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.

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