Sunday, 6 July 2014

Discussion of Croydon Cabinet Papers 14 July

There are a number of elements in the positive aspects of the new Labour administration’s changing policies as being discussed at the Cabinet meeting of 14 July than could be improved. This suggestions are based on my practical experience with these issues over the years. 

Note: news reportage of items on the agenda are posted on my News & Events Blog site at

Leasing Property for Homeless Families

For background see:

Improved Action on Empty Property


It is surprising that with new rules about to come in on contract processes that the contract decisions under current delegated authority have not been  not deferred until they can be dealt with under the new rules, especially as they can be called in by the Scrutiny Committee. It is to be hoped that such a call in will be made so that the Committee can begin to test its new powers.

Ear-marked financial reserve

Given the underspend carried over from 2013/14  Labour has been able to set up an earmarked reserve fund out of which it has already agreed to spend £. This leaves over £2m to allocate. What could it spend it on? Should any of the Tory cuts of £18.083m for 2014/15 be re-examined  and re-instated (see:
My top ones for reinstatement are:
  •          Museums and Archives Services £30,000
  •          Grant to London Mozart Players £90,000
  •          Subsidy to School Music Service £50,000
  •          Reduce diversionary activity work for young people £20,000
  •          Reassess eligibility of Taxicards and disabled persons freedom pass £20,000
Openness Agenda

The allocation of more time for public questions is welcome. This could be further improved by:
  •       A shorter timetable for submission of public questions so that very up to-date issues can be subject to questions.
  •      Enabling more than one question per member of the public.
  •       Ending the restriction on the way in which the question can be formulated.
  •       A ban on questions which contain an  attack on an individual - but not a question seeking accountability of individual Councillors or officers.
  •      A ban on personal attacks being included in answers to public (and Councillor) questions.
  •      Inviting members of the public to put their question on the floor of the Council Chamber and not from the public gallery.
  •      Part of the openness agenda is clearly to encourage residents and organisations to make better use of the Town Hall complex. It may therefore be useful to consider:
  •      Ensuring that the Clocktower cafĂ© is open up to at least the start of Council meetings to enable members of the public to have some refreshment before the meetings.
  •      Returning Local Studies to the Library room and using the current ground floor room in which it is located to display the whole of the Croydon art collection.
An element of the openness debate is the greater use of electronic media. Given the digital divide which particularly affects communities in the ‘socially deprived’ neighbourhoods encouraging engagement has to be carried out by non-electric means as well. Indeed the petition scheme should also stress the role of paper based petitions.

Thought is needed as to the future way the Council organises and runs public meetings. See my discussion piece at

Academy Expansion and SEGAS House

It is surprising that Labour is proposing to delegate the decision to purchase SEGAS House to the relevant Cabinet member. Given concerns about the lack of suitability of the site for a school and the debate about potential alternative uses then it is to be hoped that the Cabinet will withdraw this proposal and the Scrutiny Committee will consider the future of the House.

It is clearly too early for the new Labour administration to develop a new approach to the way in which academies and free schools are being foisted onto to the Borough, and whether they have the power to reduce their enabling support for them. By adopting a business as usual approach to the paper at the Cabinet meeting on 14 July, Labour is signing up to more fragmentation, the further reduction of LEA community schools, and the uncertainty of free school and academy initiatives.

London Living Wage

Given that it is said that a large percentage of Council ‘staff’ are on temporary or freelance contracts, has their remuneration level been included in the assessment of who is not being paid at London Living Wage level?

When was the last assessment made of whether those on freelance contracts would actually be regarded by HMRC as employees because of the requirements such as their hours, their work base location, and the degree to which they are managed?   If some of these ‘staff’ should be on employee contracts, then how many would need to have a remuneration increase to LLW level?

Capital to Coast LEP

I addressed some of the issues facing Croydon’s involvement in the LEP a note I submitted to Cabinet members in January - see 

For my discussion on Croydon Economic Development see:

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