How to make sense of the Croydon Cabinet meeting held on Thursday 18 February is difficult. This is not helped by the instability of the webcast which often freezes and has to be re-loaded so everything cannot be listened to.
Reticence To Propose And Vote on Amendments
The members appear reticent to propose and vote on amendments to the papers. While they raise some concerns and ask questions, it remains to be seen how these will be minuted by Democratic Services, for which we will have to wait sometime.
Ignoring Views Submitted
The members do not appear to refer to views submitted to them from the members of the public like my papers on the interim asset disposal strategy, the equalities strategy and education standards. I do not expect them to say who they received them from. I think it is not too much to ask, as they claim to be open, transparent and want to improve engagement and listening, that they acknowledge the receipt of views and state that they will be replied to. More people may think it worthwhile supplying alternative ideas and information to what the officers put in reports if this were to happen.
At least Deputy Leader Stuart King has let me know that my suggestions on Croydon Park Hotel will be considered- see below. Alisa Flemming responded to my email to Labour Councillors relevant to the education paper – see below.
Having raised concerns to Scrutiny about the lack of publication of the lists of Brick by Brick sites, its Vice-Chair Leila Ben-Hassel copied me an email to the relevant officer containing her partial listing- see below.
What Did We Learn From Cabinet’s Discussion?
Independent & Assurance Panel. With the Government appointed IAP now in existence the Council’s plan for its own Improvement Board has been put on hold and the membership of the proposed Community Board will be considered at the March Cabinet.
Views were expressed that
- there needs to ways found to engage groups beyond ‘the usual suspects’.
- papers need to be written in a simpler form for lay people to be able to understand and help them take part
- as the IAP is to meet in private how can it be subject to openness and transparency?
The Equalities Strategy is to be central to everything the Council does.
Middle managers need to be trained and supported to implement the Equalities Strategy and develop their staff teams to be successful.
Key equalities issues for the future relate to BAMR residents, COVID, child poverty, educational attainment.
The failure to support Cllr Andy Stranack with his needs does not bode well for residents with support needs.
Housing Strategy and Rents. Drafting the up-date Housing Strategy has been held up due to COVID.
No rent arrears are anticipated as the increase in rents is within the cap set by the Government before benefit help is reduced.
Brick by Brick. The proposed extra £10m loan to BxB will be like a bank overdraft to enable it to have the cash flow to give contractors and suppliers the reassurance they will be paid.
The Directors of BxB will be asked to amend the website to only list the 29 sites that it is hoped it will complete by October.
Residents living near other BxB sites can be assured that they will not be developed by BxB.
The final list of BxB sites is still being compiled and will be made public.
No commitment has been given that residents will be consulted on what will happen with the sites withdrawn from BxB.
Education. The lack of equipment and data to pupils for on-line learning needs to be tackled. The Director of Education will supply confidentially a list of needs.
Because schools funding comes from Government it is not affected by the financial crisis.
Scrutiny Recommendations. These were all agreed.
Croydon Park Hotel
Stuart King’s email sent to me just before the start of the Cabinet meeting states:
‘Thanks for your email and the suggestions regarding options for the future of CPH.
The recommendation that I will be moving at tonight’s cabinet meeting is to appoint real estate advisors to initially prepare a marketing strategy, that if approved will then authorise the advisor to manage the sales process at Best Consideration. Given the timescale set out in the cabinet paper and other commitments, I do not believe there is time for me personally to directly pursue the suggestions proposed, but I have passed them to the officer team and suggested they share them with the advisors once appointed.’
Brick by Brick
Leila Ben-Hassel’s email (17 February) states: as follows:
‘During our briefings on BxB, you advised that the list you were working with may not be accurate and that you hoped to provide a more up to date list for Cabinet. Having reviewed the papers published for cabinet, I have identified sites that may be omitted for good reason or just because they fell through the cracks. There may be others like those mentioned to you by Robert Ward but I haven’t been sighted on the ones he referred to you so my list below may not be exhaustive either.’
- Covington Way in the ward of Norbury Park was a contentious planning app and there is a lot of anguish in the community as to what would happen to the site. It got planning permission on 30 July 2020.
- College Green – Upper Norwood Crystal Palace Ward – another site that was quite controversial in that ward where there is public interest about the future of the site
- The Lawns, Upper Norwood Crystal Palace Ward – this was a site that was supposed to be developed by a community land trust with the support of BxB
- Montpelier Road, Purley
- Kindred House, CR0 Croydon Old Town
- Barrie Close, CR5 Coulsdon
- Hawthorn Crescent, CR2 – https://democracy.croydon.gov.uk/documents/s24820/Item%206.1%20Hawthorn%20Crescent%20South%20Croydon.pdf
- Albury Cour, Tanfield Road, 9-11 Bramley Hill and 30-35 Derring Road – all I can see in Appendix 4 is 9-18 Bramley Hill
- 279-289 Selsdon Road – is it what is referenced as 178 Selsdon Rd in Appendix 4
- Grasmere Rd, Woodside WarD
Alisa Flemming On Josiah Elleston-Burrell’s
Experience with OFQUAL’s Algorithm
Josiah Elleston-Burrell is a first year student at UCL, having won his place after a last minute intervention because he had been downgraded by the controversial education exam algorithm applied by OQUAL. His experience is highlighted nationally in The Guardian Long Read (Thursday 18 February). He was successful because of the networking efforts of his mother Rhianne.
I emailed the Labour Councillors as it raised issues relevant to the Education Standards report at Cabinet on Thursday night. Cabinet member Alisa Flemming responsible for children’s services inc. education replied to me and her colleagues as follows:
‘Thank you for sharing the article, whilst I welcome any questions you may wish to put forward tonight, please note that I am unable to comment on particular cases.
As a way of reassurance, please note that I was one of the first individuals to make representations around this case, as well as representatives from the education department around this national issue.
We are happy for the successful outcome.’