for the ice burg and disaster. Local politicians seem more concerned with competing to be the captain and crew rather than setting out a road map for steering around it. In terms of getting anything done Croydon seems to be rife with ‘creative inertia’. Even Councillors cannot get speedy replies from officers.

The ice burg is failure to deliver the agreed improvement plan leading to the Government’s Improvement Panel advising the Secretary of State to sending in Commissioners who will just cut, cut, cut.

The major question the Mayoral and  Council candidates need to consider, and include in their manifestos, is what their vision for Croydon is in five years time, and the route map to get there. Although they will be competing with each other both Conservatives and Labour have a shared interest in ensuring that local control is retained and Councillors have some effective say in holding the Mayor and officers to account and shaping the future. This would make a strong case for a non-party independent Mayor who promises to ensure that Councillors have that say.  But that independent Mayor will need to be someone with experience in running a complex organisation.

Croydon Cultural News

Cultural Network Meeting 15 November

As the Borough of Culture 2003 looms closer and closer, there is to be a meeting of the Cultural Network on 15 November (10am-noon). Each Network newsletter issued by the Council team requests people to submit details of activities etc. My thanks to the team for failing to include the item I submitted about the publication of my discussion paper on the Borough of Culture.

Cabinet member Oliver Lewis says:

‘1. A revised plan for the Borough of Culture year which will include more information on Arts Council Priority Places and how we see that supporting our recovery from COVID and preparation for the Borough of Culture

2. Proposals for how key elements of the programme can be delivered by partner organisations from the culture network and the time-table and process for appointing these programme leads

3. Details of the Ignite Fund – our open access fund for artists and arts organisations

4. Details of the team structure including the position of a Creative Lead for the programme and the timetable for recruitment of the full team’

Fairfield Halls’ Lack Of Booking Office

Lewis is extolling performances at Fairfield Halls. A friend of mine turned up to go to a show and could not buy a ticket because there is no booking office. This excludes people who are not on the internet, and people who make a last minute decision to go to a show. Lewis should insist that a booking office is provided.

Croydon Museum And Black History Month

The Museum has created a learning pack.

https://museumofcroydon.com/black-history-in-croydon-learningpack

Art Exhibition in Addiscombe To 21 November

www.croydonartspace.com

Creative Croydon Activities

Croydon Creatives – the New Frontier

See the virtual Chopperchunky Gallery

Death Of Norbury Church Musician

Robert Prizeman, organist of St Philip’s, Norbury, founder and director of the boys’ choir Libera, and musical adviser for BBC’s Songs of Praise, has died, aged 69.

www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2021/8-october/gazette/obituaries/obituary-robert-prizeman? 

Croydon Enclosure Map 1800

Kake has posted a copy of the 1800 Enclosure Map on their London Rd history website, along with some Croydon wills.

https://london-road-croydon.org/history/no-more-articles-until-2022.html

Croydon Guided Walks

www.croydon.gov.uk/planning-and-regeneration/planning/planning-policy/conservation-and-heritage/neighbourhood-walks-and-heritage-walks-0/other-guided-walks

More Applications Avoid Affordable Housing Provision

By proposing less than 10 units yet more new planning applications are avoiding the need to provide affordable housing.

  • 21 Downsview Road. Demolition of existing dwelling house and construction of new replacement building of 9 residential flats.
  • 22 Purley Hill.  Demolition of existing dwelling, outbuildings and swimming pool and erection of 8 semi-detached dwellings.
  • 25 The Grove, Coulsdon. Erection of two-storey building with double-storey roof and basement level to provide 8 flats, following demolition of existing two-storey dwelling house.

There is also an application at 1 Addington Rd for the demolition of existing building and erection of a part 3, part 2-storey building above basement level for 30 retirement living apartments (C3) with communal facilities, landscaping, a new access on to Sanderstead Hill.

LSBU And Regeneration

Council Leader Hamida Ali writes in Your Croydon about the value of the opening of the London South Bank University campus in Electric House after a recent visit there.

‘Our partnership with LSBU is an important and exciting step in our regeneration, creating a wealth of learning, training and career opportunities for residents of all ages, particularly our young people. Located in the heart of our town centre, the new campus will bring a significant boost to our economy, as our businesses benefit from links with the university and we build local innovation, upskill our workforce and welcome more visitors to our town. This is central to our vision for the future of Croydon and it is especially important as we recover from Covid-19. I’m really delighted to welcome LSBU, and all their students, to Croydon.’

Details about LSBU Croydon can be read here:

www.lsbu.ac.uk/student-life/our-campuses/croydon

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How To Support South West London Law Centres Development Of Advice And Social Justice

Monday 18 October. London Legal Walk

South West London Law Centres staff and supporters are taking part in the annual London Legal Walk to raise money for its new crisis fund, to enable its clients to receive emergency support when they need it most. Having carried out an online survey SWLLC is setting up a social justice network.

Sponsoring The Walkers

To sponsor the walkers please go to

Social Justice Network

SWLCC explains understanding ‘the issues facing our community helps us tailor our services where they are needed most. Far and away the most common theme reported’ in the survey ‘was issues surrounding housing. As a result we are actively looking at ways we can increase our capacity in this area. You can read more about our community engagement initiatives in our new community blog from Rhi, our Community Engagement Manager.

SWLCC has been celebrated for making justice accessible

www.swlondoner.co.uk/news/08102021-croydon-law-centre-celebrated-for-making-justice-accessible

SWLCC Background

South West London Law Centres covers 5 Boroughs and its Head office is on the 5th floor of Davis House, in Robert St (CR0 1QQ)

SWLLC was set up by Bob Nightingale and others from the Wandsworth & Merton Law Centre and Legal Resource Project. Bob then went on to set up the Trust and is its Head of Fundraising.

In the Trust’s 2018 Annual Report Bob states:

“It is fantastic that so many lawyers and their colleagues now support free legal advice through our events and donations. It is hard to explain to the general public that at times of crises, vulnerable people need specialist advice, casework and representation. Thank goodness that lawyers do understand that and so many are willing to support the cause.” Bob Nightingale MBE, Head of Fundraising

I worked with Bob as a Committee member of the Wandsworth and Merton Law Centre and Legal Resource in the 1990s, and later did an assessment for where the proposed SWLLC offices might be located.

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History Update 15 October

Tuesday 26 – Thursday 28 October. Noon-5pm

No Ordinary Book Shop event at The Graphic Studio, 1st Floor Unit 6G, 37 The Mall, Luton, LU1 2LJ, involving  Patrick Vernon and Angelina Osborne Authors of 100 Great Black Britons; Avril Nanton, author of Black London; Desmond Clarke author of Stolen Inheritance; and The Elder Pepukayi, the owner of the largest distribution of African and Caribbean Historical Books.

www.noordinarybookshop.co.uk

20 November. Society For The Study of Labour History AGM

www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/black-history-events-should-taught-25168989

African Lives in Northern England

See preceding posting.

Historic England has now uploaded resources created by the ALNE project team at:

https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/teaching-activities/african-lives-northern-england

British Newspapers Online

The League of Coloured Peoples magazine The Keys is now on BNO.

BNO is continually adding extra newspapers. The latest batch includes The Keys, South London Times and Lambeth Observer, and various newspapers of areas north of the Thames. The 1948-9 issues of Croydon Times have also been added. Details at:

Black History Reading & Viewing

West Indies

www.academia.edu/19894664/An_Archaeology_of_Social_Space

www.academia.edu/856865/Considering_Multiscalar_Approaches_to_Creolization_among_Enslaved_Laborers_at_Estate_Bethlehem_St_Croix_U_S_Virgin_Islands

www.academia.edu/34087337/Smugglers_before_the_Swedish_throne_Political_activity_of_free_people_of_color_in_early_nineteenth_century_St_Barth%C3%A9lemy

www.academia.edu/7444307/Domestic_Economy_and_Daily_Practice_in_Guadeloupe_Historical_Archaeology_at_La_Mahaudiere_Plantation

www.academia.edu/41548672/Collaborative_Archaeology_in_a_Redleg_Tenantry

www.academia.edu/1365408/Mission_Plantations_Space_and_Social_Control_Jesuits_as_Planters_in_French_Caribbean_Colonies_and_Frontiers

http://www.academia.edu/3258102/The_Sugar_Factory_in_the_Colonial_West_Indies_an_Archaeological_and_Historical_Comparitive_Analysis

Scotland & Slavery

www.academia.edu/41511942/MAINSTREAMING_AFRICAN_DIASPORIC_FOODWAYS_WHEN_ACADEMIA_IS_NOT_ENOUGH

Birmingham & Slavery

www.aston.ac.uk/latest-news/podcast-birminghams-shameful-links-slavery-uncovered-academic

Yale Researches 18thC Painting

www.theartnewspaper.com/2021/10/06/yale-center-for-british-art-tries-to-identify-enslaved-black-child-in-18th-century-portrait-of-an-early-university-benefactor

The US National Anthem and Anti-Anti-Slavery

https://theconversation.com/francis-scott-key-one-of-the-anti-slavery-movements-great-villains-165297

A&R Pioneers: Architects of American Roots Music on Record 

New book by Brian Ward Northumbria University) and Patrick Huber

www.vanderbilt.edu/university-press/book/9780826521750 

The Crafts

Hammersmith plaque unveiled

www.swlondoner.co.uk/news/11102021-blue-plaque-to-honour-former-slaves-unveiled-in-hammersmith

Sky News coverage at:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIr2D50y-bI   

Joe Williams of Heritage Corner (based in Leeds) has written a play called Meet the Crafts is performed from time to time.  https://heritagecornerleeds.com

See also  

https://theconversation.com/remembering-the-black-abolitionists-of-slavery-in-yorkshire-168894

Commonwealth War Graves Commission And Black History Month

www.cwgc.org/our-work/blog/remembering-the-fallen-for-black-history-month-2021

and last year

www.cwgc.org/our-work/blog/remembering-the-contribution-of-black-raf-servicemen

Pilots Of The Caribbean 

This exhibition from a few years ago at the RAF Museums at Hendon can be seen at:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fj7fKfyWJcc

The Story of Afro Hair 

Book exploring Afro hair over the last 5,000 years, including Ancient Egypt, the Kingdom of Benin, Henry VIII’s court, the enslavement of African peoples, the Harlem Renaissance, the beginnings of Rastafarianism, Britain in the 1980s – and much more.  

https://shop.scholastic.co.uk/products/The-Story-of-Afro-Hair-9780702307416#book-of-the-month-editor-copy

“Beyond This Narrow Now”: Or, Delimitations, Of W. E. B. Du Bois 

Nahum Dimitri Chandler’s book will be published in January.

Black people were told that they had no history’

David Olusoga on Equiano and BHM. The Observer. 26 September

Equiano

David Olusoga on Equiano. BBC History Magazine. November

Empire

www.cambridgeblog.org/2021/02/ruling-the-world-freedom-civilization-and-liberalism-in-the-nineteenth-century-british-empire

https://blogs.sussex.ac.uk/snapshotsofempire/sample-pageon

Other Histories Reading

The Foundling Hospital’s First Building

www.onlondon.co.uk/vic-keegan-hatton-garden-first-home-of-londons-famous-foundling-hospital

Chartists

Walter Crane

Tom Higdon Of Burston School Strike

Peggy Seeger First Time Ever

Reduced price paperback from

www.psbooks.co.uk

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Black History Month Events In The North East

African Lives in Northern England:

From Roman Times to the 21st Century

Sunday 17, Thursday 21 and Saturday 23 October. Launch Of Booklet

This booklet, authored by the African Lives in Northern England project and edited by Beverley Prevatt Goldstein, celebrates the history of Black lives in northern England and dispels the myth that the North East is exclusively white and monocultural. From Septimus Severus, the Roman Emperor, to 19th century Cumbrian John Kent who was believed to be Britain’s first black policeman, to 21st century Newcastle MP Chinyelu ‘Chi’ Onwurah, this booklet reveals a rich and diverse history. There are three launch events.

  • Durham:  October 17th at Durham Book Festival. Click here for more information. 
  • Stockton: Talk and discussion at Stockton Reference Library, October 21st, 6-7.30pm. For more information and to book your place at £3 contact 01642 528079, reference.library@stockton.gov.uk
  • Newcastle: Free mini-presentation at Newcastle Central Library on October 23rd, 3-3.45pm.

Each talk will be tailored to its location and signed copies of the booklet will be available to purchase. Booklets can also be purchased from Caroline Afolabi-Deleu at caroline@s4a.org.uk at £5.00 with £2.00 for packaging and postage This is a limited edition and copies will be sent out on a first-come, first-serve basis as payments are received.

I was an adviser to the project team, which was a follow-up to the 2021 Calender produced and sold last year.

Further details about the booklet and the calender can be seen at

Historic England has add project team resources to it website:

https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/teaching-activities/african-lives-northern-england

Other Events

Saturday 17 October. 2.30-5pm. African Women And The Community

 Teakisi Woman Talk

The Common Room, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1SE

You can book tickets here.

Monday 18 October. 2.30pm. Beyond Jimi, Martin and Muhammad: Celebrating Two Hundred Years of African Americans on Tyneside

Talk by Brian Ward (Northumbria University)

Whitley Bay Library at 2:30pm on . This event can be booked online via Eventbrite or for further information call (0191) 643 5390.

Tuesday 19 October. 2pm. Buses and Blues, Guns and Guitars: Tyneside and the African American Freedom Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s

Talk by Brian Ward (Northumbria University)

Bewick Hall, Newcastle City Library

This event can be booked online via Eventbrite or for further information call (0191) 277 4100.

Saturday 23 October. 5pm. Celebrating Black History Month – Film Screening

Stand Up to Racism North East is screening the ‘The Felling of Colston’ (2020/10mins) by Arthur Cauty and ‘The People’s Account’ (1986/50 mins), a hard-hitting account of police racism in the 1980s, with first person testimonies of the Broadwater Farm uprising which was sparked by police shootings of innocent black women.

The Culture Lab, Newcastle University

You can book tickets here.

Tuesday 26 October. 5.30-6.30pm. Black History Now!

Online panel discussion that reflects on the state of the field in Black British History and affirms its centrality to the discipline of History more widely. What is going on in Black History in Durham and the North East? How can historians in Durham and the wider region continue to build the field? And what are the implications of recent developments in the field for the movement to decolonise the curriculum?

The panel includes the Liam Liburd,the newly appointed  is Assistant Professor of Black British History at Durham University, Stefanella Julius, Nkechi Managwu, and Emilie Tenbroek, historians studying at Durham and Decolonising the Curriculum Interns with the Decolonise Durham Network, and me.

 To register please click here.

I will be giving an online talk afterwards for the student Durham History Society.

Taste of Africa Events On Teeside

Saturday 16 October.  6pm-9pm The Taste of Africa Showcase (virtual) – 17th year will showcase traditional performances, local talents and artists, music, designer African fashion show, food, youth dance groups and more. It includes  the project Irin Ajo Mi – My Journey developed by young people celebrating the journeys of African elders in Tees Valley.

Friday 22 October. 6-9pm. 7th Annual Black History Youth Awards Dinner (Virtual), recognising the achievements of young people and promoting positive role models in the community. This year the Award is focused on Resilience. 

The organisers suggest that resilient people:

  • are autonomous
  • have a realistic awareness of self
  • are adaptable
  • are optimistic
  • are pragmatic
  • are socially connected
  • demonstrate self-compassion

Further details are in this PDF.

Essays On North East Black History

The latest issue of North East History (Vol. 52) the journal of the North East History Labour Society contains two articles.

Hannah Kent. ‘One Aim, One God, One Destiny’? An investigation of Black lives in Tyneside,1939-1952.

Brian Bennison. Paul Robeson in the North East.

Further details of the issue and how to order are on www.nelh.net.

Note: This posting was added to 15 October: Historic England and Brian Ward talks.

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Black in a Canadian School Zoom Today

Habiba is the daughter of Professor Afua Cooper at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Habiba studied at London University and launched her fistula  project when she was here. Afua came to London for the launch, and we both gave talks in a London University seminar.

See:

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The Pot Holes In and Repairs Needed To The Road Towards A Mayor

Of the 21% who voted in the governance referendum yesterday:

·         47,165 voted for an elected mayor, and

·         only 11,519 voted to stay with the Leader/Cabinet model of governance

·         a majority of electors in every ward voted for an elected Mayor.

79% of Croydon electors did not vote. They either did not know about it, or did not understand the pros and cons, or were not interested in who runs the Council. And why should they? They have their own complicated lives to lead. Despite the leafleting and canvassing there were many people who did not know the referendum was taking place.

Anger On Both Sides

Many of those voting for an elected mayor may well have been motivated by their anger and contempt for our local politicians. Next Door West Norbury has had many postings slagging off Steve Reed as MP, with one contributor referring to ‘the rats’ at the Council.

On the other side Eric Hands writes on Lost Croydon:

‘I hope the grumbling, moaning minnies are proud of themselves. The turnout for the Mayoral Vote last night was truly pathetic compared to the amount of moaning that goes on about ‘The Council’ and ‘The state of Croydon today, not like it was, daren’t walk down the streets now’.

If we admit that maybe 20% were truly unable to get to either a polling station or a post box then that still leaves 59% who couldn’t be bothered to vote. I expect they’ll say ‘ it wouldn’t make any difference ‘. We reap what we sow.’

The result create an entirely new situation. We have to accept this and consider what can be done to ensure that the mayor really is responsive and in control. This is something both supporter and opponents of  the mayoral system of governance should be able to agree on.

The Gutting of Labour

Labour will be gutted. There will no doubt be recriminations about:

  • the failure of the Party to recognise the threat posed by the DEMOC campaign when it first started;
  • the ridiculous over wordy leaflet which is likely that few people read and which looked sufficiently like advertising material to have been thrown straight in the bin.

The consequences could be:

  • demoralisation among the few activists that remain meaning fewer people involved in canvassing in the lead up to the May elections leading to fewer Labour Councillors being elected
  • an increase in faction fighting
  • resignation of many members

If demoralisation among Cabinet members and backbench Councillors about continuing to improve the Council sets in, they may fail to satisfy the Government appointed Improvement Panel, and be unable to have a balanced budget from next April. The Government could send in commissioners to run the Council before May, and therefore the mayor and Councillors election in May will be a waste of time.

Choosing Mayoral Candidates

Now that there will be an elected mayor the Labour and Conservative Parties will now have to decide who will be their candidates. Could it be Jason Perry, the current Tory Leader, or Steve Reed, the MP, given his previous experience as Leader of Lambeth Council, or Jamie Audsley, who has not accepted on to the Labour list of potential Council candidates for May?

There might also be independent candidates, among whom I would include a Green and a Liberal, whose leading spoke persons both opposed an elected mayor. Andrew Kennedy raises some interesting points about independents on Historic Croydon.

‘There will now be frenzied activity by all political parties to find a person who is electable. Probably a well known personality with previous political experience. There may be many independents wishing to stand but unless you are a Martin Bell type character or a TV personality who stands out a mile, you are unlikely to win and you will be only watering down the total independent vote and allowing one of the major parties and the usual suspects to get elected. Yes I believe an independent mayor could be good but not possible if 20 other independents stand, watering down the vote. Please don’t stand unless you’ve got a realistic chance of winning through the supplementary vote system.’

Limits On The Mayor

Whoever is elected as Mayor will have little freedom of action.

If Government commissioners are not in control by May the mayor will have to work to the budget approved by the current Labour administration in agreement with the Government for the year from next April.

The mayor will have to continue the current Government approved Labour improvement plan and only be able to change it if the Government appointed Improvement Panel agrees. The threat of commissioners will hang over the mayor like Damocles sword.

Clearing The Decks

There an enormous number of problems and issues at local level that need to be sorted, but which are frustrated by the negativity and non-responsivness of many specialist officers, who create more work for themselves because of the time that people have to waste trying to chase up action. Councillors for both parties only have 5 months to get action taken. They need to draw up their lists in consultation with local organisations.  If they cannot get the officers to act by May or include them in action plans for 2022/3 then local organisations should press the mayor to consider whether disciplinary action should be taken. The culture of action starts at the top, so the delivery record of the Chief Executive Officer and the Directors should be part of this. Whoever is mayor must make it clear from the start that the officer machine is there to serve.

The Local Plan Review

One positive thing the mayor could do is to insist on a more responsive attitude by the Strategic Planning team at the examination of the proposed revised Local Plan. In the coming weeks the current Cabinet will approve the draft be the consultation is due to start late this year. It will then approve any changes resulting from the consultation and submit the proposed Plan to the Secretary of State early next year. It will then be examined by an Inspector  during next summer.

The mayor should make the opening statement for the Council at the examination saying that s/he will ensure that the Strategic Planning officers will be more positive about their responses to proposals put by Croydon organisations and individuals and be more open to modifications being made. I would expect the mayor to attend some of the sessions to hear the discussions, and be consulted by the officers about proposed modifications. The mayor should make the statement towards the close of the examination setting out the modifications.

Mayor Will Be Responsible For The Cuts

Some sections of Labour may breathe a sigh of relief that they will no longer be responsible for the cuts programme. They may relish being free to criticise the mayor if s/he fails to improve the monitoring and the culture change of the way the bureaucracy works, without having any power to require the mayor to act.

Community Development

There are lots of issues for all those involved in community development and organisations to consider about a totally new approach to the way the Council relates to local communities. They need to consider what they will do to motivate more people to become actively involved instead of just moaning. It may be possible to draw up a community manifesto  to lobby mayoral candidates about the changes needed in Council community engagement. Ideally I would want to see a demand a complete re-structuring of the Council once the requirements of the Government under the budget agreement come to an end to create multi-disciplinary teams of officers accountable to joint Committees of the ward Councillors and local community organisations.

Borough Of Culture 2023

Once in office in May the mayor will only have seven months before the start of the Borough of Culture 2023. The Mayor should convene a Borough of Culture ‘committee’ with the Croydon Cultural Network to assess the progress being made in the planning and to ensure that the aims for the year like the key role of activities at neighbourhood level are being supported.

Short Term Memories About Conservative Rule

It is likely that the Conservative mayoral candidate will devote a lot of time to criticising Labour’s mismanagement of the Council from May 2014. To counter balance that there will need to be a critique of the mismanagement of the Council by the Conservatives up to May 2014, including of the role of the candidate if they were a Councillor at the time, and their lack of effective opposition since then.

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History Update 5 October

October. Black History Month In Manchester

www.racearchive.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/BHM-2021-And-Still-We-Rise-Programme-PDF.pdf

October. Liverpool 8 Against Apartheid

A display exploring some of the strong connections between Liverpool’s Black community, Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement.

Museum of Liverpool, Pier Head Waterfront, L3 1DG

October. Coming Home: Jem Wharton

James ‘Jem’ Wharton was one of the most successful boxers in Britain in the first half of the 19th century. He represents a long history of Liverpool-based Black people’s achievements in boxing

Exhibition at Museum of Liverpool, Pier Head Waterfront, L3 1DG

Wednesday 6 to Saturday 9 October. 11am and 2pm. Inspirational Black Scousers

Join the Museum’s Learning & Participation Team as they talk through stories of many inspirational Black British people connected to Liverpool.

Museum of Liverpool, Pier Head Waterfront, L3 1DG

Saturday 9 October. 1-3pm. ‘Brown Babies’ of the Second World War

A talk by author Lucy Bland, drawing on research from her book Britain’s ‘Brown Babies’: The stories of children born to Black GIs and white women in the Second World War.

Museum of Liverpool, Pier Head Waterfront, L3 1DG

Saturday 9 October. 2-4pm. Benin display: Film screening, panel discussion and Q&A

A film screening and panel discussion with members of Liverpool’s African diasporic community. Panel members will reflect on a series of workshops they attended at the Museum. The gallery will celebrate the Edo Kingdom’s brilliant inheritance of court art, and confront the violent colonial history behind its theft by a British force in 1897.

World Museum, William Brown Street, L3 8EN

Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 October. 11am-12noon & 1-4pm. Craft at the Museum – Joseph Johnson’s hat

Joseph Johnson was a Black sailor who lived 200 years ago. Younger visitors are invited to get creative and try their hand at making a replica of his hat.

Merseyside Maritime Museum, Royal Albert Dock L3 4AQ

Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 October. Paul Robeson’s Love Song

Online play made for radio by Tayo Aluko + Q&A.

takes you back to the middle of the 20th century USA on a journey exploring, love, song, class and racism.

Tickets: visit: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/5231400

or

www.tayoalukoandfriends.com

for other performances throughout November at various venues in Liverpool & Humberside.

Monday 11 October. 7.30pm. Sculpture, Philanthropy and Liverpool’s Slave Trade

Historian Launce Westgaph explains how many statues were commissioned that have links to Liverpool’s slave trading past and how the wealth gained from this was used to create and pay for lavish works of art.

Palm House, Sefton Park, L17 1AP

Tickets: ticketquarter.co.uk

Saturday 16 October.  2pm. Yore Lens on L8

A special screening of a series of short films and documentaries by Akoma Arts that celebrate decades of creativity, art, and history in the Liverpool 8 community.

Museum of Liverpool, Pier Head Waterfront, L3 1DG

Sundays 17 & 24 October.11am-12noon & 1.30-3.30pm. Close up on slavery, abolition and activism

Visitors are invited to get hands-on with some important objects by joining the Learning & Participation Team as they present the International Slavery Museum’s handling collection.

International Slavery Museum, Royal Albert Dock, L3 4AQ

Monday 18 October. 4pm (US ET). The Hidden Economic Activities Of Enslaved And Free People Of Color In Barbados, Jamaica And South Carolina From 1670-1770

Talk by PhD student Teanu Reid

https://yalelibrary.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-WWlCHqbTA-zJaqt1P_WVg

Tuesday 26 – Thursday 28 October. 12-5pm. Hall of Fame Luton’s First Mobile Black History Museum

The Graphic Studio, 1st Floor Unit 6G, 37 The Mall, Luton, LU1 2LU.

Saturday 6 November 2pm. Camden Black History Walk

Starting from Warren Street Underground Station. Led by Alan Hovell of Camden Tour Guides. Duration: two hours. Free. Book here:

www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/black-history-month-walks-in-camden-free-c-archive-tickets-178015789017

Reading

Eric Williams, Capitalism & Slavery

www.thenation.com/article/society/eric-williams-capitalism-slavery

Caribbean

www.academia.edu/16324218/2014_Archaeology_Plantations_and_Slavery_in_the_French_West_Indies

www.academia.edu/986951/2000_Settlement_Patterns_and_the_Origins_of_African_Jamaican_Society_Seville_Plantation_St_Anns_Bay_Jamaica

www.academia.edu/2284323/2011_Colonies_without_Frontiers_Inter_Island_Trade_in_the_Eighteenth_and_Nineteenth_Century_Caribbean

Olusoga On Black History Month

www.theguardian.com/books/2021/sep/25/david-olusoga-black-history-month-olaudah-equiano-interview

A French Family, Grenada And Slavery

https://aeon.co/essays/family-history-and-the-problem-of-slavery-in-everyday-life

John Archer

Sacha Ismail of Worker’s Liberty has posted an appreciation of Archer drawing on my pamphlet, which he also promotes.

www.workersliberty.org/story/2021-10-04/john-archer-black-pioneer-labour-politics

I am giving talks at two Battersea secondary schools on Archer this month.

Marxism & History

Essays On Bryan D Palmer, Marxism, And History

 https://sslh.org.uk

1921 Census

 Why Publication Of The 1921 Census Will Matter To Labour Historians

https://sslh.org.uk

And a Video

Reconstructing society in central Nigeria prior to 1800. Talk

www.academia.edu/video/kLmebj

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History Matters African & Caribbean Conference 7-9 October

Full details at

https://www.historymatters.online/conference

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Electing A Mayor And Planning – Short Memories About The Tories

A major argument for an elected Mayor has been the claim that s/he will be able to listen to residents over planning applications and respond positively unlike the Labour Councillors.

It is a pity that there are such short memories. There were many examples when they were in power up to May 2014 of the Conservatives approving applications at the Planning Committee which were opposed by residents.

One of the most interesting was the cross party double act on the application for land at the rear of 17-19 Beech Way in South Croydon. Approval was proposed by Labour’s Paul Scott who became the controversial Planning Chair from May 2014, and seconded by the Conservative Jason Perry, now the Council Tory opposition leader.

The approval was for the demolition of the existing garden building anderection of 8 detached dwelling houses and extension of Boxford Close to form an access road. There were five objectors, one of whom spoke on their behalf, as did local Tory  Councillor Dudley Mead.       

Here are some other examples between October 2013 and January 2014.

164 Pampisford Rd

They approved the conversion to form a 1 three bedroom, 5 two bedroom and 3 one bedroom flats; with  single/two storey side/rear extensions, dormer extensions in front, side and rear roof slopes, rooflights in front and side roof slopes and detached double garage at rear. There were 17 objections. A representative of the residents and local Tory Cllr Graham Bass spoke against approval.

79 Verdayne Avenue

They approved  the erection of 2 four bedroom detached houses. There were 11 objections and a petition of 30 signatures. Monks Orchard Residents’ Association and a local Tory Councillor spoke in objection.

70 Brighton Road, Purley

They approved  demolition of existing buildings; erection of 3 storey building comprising 11 two bedroom and 5 one bedroom flats; formation of vehicular accesses and provision of associated parking. There were 18 objectors. Local Tory Councillor Ian Parker spoke in objection, on behalf of local residents.

24 Fairfield Road They approved the erection of two/three storey building at rear comprising 5 two bedroom flats. There were 19 objections and a petition of 7 signatures. Local Tory Councillor Vidhi Mohan spoke in objection on behalf of residents.

The Continuing Debate

Croydon Communities Consortium has posted a contribution arguing the case for an elected Mayor, and asks for contributions from others including opponents of the idea.

  

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