Tuesday 18 January. 6.30pm. Scrutiny Children & Young People Sub-Committee – Online
Early Help, Children Social Care & Education Performance Dashboards; Children, Young People & Education Budget Scrutiny Challenge; Education Estates Strategy; Croydon Safeguarding Children Board – Annual Report 2020-21
Wednesday 19 January. 2pm. Health & Well-Being Board
Director of Public Health annual report; Health and Care Plan Refresh 2021-2023; Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment; Transforming Mental Health Services for Children, Young People (0-25) and their families across South West London – Local Transformation Plan Refresh 2021
Wednesday 19 January. 6.30pm.Scrutiny and Overview Committee – Online
Call-in of key decisions relating to the introduction of Croydon Healthy Neighbourhoods Broad Green & Addiscombe Areas & South Norwood Albert Road and Holmesdales Road Areas
Thursday 20 January. 6.30pm. Scrutiny & Overview Committee. Online
Community Fund – Community Infrastructure Levy Local Meaningful Proportion Assignment 2022/23; 2022-23 Budget; Scrutiny – Budget Challenge: Corporate, Resources and Assistant Chief Executive Areas; Preparations for the Mayoral Model of Governance and Support for Members.
For some details about the Budget see below.
Monday 24 January. 6.30pm. Cabinet
Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Update Report, including Race Matters Pledge and Equalities Pledge; Review of Council Tax Support Scheme – 2022/23; Response to Consultation: Purley Pool; Local Implementation Plan Funding: 2022/23 – 2024/25; Education Estates Strategy; Updated 2021/22 and Forecast General Fund Capital Programme 2022/23 to 2024/25; Medium Term Financial Strategy 2022/23 to 2024; Financial Performance Report – Month 8 (November 2021); Report in the Public Interest Action Plan – Progress Update; Croydon Renewal Improvement Plan – Performance Reporting & Framework Measures; Investing in our Borough; Supported Housing for People with a Mental Health Diagnosis – Strategy & Extension.
For some details about the Budget, the Capital programme and the Education Estate see below.
Chris Philp Defends The Prime Minister
In an interview with Newsnight on 13 January Croydon South MP Chris Philip has defended the Prime Minister over the parties scandal. (My London News website 14 January)
Former CEO Jo Negrini’s Pay Settlement
In the light of the decision of Auditor General for Wales that a settlement payment to the CEO of Pembrokeshire Borough Council is illegal, a question now arises as to whether the settlement with Croydon’s former CEO Jo Negrini followed the procedures set out under legislation that covers both England and Wales.
The Auditor General for Wales ’ found
- A failure to address and resolve relationship difficulties between members and officers
- Lack of clarity on respective roles and responsibilities
- Officers failing to properly discharge their professional duties
- Disregard of external legal advice
- A failure to follow internal policies and procedures
- Poor and untransparent decision-making
- A failure to document and report the reasons for decisions
- Members of the Council not being given the opportunity to review and scrutinise the proposal
- Failure to comply with legislative requirements
The report makes several recommendations relating to areas of governance that the County Council needs to address, including recommendations around roles and responsibilities, member/officer relationships, decision-making, termination payments, the Council’s pay policy statement, procurement, the use of external advisors, the Council Constitution and the need to ensure adherence to the Nolan Principles of Public Life. (Audit Wales website)
Some of the failures identified resonate with the problems of Croydon’s governance over recent years. I have written to the Chair and Vice-Chairs of Scrutiny asking them to try and raise the matter at the meeting on Thursday, alon with asking the officers views on Andrew Pelling’s 20 proposals for further reform.
Council Praises Litter Pickers
The Council is praising the 2,800 plus volunteers across the borough helped last year to clear litter, leaves and large rubbish from Croydon’s streets, pavements and parks. The number of Street Champions now stands at 31 December. (Council news page 14 January) My questions about why the Street Champions are not named so local residents know who their nearest ones are, and what rules they have to abide by, have not been answered.
The Council has sold the former Peter Sylvester Centre for adults with disabilities in South Croydon for over £1m. (London News Online 15 January)
20mph Speeding Fine
A South Croydon resident has been fined £623 and given 6 points on his driving licence for speeding at 39mph on a 20mph street. He was caught using a laser camera. (Your Local Guardian)
Council Explains Its Proposed New Council Tax Support Scheme
March Against Knife Crime
On Friday, campaign group Croydon My Ends co-ordinator Anthony King gathered 100 men willing to be mentors to local families in a bid to stop young people carrying knives who marched through Croydon.
Poverty And The Elderly
The National Pensioners Council of which Croydon Unite Retired Members branch is a member, and Barry Todman, the London Secretary is a Croydon resident, has published a report on the problems facing the elderly in poverty and what can be done to help. Can its recommendations be used for campaigning in Croydon.
Highlights Of The Council’s Budget Cuts Programme
In December the Council forecast that it needed to still £13.151 to achieve a balanced revenue budget for 2022/23. It now stands at £4.337m, according to the report to the Cabinet which will be reviewed by Scrutiny tomorrow. £6.372m is due to increases in grants in the provisional Government Local Government Settlement. Further cuts that have been made include:
- children looked after demographic changes
- new commissioning of youth provision (£200,000)
- reduction in forecast election spending
- TFL Freedom pass costs (£4.2m)
- carers support (£70,000)
The calculations include some growth items. However with the potential for contract inflation and future pay awards estimated at £9m, and other matters the gap could increase to £11.337m.
The Council has taken on c1000 asylum seekers who had ‘been placed in eight hotels by the Home Office without consultation with the Council. The hotel costs are funded by the Home Office, however the Council is to be responsible for further ancillary services particularly around safeguarding, public health, children & youth provision and broader community support. These additional costs, which are currently being calculated have been flagged’ as ‘unquantified risks’ which ‘could clearly result in further financial pressures for the Council.’
The budgeted Libraries investment spend for 2021/22 was £1.914m. Only £0.3m has been spent with the remaining £1.614m being transferred into 2022/23. Similarly £412,000n of the £512,000 money allocated to South Norwood Library has been moved. As with all items there is no breakdown of which projects the money is to be spent on. I have raised this matter with Cabinet member Oliver Lewis.
Quantifiable risks include:
- Boxpark. The Council has renegotiated a revised loan agreement with Boxpark Croydon. ‘(T)o date Boxpark have ensured that they have paid the Council according to the terms of the revised agreement.’ However it is also stated that there is a risk of a £160k potential payment to BoxPark for their 5th and 6th year grant contributions. ‘However, Council currently reviewing legal position due to default clauses within the grant agreement which the Council believes have been triggered.’
- Building Control. There is a potential risk of £118k additional historic VAT liability within Building Control due to re-calculation of its income.
There are a number of unquantifiable risks which could mean increased expenditure. These include:
- Impact of long Covid
- Potential impact of cold and flu pressures in the winter.
- Care Sector pressures
- Covid negative impact on revenue such as rents Income Risk to Commercial Waste Income Collection in 2020/21 due to COVID & 2021/22 – under commercial dialogue with Veolia
- Unreconciled holding accounts for BIDS, HR Staff Loans and P-Cards. ‘Risk that holding accounts will not be able to be reconciled and some balances transferred as pressures into forecast’.
Education Estates Issues
The Council has lost Kenley Primary school which became an academy in September. Virgo Fidelis Convent Senior School, a Roman Catholic voluntary aided secondary school for girls aged 11–18 in Upper Norwood, formally closed on 31 August. Despite growing population in the Borough the GLA system of calculating pupil projection indicates a 10% decline in the last ten years in the live birth rate across London. Therefore there is ‘sufficiency of mainstream school places for both primary and secondary schools for the next 3 years. There is the potential for some schools across the borough, both primary and secondary, to have higher levels of unfilled places.’
The Council has undertaken feasibility studies at four schools exploring ‘suitable low carbon heating systems such as Ground source heat pumps, Air source heat pumps, the installation of photovoltaic panels and improving the fabric of the schools’ buildings. A number of suitable options have been proposed as part of the feasibility studies, however the challenge continues to be that adopting such measures requires additional funding and forward planning.’