Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Need for more transparency by Croydon Council. Part 1 - Fairfield Halls Governance

Whichever Party wins control of the Council on 22 May there needs to be a  re-think of the rules regarding response times by Councillors, a requirement on response times by Council contractors, and on reporting things publicly back to Committee on implementation or non-implementation of decisions. The former issue will be dealt with in Part 2 on the Carillion Library Contract. This part discusses the issue of Council decisions in relation to Fairfield Halls governance.

I submitted the following question to the 24 March Council meeting:

‘What are the conclusions of the Charity Commission’s Operational 
Compliance Report published on 25 February on the Council’s 
decision on the governance of the Fairfield Halls charity, 
when they will be reported to the relevant Committee, 
and who are the current charitable Trustees?’

Pollard’s written response states: 

The Fairfield is the responsible organisation for this work so we 
direct the questioner to that organisation.’ He gave the url for the 
Commission’s report. 

He then added: 

‘The council’s nominees to the board of Fairfield (Croydon) Ltd 
in 2013/14 are Councillors George Ayres, David Fitze, Timothy 
Godfrey, Lynne Hale and Dudley Mead.’

Is Pollard Holding the Council in Contempt?

I asked a verbal supplementary question:

‘Given that the proposed changes ion governance were approved 
by Committee and full Council, through you I request  the Mayor
 ‘ Will you rule on whether Cllr Pollard is treating this Council 
with contempt in not stating when the Committee will be told
 that the Council’s decisions cannot be implemented and 
the reasons why’.’

Pollard replied that the decisions had been set aside in a subsequent Committee meeting.
I am perfectly happy to admit if I am wrong so I checked back in Committee papers and could not find what Pollard was referring to. I did not include the issue  in my review of the Council meeting posted on Croydon Citizen (http://thecroydoncitizen.com/politics-society/can-learn-croydon-councils-last-meeting-local-elections). 

No Report Back To Committee

I emailed him on 25 March as follows:

‘I am perplexed by your answer to my supplementary question
 on Fairfield Halls at last night’s Council meeting.

You referred to a discussion at the Cabinet which meant that 
the previous decisions on governance have been superceded.

I cannot find any such reference in the report Fairfield Halls Capital 
project position update and capital investment to the 18 November 
2013 Cabinet meeting.

This report deals with the issue of changes to the lease, not to governance. 
The minutes do not record anything about the governance issues.

Nor does the governance issue appear to be addressed in the report 
Fairfield Halls Modernisation Project – Award of Professional services 
Consultancy Procurement Lots 1,2  &3  to Corporate Services on 26 
February 2014. Until the minutes of that meeting are posted on 
the website I do not know whether there was a minuted verbal report 
on governance leading to decisions.

I appreciate that in the cut and thrust of Council meetings it is not 
always possible to be able to recall the exact facts of every single issue
 that may be raised.

It does seem to me  that, unless I have missed something in the 
documentation,  the 29 April Cabinet decisions still stand, and 
that therefore there should be a report back to Cabinet on 
why the Council’s proposals cannot be proceeded with.

I would be grateful if you would let me know if there is something 
I have missed in the paper work, or if I am correct that the matter 
will be reported to the next Cabinet meeting.’

Pollard Reveals Behind The Scenes Failure To Implement Council Decisions

Well by 8 April I had not had a reply so I sent him a reminder. To be fair to him he sent a very quick reply in which he stated:

‘As you rightly state a report went to Cabinet on the 29th of April 2013 
putting forward proposals in relation to the governance arrangements in
 respect of Fairfield (Croydon) Limited Halls (and also the London
 Mozart Players Limited).

The recommendation delegated authority to the Executive Director
 for Children, Families and Learning to finalise negotiations 
on the basis of the detail set out in the report. 

Unfortunately it was not possible to reach agreement with Fairfield 
Croydon Limited on the details and therefore the proposal did not 
proceed. Relevant Members of the Council and senior officers were 
kept fully apprised of this situation. The decision was not therefore
 implemented however there is no need for an additional report to be
 brought to Cabinet in such circumstances and there is no intention
 to do so at present.

It is considered by the Council that the Corporate Services Committee 
reports that you refer to were able to proceed notwithstanding the fact
that the governance proposals were not implemented.’
I trust this answers your queries.’


because all this was done behind the scenes. As so much of the Council’s affairs are delegated behind the scenes is it any wonder that residents can misunderstand what is going on?  Openness and transparency are key principles in the democratic process. The outcome of behind the scenes action should always be reported back publicly. After all unless there is a report that the decisions on Fairfield Halls governance could not be acted upon, and better still if they are not formally noted as such, they remain Council policy. Will the Party that controls the Council after 22 May change the rules to ensure that non-action of decisions is formally recorded in public Committee or Council papers?

Background reading

Charity Commission report: www.charitycommission.gov.uk/media/598002/ocr_fairfield_-croydon-_limited.pdf. 
Previous discussions by me on Fairfield Halls can be see at by typing 'Fairfield' into the search box top left of this page.. 

I can be contacted at: sean.creighton1947@btinternet.com 

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