Street lighting replacement, the Westfield/Hammerson redevelopment, the poor Ofsted report on the Shirley High Academy school, were the main issues raised at the public meeting held on Monday 13 January at Shirley Community Centre. 30 people attended, mainly representing organisations and campaigns, from different parts of the Borough, with a core group of Shirley residents and activists. In addition to the planned Consortium meetings on 12 and 27 February, the meeting agreed that one should be held on education issues, particularly to help people understand the complexity of schools as more and more become academies.
A key issue which was not discussed included the future of culture. This was partly due to lack of time given the meeting started 30 minutes late and the first part was spent discussing the background to the Consortium. This would have continued if three people had not argued for putting the past aside so that the meeting could concentrate on discussing the issues need to be raised because of the forthcoming local elections.
The chaotic way Skanksa is operating the street lighting replacement programme was noted. Experiences were shared about dealing with them It was noted that the minutes of the last meeting of the Council’s monitoring committee with Lewisham had not yet been posted up so it is not yet known what was discussed and agreed about improving performance. Concern was expressed about how Skanksa was recycling the old lamp posts. They should be made available for sale, but this would be difficult with the ones that are cut down to keep the old electricity grid working for nearby streets still waiting to have new lights installed. It was stressed that issues at street level can be taken up with Skanksa and the lead Council officer but that persistence was needed in dealing with them. I drew attention to my blog on the experience in Oakhill Rd, Norbury. Concern was also expressed about areas of inadequate and no lighting. It was suggested that the Skanksa contract had 500 extra columns for such places.
Shirley High Academy
It was reported that this has had a poor report from Ofsted. It was suggested that there should be a discussion with Heads and representatives of owners of academies on issues facing such schools and what can be done to in the face of poor OFSTED reports, and so that there is more transparency of what they were doing. It was pointed out that each academy had its own way of doing things; there was not a cross Borough approach in what they do. For example, when Lanfranc has taken pupils thrown out of academies; where t=will they go when Lanfranc becomes one? Attention was drawn to the recent press coverage on way in which money was siphoned off academies. One suggestion was that there should be a discussion just with Shirley High, another and another that either Councillor Pollard or a Council officer be invited to a meeting to give an overview. Croydon appears to lack an education strategy. Time did not allow for the elaboration of who for parents, especially in the BME communities, education is perhaps the key issue in Croydon, given the overall low level of Key Stage 2 achievement.
Town Centre Redevelopment
Concern was expressed about the uncertain implications of the Westfield/Hammerson redevelopment, what effect it will have on the rest of the Town Centre and other areas of the Borough, and the difference meanings ior 'regeneration' used. One participant stressed the potential havoc to the Town Centre Rd system, given the Council had given planning permission without proper consultation with TfL. Pointing out that I am an extreme sceptic of the scheme, I urged those present to attend the Scrutiny Meeting on 4 February and to read that evening’s Evening Standard article on the fragility and short-termism of property development and reminders of its past failures (www.standard.co.uk/business/markets/its-vital-we-cool-the-property-cycle-9058769.html). Bieneosa Ebite of Croydon Radio urged the Consortium to engage with young people. She had spoken to some young people about 'regeneration' on her radio programme.
Rubbish and potholes
The problem of rubbish in streets was simply noted because the Consortium is holding a special meeting on 12 February on the topic in response to issues raised at a meeting last year. No mention was made of the forthcoming report from the Streets Commission set up by North Croydon MP Steve Reed, which the Council leader has boycotted. It was noted that the Council has a routine inspection programme re-potholes according to the grading of streets. It did depend on people notifying it of holes in between the inspections. It was noted that some people had had difficulty using the Council’s MyCroydon app to report problems, but they could still text officers.
It was reported that crime was on the increase in some areas, and that there was less police presence e.g. in Shirley. Charlotte Davies (South Croydon Community Association) reported that a close working relationship with the police on the tackling of crimes associated with prostitution and drugs. It was noted that the Safer Neighbourhood Panels were now open to anyone to attend, and people could raise issues at the Community/Police Consultative Committee.
Adrian Winchester of the Save David Lean Campaign reported that he had been advised that the Council’s Community Space venues could now be hired by community groups. These are the David Lean Auditorium, the Braithwaite Hall, and a new room in Bernard Weatherill House (BWH) that accommodates 100 but could be divided into two smaller rooms. A web page with the appropriate information has not appeared yet but Adrian had heard that the charge for using the David Lean Auditorium could be £20 per hour. The Auditorium/cinema has been refurbished and the digital projector fixed, and the Campaign has made a major contribution to rectifying problems in the projection box. The Consortium’s meeting on 12 February will take place in the BWH room and it was noted that the fee for using this is waived if a councillor has made or approved the booking.
The Consortium Committee members were thanked for their efforts in providing attendees with an opportunity to look at issues across the Borough and enable people to work together. The minutes will be put on its website so everyone with internet access can read them. Tom Black (Croydon Citizen editorial team) suggested that a formal statement of the Consortium and what it is seeking to achieve should be available for the next meeting.
The Consortium Committee has been hampered by the fact that the grant money has not be released to it. The costs of the evening’s meeting (hall hire, refreshments, press advertising) had come from members’ pockets. The other problem was that they were not allowed for data protection reasons to use the database of the former Neighbourhood Partnerships. This meant that it is taking time to build up its own database of contacts. However, the Consortium is not restricted to groups, but open to everyone whether a resident, a worker or a business person.
One of the most valuable aspects of the meeting was enabling people to chat before the start and at the end of the meeting, especially for people who had not met before. Sean handed everyone a sheet on paper with details of how to keep up-to-date with Croydon affairs, some recent issues, and some hints on ways to influence the Council.
Grant aided by the Council the Consortium has been told that it cannot hold any meetings after the end of February until after the local elections on 22 May, as such meetings would be classified as ‘political’ in terms of election law. However as the period of time Council involvement in public meetings is restricted is 6 weeks, this should mean that the Consortium should be able to hold meetings up to the end of March using the grant.
The format of the meeting could be improved to enable more participation and discussion. How this can be done was outlined by me on my blog of 8 January (http://historyandsocialaction.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/building-up-confidence-at-public.html).
I handed out a sheet of details of how to keep up with news and events in Croydon, links to recent issues covered on the web and hints on influencing the Council.
Wednesday 12 February. 7-9pm
Anthony Brooks, Director of Environment
will attend to hear views and
Community Space, Bernard Weatherill
House, 8 Mint Walk.
Thursday 27 February. 7-9pm
Public Meeting. Old Coulsdon
Congregational Church, Coulsdon Rd
Old Couldson, CR5 1EH
Further information at: www.croydoncc.wordpress.com
See also my discussion of the Consortium at
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