Croydon Issues Digest 27 February

Substantial numbers earn less than the London Living Wage

30.1% of the employees in Croydon North earn less than the London Living Wage £9.15 per hour), according to statistics obtained by the TUC under the Freedom of Information Act; Croydon South is 28.2% and Croydon Central 19.8%.
http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/Croydon-North-residents-earn-Living-Wage/story-26073772-detail/story.html#ixzz3Shcw1nk3 

17 February Council webcast now back on line

http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/165397

Whitgift Centre CPO Inquiry

Sainsbury’s drop out of giving oral evidence at the Inquiry on Thursday 24 February. http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/local/11814689.Sainsbury_s_is_a_no_show_at_Croydon_public_inquiry

Westfields US and UK profits up in 2014

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/profit-loss/westfield-lifts-operating-profit-from-us-uk-malls/story-fn91vch7-1227238091147

The Matthews Yard Mystery

The last Round-up noted the mystery at Matthews Yard. This is now subject to a Freedom of Information request: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/police_email_message_sent_to_cro?nocache=incoming-620977#incoming-620977

Riesco sales income not going into culture

The Council is not ring fencing the income from Riesco sales to spend on Fairfield Halls or culture. I submitted a Freedom of Information request “Please state the sales receipt after any costs of the sale of items from the Riesco Collection and a breakdown of how that money is being allocated on Fairfield Halls, other cultural activities, or on other budget heads”. I received the following reply (13 February): ‘ The council received £9.467m after costs for the sale of the items. The full amount is proposed to be part of the funding for the 2015/16 capital programme.’  https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/riesco_collection_sales_receipt?nocache=incoming-617929#incoming-617929

I sought clarification ‘Although you say the money is going into the capital budget you do not state which expenditure headings it is under. This means it can be interpreted as not being put into culture.’ I have now received a reply (27 February) stating: ‘To clarify our answer, this is part of the overall funding for the capital programme and not funding any specific items.’

Pumping Station, Exchange Square

Saif Bonar, of Matthews Yard, has submitted the following Freedom of Information request:

‘ Does the council hold any information relating to the impending or agreed sale of the Grade II listed pumping station in Exchange Square and the proposed use of the building once a sale has been completed? Are there any planning applications or building notices under active discussion in relation to the Pumping Station Premises?

Does the council have or know of any plans to purchase (through CPO or otherwise) any assets in or around Old Town, specifically the Pumping Station, The Exchange, Bridge House, Surrey House, Q Park Car Park, Ryland House, the building at 5-9 Surrey Street or 10 – 11 Surrey Street. If so, please provide as much information as possible on the proposals related to each of the buildings and the intentions for their future use, if any are known.’ See: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/sale_of_pumping_station_and_othe?nocache=incoming-621227#incoming-621227

The Surrey St Streatery

Saif Bonar of Matthews Yard has submitted a Freedom of Information request about the Surrey St Streatery. See: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/surrey_streatery_business_plan_a?nocache=incoming-621232#incoming-621232.

Engaging with the Croydon Opportunity & Fairness Commission

While there are reservations about the way the Croydon Opportunity & Fairness Commission was set up and is composed, and the problems it has faced with recruiting residents, discussion at the Croydon Communities Consortium meeting on Wednesday 25 February stressed the importance of engaging with it at the public meetings it plans and through submitting views. It is also open to small group meetings.

I have submitted papers on:

  1. Relevant articles by me published in Croydon Citizen
  2. The Geography of Inequalities – which is also being look at by the Councils Public Health Officer
  3. Private landlords – based on my submission to the Council consultation on introducing a licensing scheme
  4. Neighbourhood, CVS and Community
  5. Crime in Croydon
  6. Fuel & Water Poverty and Energy Efficiency
  7. Social Exclusion and Transport

Council’s Lack of Telephone Contact with clients

In the submission on fuel and water poverty I argued the importance of social service and other specialist workers being in telephone contact with their clients. I recently submitted a Freedom of Information request relating to details of the Council’s telephone contact with its social service and welfare clients.

  • Do you know which of its social service and welfare service clients requiring in-depth support cannot be contacted by telephone or email?

The reply (24 February) states:

‘This information is not specifically recorded by Croydon Council and to attempt to try and identify this information would exceed the appropriate limit.’

  • What is the cost involved in staff having to use other means to contact their clients who do not have telephone or email?

‘This information is not recorded by Croydon Council.’

  • Have you ever helped its unphoned clients with the installation of telephones under the discretionary powers to spend money on crime prevention measures contained in the London Local Authorities (No. 2) Act 1990?

‘Croydon Council only has records indicating use of the London Local Authorities (No. 2) Act 1990 in relation to litter offenses and street trading. No records are held indicating past use of the discretionary powers under this Act to spend money to install telephones as a crime prevention measure.’

Treatment of Public Referrals to Auditor

I raised with members of the last meeting of the Council’s General Purpose and Audit Committee  the question of why the published audit reports did not make reference to matters referred to the District Auditor by members of the public. Simon Maddocks, the Council’s Head of Governance, emailed me on 24 February saying’ On your behalf I passed your question on to Grant Thornton, the Council’s external auditor, and received the following answer:

‘The following external audit reports are generally published on the Council’s website including those required as part of the statutory duties under the Audit Commission Act 1998:

  • the Audit Plan – setting out the audit approach that the appointed auditor intends to make during the year
  • the Audit Findings Report to Those Charged With Governance – setting out the findings of the audit against the planned approach during the year
  • the appointed auditor’s opinion on the financial statements and value for money conclusion each year
  • the appointed auditor’s Annual Audit Letter summarising the year

Members of the public do have the opportunity to refer matters that concern them to the appointed auditor.

Where a member of the public refers a specific issue to the appointed auditor, the appointed auditor considers the information and decides whether any action needs to be taken. Often this involves raising the issue with authority, establishing the basis behind the issue and understanding how material the issue is in the context of the wider public purse.

Sometimes the elector raises an issue that the appointed auditor has already reviewed as part of the audit. On other occasions, the issue raised has not already been specifically considered, but the auditor takes it into account as part of a wider ‘basket’ of information that informs the audit. In responding specifically to electors who have contacted the auditor, the auditor replies to the local elector in a private capacity. Whilst this isn’t a ‘public report’ it will often set out the auditor’s consideration of the matter in some detail.

Where the independent appointed auditor does not identify any reason for further action or interference in the authority’s process, there is no requirement to report this publically in the form of a separate report or as part of an existing published report. The audit reports made available publically do not present in detail each and every matter considered by the auditor during the course of the audit, but rather focus on the key matters which informed the auditor’s opinions. It would not be feasible for the audit reports to consider in detail each and every matter that has come to the auditor’s attention or which was considered by the auditor in arriving at his overall opinion, not least because the cost of producing such detailed reports would need to be borne by the taxpayer.

Where the independent appointed auditor does identify a reason for further action on his part, this would often form part of the publically available reports. In extreme circumstances, the auditor also has the following powers available to him:

  • issuing a report in the public interest under section 8 of the Audit Commission Act 1998;
  • designating under section 11 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 any recommendation as one that requires the Authority to consider it at a public meeting and to decide what action to take in response; or
  • exercising any other special powers of the auditor under the Audit Commission Act 1998.

None of the issues or matters raised with the auditor in recent years by electors have necessitated the exercise of the above powers, or resulted in any specific additional action being required by the auditor.’

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About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly, and am a member of the latter's Environment Forum. I am a member of the 5 Norbury Residents Associations Joint Planning Committee, and a Governor of Norbury Manor Primary School. I write for Croydon Citizen at http://thecroydoncitizen.com. I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and advise the North East People's History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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