Tackling racism needs to be back on the agenda in Croydon. This was a strong view coming out of the discussion at the Look How Far We’ve Come event organised by the Radical History Network in the Heritage Festival on Wednesday 2 July. It is not an issue in the newly adopted Community Safety Strategy approved by the new Labour Cabinet on Monday 30 June.
There does not appear to have been any urgent need for the adoption of the paper. It could have been subject to the new Scrutiny draft policy review approach. When the main Scrutiny and Overview Committee meets on 11 November it will be questioning Mark Watson, the Cabinet Member for Safety & Justice on the Safer Croydon Partnership and Domestic Violence. It is to be hoped that BME and anti-racist organisations in the Borough will begin to prepare the case for inclusion of action of racism to submit to the Committee, and also to the Fairness Commission when it gets started. It is also an issue I have raised in my discussion paper for the culture seminar on Tuesday 8 July.
Unimaginative Scrutiny Work Programme
Although some minor amendments were made at its meeting on 1 July the initial Scrutiny meetings programme for 2014-15 looks like an officer dominated agenda with no sense of Labour determined priorities.
Economic development is not to be looked by Scrutiny until 10 February in terms of a discussion with the Cabinet member Toni Letts. What is needed is a new style Scrutiny review to explore the development of an alternative economic development policy designed to broaden the economic basis of the Borough. This is needed regardless of whether the Westfield/Hammerson development proceeds. But it also needs to be a Plan B in case that development collapses or does not deliver the alleged economic benefits.
Of the many mini-scrutiny reviews needed the programme leaves out a scrutiny of the process about the sale of items from the Riesco Collection and its future, and of the emergency response capability of the Council.
Emergency Response Capability
While the Council emergency response to the floods earlier in the year was rightly much praised, there has been criticism of its failure to respond to the effects of the illegal rave confrontation with the police, which so easily could have escalated into a riot. There needs to be an urgent review to ascertain what went wrong and why, and what can be done to ensure proper response to any future crisis.
The Appointment of Chief Executive
Given this failure of the emergency response of the Council machine it is all the more surprising that the acting Chief Executive has been given permanent tenure of the post. One of the key challenges for Labour is to change the senior officer culture. It is to be hoped that the Labour Leadership has made it clear to the new Chief Executive that they expect his full co-operation in that process. It is also to be hoped that there is a probationary period included in his contract. As someone who has been quite happy in the past to have my own employment and salary in a publicly funded post open to public scrutiny and debate, I would hope that there will be an open Scrutiny Panel review of his probationary period performance.