Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Can Croydon Become a Living Wage Borough?

Fairness Commissions in other parts of London and other cites have been looking at how Councils can consider how to implement the Living Wage. The Living Wage is clearly very desirable – but in the present constrained state of local government finance, very tough for Councils to afford – especially for contracted-out services, and above all for adult social care.

This will be one of the biggest challenges for the Croydon Commission which the new Labour administration is setting up (Cabinet 30 June). Its creation was a Labour manifesto commitment in the local elections along with the pledge to make the Council a London living wage one and to implement the London living wage in all new council contracts. 

The Commission will need to look at the costs of introducing the Living Wage. Although a number of Labour Councils have adopted the London Living Wage as policy, very few are ensuring it is paid  to staff employed by service contractors. The revenue commitment involved in doing this is likely to dwarf all other demands on the revenue budget.

The Commission - will need an analysis of:
·       Which contracts come up for renewal in which financial year;
·       How many staff employed on each contract are paid below the London Living Wage;
·       What the (recurrent full year as well as part year) cost of putting these jobs on the London Living wage would be.
·       Which contracts fall on the General Revenue Budget (ie, Council tax + business rate + government grant) and which can be met from other sources (such as Schools Budget or Housing Revenue Account)

With the spread of outsourcing and service contracting, most Councils now  directly employ relatively few staff at below the living wage £200k would probably be more than  enough to pay the Living Wage now to directly employed Council staff – at least for the first year.

A further complication is added if one takes into account the growing percentage of Council employees who are part-time, especially women, which a Unison study suggests rises questions about exploitation:

But other Councils in similar circumstances have found that the cost of moving staff employed by contractors to provide adult social care to the London Living Wage would impose a huge strain on the revenue budget.

It will be easier to fulfil the manifesto pledge to campaign to make Croydon a living wage Borough. But there is a no guarantee that real progress with be made in Croydon’s private sector. When this issue was raised in an interview on Croydon Radio a Westfield spokesman said they could not force retailers in the proposed new shopping centre to adopt the Living Wage.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

What Can Be Done about Street Drinking and Associated Problems in Norbury?

One of the complaints about living in Norbury raised at public meetings is the incidence of people drinking on the streets and in the two local parks, and the resultant litter and in some places  urination.  On Saturday 21 March the Scotts Estate Residents Association is organising a clean-up of Norbury Hall Park. Apart from continually repeating clean-up exercises, what can be done to reduce the problem?

It is of course all too easy to say that all those drinking in the streets and parks are Poles and other East Europeans. This may be the case in Norbury but elsewhere it is also a range of British people whose lives have fallen apart, especially ex-servicemen.  Street drinking including bad behaviour spilling out from pubs, bars and clubs, affects many  town centres. The Brits abroad in holiday resorts have a terrible reputation for drinking. The problem in Britain was made worse with the relaxation of the restrictions on the sale of alcohol, and the introduction of cheap deals, and the lack of local planning controls enabling local auhorities to limit the number of premises selling alcohol. 

A punitive approach is the normal response all over the country with the use of ASBOs and alcohol free zones. Creating  an area where street drinking is banned may seem a good solution, but it can  be difficult to enforce given the size of the area and shortage of people to do so on the ground whether Council staff or police officers. Its much easier to do in concentrated Town Centres. All it may do, however, is to push the problem into neighbouring areas. That is what happened back in the 1980s when action was taken to reduce kerb-crawling in Streatham.

There are also other implications that need to be thought through. If an area or whole Borough ban is implemented (inc. confiscating unopened bottles and cans) will groups of people having a picnic with drinks in one of the parks have their’s confiscated? If someone is walking through a park with some bottles or cans to take home and sits on a park bench will they have their’s confiscated?

Which brings me back to a key question? What is the problem? Is it the drinking? Is it abusive behaviour associated with excessive drinking?  Is it the urination? Is it noise? Is it litter? Or is it all of these added to wider social frustrations about the area people live in running down and seeking to blame particular minority groups for it, from the East Europeans to Asians because of their duplication of shops and goods and trade waste on the streets? If it is abusive behaviour and litter perhaps the issue should be addressed by tackling them and not the fact that people are drinking? Can they not already be dealt with via being drunk and disorderly?  

The approach in Hackney has been to make the whole Borough an area, with an emphasis on assisting people to get help if they have a serious drink problem:  A different approach has been taken in Kilburn in partnership with the shops selling drink:

A 2007 Joseph Rowntree research report reviewing different local authority area approaches is worth reading:

So I thought if the problem with street drinking is mainly among East Europeans and Poles, let me chat with two of the Poles who run the Jehovah’s Witness display at Norbury Station. I asked them whether they could talk to their fellow countrymen about drinking out of doors and leaving litter because their behaviour is contributing not only to messy streets and parks but to the development of unhealthy hostility. They told me that their compatriots do not like to talk to them because they are JWs.

If we are to be able to communicate with those involved in drinking on the street and in the parks do we not need to do so with the help of their compatriots. How can we attract Poles and other East Europeans in the area to become members of the  four Residents Associations, and perhaps encourage them to set up their own Norbury group so they can support each other with their own particular needs?

How many of them attend local Churches, especially in the case of Poles, the Catholic Churches, enabling the four Norbury Residents Associations to start an approach through the priests? Can we reach those who are parents through local schools and Parent Teachers Associations?  The Scots Estate Residents Association are trying to involve the 'Polish' community in the clean up of Norbury Hall Park on 21 June, and have produced posters in Polish & English promoting this event.

Can leaflets in Polish also be produced to hand to some of the key shopkeepers selling drink especially the Polish shops asking people not to drink on the street or in the parks, and if they do to ensure they put their cans in bins or take them home to put in their own recycling bins where they live?

It is time we had a considered discussion about a positive strategy to deal with the problem. Should the RAs set up a joint working party which would also involve one of the local Councillors, a police officer, a Council enforcement officer and representatives of relevant local churches? A preliminary meeting will take place to discuss this in July.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Croydon Events 10 June - 4 July

10 June - 4 July

The next four weeks are packed with events in Croydon especially because of the Heritage Festival starting on 21 June and ending on 4 July. Here are the ones I am involved in organising or hope to attend.

Tuesday 10 June, 7pm
Matthews Yard
off Surrey St, Croydon, CR0 1AA.

Local investment: 

Are private developers the only option?

Croydon  Radical History Network 
presents a talk by Andrew Fisher

local resident and author of the new book The Failed Experiment – and how to build an economy that works. Andrew will explore issues around democracy, local economic development and the public interest, from an economic and historic perspective, including a discussion on the Westfield/Hammerson scheme for the Whitgift Centre. The talk will be followed by discussion.

As the venue is free please come early and have a snack and a drink before the meeting starts.

The book will be on sale along with second hand books  on British economics and labour movement history – so please bring some money.

For further information contact; 020 8764 4301.

Wednesday 11 June. 7 for 7.30pm - 9 pm
Norbury Baptist Church Semley Road, Norbury, SW16 4PS

CCC Croydon Communities Consortium Public Meeting

A public meeting, led by the community, to air views and debate issues relating to the local area and the wider area of Croydon. Please book a free place: or call 07864 676 088.
Further information at :
ALL are WELCOME at any of our public meetings!

Email us at: Twitter: @CroydonNbrhoods Phone: 07864 676088

Friday 13 June 
Time and venue to be notified. 
Arts Network

Saturday 21 June. All day
Heritage Festival stalls event 
North End, Croydon

Monday 23 June, 7pm
The Spread Eagle, 39-41 Katharine Street, CRO 1NX

Crystal Palace and the Edwardian Roller Skating Boom

Talk by Sean Creighton
The Edwardians loved anything involving wheels. Partly driven by American salesmen there was a boom in roller skating with over 500 rinks. The Crystal Palace rink played an important role in the boom. The boom ended as a result of over-capacity, economic downturn and the growth of interest in moving pictures.

Wednesday 25 June. 7pm
The Spread Eagle,39-41 Katherine St, CR0 1NX
Honouring Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
and other black people through plaques
Talk by Jak Beulah of Nubian Jak Community Trust
Croydon Radical History and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Networks

 Thursday 26 June. 7pm
St Augustine’s Church, St Augustine's Avenue, South Croydon, CR2 6BA
Croydon’s Darwin: Alfred Russel Wallace:
scientist and social reformer
Talk by Prof. David Stack (History Department, University of Reading), author of The First Darwinian Left (2003) and an essay on Wallace and land nationalisation in Natural selection and beyond: the intellectual legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace (2008). Radical History Network and South Croydon Community Association

 Saturday June 28. 2pm to 5pm 
Harlow Hall, Oakhill.Stamford Rds, SW16 5RG 
The Norbury History Weekend 
 A Norbury History talk & slide show by David Clark 
 A History talk & slide show on lower Streatham by John W.Brown 
 A History talk on Samuel Coleridge-Taylor by Sean Creighton 
 Supported with a table by the 4 Norbury Residents Associations 
 A table of local publications by the Streatham Society
Bookstall by Sean Creighton

Monday 30 June. 7pm
Fairfield Halls, Park Lane
200 years a slave: Croydon’s links with slave
ownership in the West Indies up to 1838
Talk by Nick Draper of Legacies of British Slave-ownership Project
Croydon Radical History Network
There will also be a display throughout the Festival at Fairfield Halls.

 Wednesday 2 July. 7pm
                                    Matthew's Yard, Off Surrey Street, CR0 1FF           
Look How Far We've Come:
Commentaries On British Society and Racism
Documentary film presentationfollowed by discussion
Croydon Radical History Network with Kwaku, 
history consultant and Look How Far We’ve Come project director
The book accompanying the film will be on sale

 Thursday 3 July. 7pm
Matthew's Yard, Off Surrey Street, CR0 1FF
Freedom Riders Film - about American Civil Rights Protest
Croydon Radical History Network with Nu-Urban Image International Pictures
You need to book for this one as there is a charge to cover costs.

For a discussion on the link 
between some of these events see my piece at


I will be running a bookstall at the Failed Experiment and Croydon Radical History and Edwardian Roller Skating talks. These will be my publishing imprint titles inc. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor by Jeffrey Green and my new pamphlet on John Archer, Black Mayor of Battersea 1913-14, and second hand books - history and political and social affairs. 

Further information from Sean Creighton: 020 8674 4301;

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Who Really Runs Croydon and for Whose Benefit?

Now that Labour has won control of Croydon Council it will need to urgently ask itself ‘Who really runs Croydon, and for whose benefit’, and re-think the Council’s relationship with the complex set of interconnections between it and the big companies operating here especially those in the property development world. 

Charlotte Davies, who is Chair of the South Croydon Community Association and a Director of the Croydon Arts Network, has already discussed the need for an ethical review of Croydon’s governance on Inside Croydon:

I had also been looking at the issue which is why I hope this blog will supplement Charlotte’s.

Council as Developer's Tail

Over the last couple of years a number of articles in Inside Croydon have raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest involving Conservative Councillors like the Meads. Under the control of the Tories the Council seems to have become the tail of developers. Labour will need to avoid falling into the same trap.

Examples of this are the decisions:

  •         To build on Queen’s Gardens.
  •         To use CPO powers to obtain full ownership of the Whitgift complex for the partners like Hammerson and Westfield in the redevelopment of Whitgit and Centrale.
  •  The announcement by the Tory Leader that the Council will pay £1m to provide a new access road for the Cane Hill Hospital site housing development, letting the developer off the hook.
  •         Requiring only a lower level of affordable housing in developers residential schemes than elsewhere.

Under the guise of regenerating Croydon this seems to be all about maximising the profits of the developers and their investors, not ensuring that they have to contribute to the real needs of Croydon residents.

Develop Croydon at MIPIM

Why else would the Council be part of the delegation from Develop Croydon (DC) at the international property show MIPIM  in Cannes between 11 and 14 March? This was the fourth time that this private sector consortium which claims to represent ‘the town’s collective interests’ has attended the event hoping ’to strike deals following the success of previous years.’ A presentation at it about Croydon two years ago can be seen on You Tube (

DC’s website explains that the delegation ‘will showcase the borough’s potential to investors from around the globe’.

The companies supporting the DC delegation were Abstract Group, Barratt Homes and Barratt London (*), Berkeley (*), Canmoor, CarVal Investors, Croydon Partnership, DA Consulting Real Estate, Essential Living, Guildhouse Rosepride LLP, London Borough of Croydon (*), Legal & General, Menta, Mott MacDonald, Quintessence, Redrow, Riley Consulting, Schroders (*), Stanhope, Stiles Harold Williams (*), Sinclair Clark, UK Trade & Industry, Wilmott Dixon, WT Partnership. [Those with (*) are members of the DC Forum committee.]

The Council’s delegate was Jo Negrini, the new Executive Director of Development and Environment. She has said: ‘[There was] strong interest in overseas investors looking outside the traditional prime London market and new emerging hotspots, like Croydon.’ (Architects Journal. 20 March). London Mayor Boris Johnson felt the need to go to appeal to overseas investors to prioritise selling flats to Londoners!

In relation to DC member Barratt’s Cane Hill development  Inside Croydon has suggested that few of the “family homes” to be built by ‘will accommodate any children’, thus avoiding the need ‘to provide a school on the site’. Barratt is developing ‘a publicly owned site, valued at around £250 million, without having to pay much until after the houses are built and sold off.’

Develop Croydon

DC is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company which consists of a group of up to 50 businesses, partners, agencies and individuals who wish ‘to contribute to the regeneration and economic renewal of the borough.’ An independent committee oversees it.

The Forum’s aims are to:
  • Collectively promote Croydon as a location to invest, work and live
  • Influence local, regional and national policy for the benefit of the borough through engagement with LEPs, local authorities and other key stakeholder partnerships
  • Become an authoritative source of accurate, agreed information and facts about Croydon
  • Actively engage and consult with the London Borough of Croydon
  • Create PR opportunities and events to improve the perception of Croydon
  • Share ideas, best practice and marketing opportunities
  • Keep partners informed about the latest developments in Croydon
  • Involve partners in shaping the organisation and its activities and work closely with them to ensure they obtain best value from membership.
Chaired by Stiles Harold Williams, its Committee members are from Barratt Homes, Berkeley Group,  Croydon BID, Durkan,  Hammerson, John Laing plc, Croydon Council (Jo Negrini),  Pulsant, Riley Consulting, Rosepride Properties, Schroders, Westfield and White Label Consultants. As well as providing the Vice-Chair White Label provides the Secretary and the Acting Treasurer.

DC Forum Sub-Group

DC also has a  Forum sub-group comprising mainly of town centre companies of approximately 10 staff or more.  

It was set up ‘to promote and facilitate positive communication between town centre businesses, the London Borough of Croydon and Croydon Business Improvement District. The long-term objectives of the group include the improvement of Croydon's future work force through employment skills and marketing initiatives. London Borough of Croydon and Croydon BID also use the Forum to communicate regular updates on subjects such as town centre regeneration and BID initiatives.’

Croydon BID

Croydon BID is the organisation of the Business Improvement District, a club for the Town Centre business community, working on  cleanliness and appearance, safety and security, accessibility and way-finding and perception and image.  It also represents the local business community’s interests on Town Centre issues and development plans, at both a strategic and operational and level. Businesses operating in the Town Centre pay a levy. Residents have no role.  Businesses had to vote in 2012 for its renewal. The Croydon Business Improvement District Company Ltd is a not for profit company limited by guarantee.

The BID’s Board members are from The Whitgift, Centrale, Croydon Cathay Development Limited, UK,, House of Fraser Croydon, Croydon College, Fairfield Halls, Stiles Harold Williams, Nat West, Lark Insurance Group, The Croydon Park Hotel, South London YMCA and House of Reeves, plus the Croydon Sutton member of the Greater London Authority,  and Croydon Council.

The Council can terminate the BID if in its opinion the BID has insufficient finances. Before this happens, however the Council must offer the BID body a reasonable opportunity to arrange for financing the shortfall or for a reduction in the works or services which is sufficient to offset the shortfall. In addition, the Council must give those businesses that are liable for the BID levy an opportunity, at a public meeting, to make representations in relation to the termination of the BID arrangements. It can also terminate the BID if the Council is unable, due to   any cause  beyond its control, to provide works or services which are necessary for the BID to continue and the authority has consulted the BID and conducted a consultation with such representatives of the business community for the BID areas as the authority considers appropriate.

White Label Consultants

This PR and marketing company’s clients include: Whitgift Foundation, Croydon BID, London Borough of Croydon, Develop Croydon, South London Business, Croydon Constructing Excellence Club, Croydon Business Venture, Barratt Homes, Sinclair Clark Consultant Surveyors, Croydon Business Awards, Airport House, Croydon Commitment and Jurys Inn.

What Can Labour Do To Change Council's Relationship?

If Labour is to change this close-knit network of business interests it will need to move fast to lay the foundation stones for:

·         Greater transparency in its affairs with business.
·         Empower communities to have a greater say in shaping the future of Croydon.
·         Bring in  a code of ethics that blocks membership of multiple key positions.
·         Ensure that the minutes or notes all meetings with developers and other businesses are published within two weeks.
·         A ban on any more building on parks.
·         A strategic economic plan designed to up-skill the Borough, not more retail.
·         A review of all commercial contracts to see what changes can be made in the brief to firms like Styles and White Label  until the end of their contractual period.
·         Ensure that Social Value is central to all policies with regard to planning and business development, especially through CCURV.
·         The creation of a Croydon Bank.


For background discussion about Develop Croydon and its attendance at the 2012 MIPIM Conference see
Conflicts of interest have also been discussed by Inside Croydon e.g.

There will be an opportunity to discuss some of the issues above on 

Tuesday 10 June, 7pm  at Matthews Yard

Local investment: 

Are private developers the only option?

Croydon  Radical History Network 

presents a talk by Andrew Fisher

author of the new book The Failed Experiment – and how to build an economy that works. Andrew will explore issues around democracy, local economic development and the public interest, from an economic and historic perspective, including a discussion on the Westfield/Hammerson scheme for the Whitgift Centre. The talk will be followed by discussion.