Thursday, 30 January 2014

Croydon Council 27 January Meeting – Part 2 - Housing

Private Rented and Empty Housing

The Council is taking a variety of actions to deal with problems with private rented housing.

A house in Mitcham Rd in the landlord scheme is to have works carried out on it by the Council and the cost claimed back from the owners. (PQ001)

Council has won case to enforce an improvement notice on the owner of a long term empty property in Selhurst Ward to rectify hazards and complete necessary remedial. (Council pack p. 260)

Explanation of action on landlords and rubbish. (CQ039)

New Private rented housing (CQ066)

Perry: While admitting that ‘the full extent of the need for private rented housing in the borough is not known’ and given the ‘high demand’ for it, ‘the Council is supportive of developers seeking to bring forward new homes to meet this need and is working with developers, with the GLA and with institutional investors to promote well-managed, good quality private rented housing in and outside of Croydon centre.’

Plans include:
200 units Taberner House site redevelopment
70+ in phase I Ruskin Square
348 at Delta Point
1,000+ units in 10 proposed schemes under the Government’s Build to Rent programme.

Council New House Building

Because developers were not interested in this site for housing the Council started work last February to build 17 units at the Fieldway Job Centre site. (CQ013)

Housing Benefit (CQ014)

The number of housing benefit claimants has risen from 28,341 at 31 December 2008 to 36,656 at the same date 2013. The number of claimants who are in work has risen from 35.2% to 48.81%.

Affordable housing

Labour will attack the Tories policy for 15% only and require 30%. The Tories will say that their approach is flexible and that Labour’s will make schemes unviable and no housing will result. (CQ073)
Affordable homes built
2003/4-2007/8: 2,530
2008/9-20102/13: 3,230 (CQ095)

2009/10: 1,026/1,030
2010/11: 726/750
2011/12:563/580
2012/13: 257/270

The two sets of conflicting figures were given in CQ095 % CQ016.

2013/14 (to-date) 142 (forecast 227 by 31 March) (CQ016)

Registered social providers: 1,116 2011/15 (CQ018)

Homelessness

Statutory October to December: 338. (CQ017)

All: (inc those having housing difficulties but not necessarily threatened with homelessness November and December: 450
Statutory November and December: 207. (CQ021)

Homeless on Housing Register up from 1,484 in March to 2,029 in December out of total of 4,836 on the list.

Following changes to the housing register the register has fallen since March from 10,357. (CQ037)

Homeless in temporary housing at 31 December: 2,399 households with 3,550 children.

In December 22 households with 44 children placed in temporary accommodation outside Croydon.
No one been in temporary accommodation for more than 6 weeks. (CQ055)

Two former Children’s homes are part of the property conversion programme to provide temporary units to ease homeless in the borough: 58 Mickleham Way and 167 Oak Ave; works to start this winter. (CQ013)

Housing Conditions

Building Research Establishment research commissioned in 2008 using data from the English House Condition Survey 2001 showed that:
37% of private sector homes (43,955) are non-decent
6% (7,563) of private sector homes are occupied by vulnerable households are not decent
11& of homes (13,659) have a SAP rating of less than 35
6% of homes (7,417) are in fuel poverty.
(Housing Renewal Strategy p. 6-7)

Key amendments to Housing Renewal Policy 2013-15
(Policy adopted 2011)

Recycled loan fund for empty property loans increased from £100,000 to £200,000
£791,000 extra money from GLA
£420,000 from GLA for empty property grants
Discretionary Loan Investment loan maximum increased form £15,000 to £20,000 because of VAT irise to 20%
Mandatory Disabled Facilities Grant. Foster carers added as eligible persons.
Empty Homes Grant: letting period requirement increased from 3 to 5 years; maximum grant now £25,000
Empty homes loan. Maximum loan reduced to £40,000 from £44,000 (2 bed) and £54,000 (3 bed)
£6.3m to 2016 to install energy efficiency measures in selected corporate buildings, schools and communal areas of housing sites funded by the GLA.
To consult on HMO licensing scheme to be extended to whole Borough and to include pre-1991 blocs of converted self-contained flats (see also Council pack p. 234)
To proceed with turning Tonbridge House (retirement block into temporary accommodation for homeless families, and address concerns of residents who have to move and help with moving costs (av. £4k.) (Council pack p. 239-241)
3 South Lodge, Addington to be sold. (Council pack p. 243)


Sean Creighton
29 January 2014

Homeless Households

Since the Council meeting details of the number of households in temporary accommodation have been provided under a Freedom of Information request.

(a) the total number of households accepted under the duty to accommodate under sections 188, 190, 193 or 200 of the Housing Act 1996

2010/11 = 576
2011/12 = 847
2012/13 = 916
Apr-Nov 2013 = 533  

(b) how many were placed out of borough within London, and how many of these were households with children of school age

‘The Freedom of Information (Fees and Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004 specify an “appropriate limit” for the amount of time the council needs to spend undertaking that search.  If the council estimates that the time to taken to locate, retrieve and extract the information requested will exceed the appropriate limit, then under Section 12 of the Act, it is not obliged to comply with that request.

The appropriate limit currently specified by the Regulations for local authorities is £450. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending two and a half working days in locating, retrieving and extracting the information from where it is stored.  We are unable to provide historic data for previous years as our database only holds current information. We are unable to provide historic data for previous years as our database only holds current information, we estimate that the cumulative time it would take officers to manually retrieve the complete records you are seeking would exceed the appropriate limit. Therefore, we are unable to disclose all the information you are seeking’.

From April to November 2013

229 emergency and temporary placements were made outside Croydon.  This was 292 adults and 327 children.

The breakdown is 218 families in London (279 adults and 307 children)

(c) how many were placed out of borough outside London, and how many of these were households with children of school age

April – Nov 2013

11 families outside London (13 adults and 20 children).

We are unable to confirm how many customers have moved in or out of London. In our reply below we have confirmed within the borough and outside of the borough. The numbers below are as at 24 January 2014.  

(d) how many households with children of school age were supported to move out of borough within London using Discretionary Housing Payment

192 households, of children with school age, have moved within the borough.  Of these 28 have received a DHP.

(e) how many households with children of school age were supported to move out of borough outside London using Discretionary Housing Payments

19 households, of children with school age, have moved out of the borough. Of these 17 received a DHP and or help with deposit, rent in advance and where necessary removal costs.




Croydon Council Meeting 27 January – Part 1

The proceedings of the Council meeting have very little influence outside those present at it, unless you happen to listen to the Croydon Radio podcast or read the scanty coverage in the local papers. Both Parties used the meeting to begin to set out their approach to the forthcoming local elections in May. The Tories won hands-down in projecting a positive image of what was happening in the Borough that they claimed to have achieved, with a continual underlying attack on Labour’s record up to 2006 particularly in respect of the rises in Council Tax.

Council Leader Fisher had had a graph produced which Cllr Pollard held up at various stages in the meeting, showing the rises under Labour (marked BIG – annual average 9.11% 1995/6-2005/6) and under the Tories (SMALL – 2.11% av 2007-8 to 2013). (CQ061)They are clearly going to suggest that Labour will push up Council Tax and spend for the sake of it. Reality is of course very different from May. Labour inherits the reduced Tory budget for 2014-15, and will have to make further cuts thereafter under ConDem Coalition requirements. And there is a cap on Council Tax rises.

Labour failed yet again to defend its record and its critique of the Tories is very shallow. The Tories will continue to rubbish the Labour record up to 2006, but what percentage of residents were actually living here under Labour. In other words what Labour may or may not have done years ago may not be relevant to a lot of voters.

At least both sides, Labour begrudgingly, agreed a Tory resolution that stated: ‘This Council agrees with the response to the Croydon Advertiser survey that “there are too many good things about Croydon to choose just one best thing”. It gave the Tories the chance again to list their achievements, while Labour argued that things would be even better if it had not been for Tory incompetence. Labour will also stress that the Tories do not care the harm they do to the residents at the bottom of the pile, although Labour Leader Newman recognised that given Cllr Mead he did care he was in the wrong party.

So what are some of the issues emerging for the election from the election?: the lack of sufficient affordable housing, the proposed incinerator, the performance of schools, street litter and fly-tipping. New Addington and Waddon Wards look as they will be hotly contended between the two parties.

The proceedings started with silence to remember Nelson Mandela and a former Councillor who had died. Both parties announced who their Mayor would be if they win the elections.

The paperwork runs to over 460 pages. Most can be seen on the Council website at   https://secure.croydon.gov.uk/akscroydon/users/public/admin/kab14.pl?operation=SUBMIT&meet=18&cmte=COU&grpid=public&arc=1.  The tabled Public (PQ) and Councillor Questions (CQ) are not on the website. So among all this mass of information what struck me as important, interesting and useful?

Gatwick Airport

Council supports Gatwick Airport case for second runway. (Council pack. P. 227)

Fairfield Halls and Riesco Sale

Lease to the charity under review. ‘These discussions take into account a number of complex considerations including the Fairfield’s position as a charity and the obtaining of Charity Commission consent to any surrender of the Lease.’ Aim to agree new lease by February. (Council pack p. 230-232)

Proceeds of Riesco sale to be allocated to the Halls refurbishment. Ditto)

Fisher: ‘the Council incurred no costs for the sale of the 24 items’. (CQ031)

Pollard: In 2006 there were 230 items. Now 206. 17 items sold at auction in Hong Kong on 24 November. The other 7 were sold afterwards. Sold items listed. The valuation was between £8,653,735 and £13,542,615. The reserve price was £7,065,227. Sales income £9,545,338. (CQ052)

Pollard: Not ‘disappointed’ at the outcome. The £9.5m+ ‘is sufficient to cover nearly a third of the cost of the refurbishment of Fairfield Halls.’ (CQ83)

Pollard: ‘There are no tax liabilities for the Council as a result of the sale of the Riesco items.’ (CQ054)

Bashford: Council funded Fairfield Halls £3,906,000 (2010/11-2013/14). (CQ062)
Parking Revenue Penalty Charge Notices

There are three kinds of penalty charge notice which raised £7,171,316 (2012-13), £7,390,474 (2011-12) and £6,939,008 in 20110-11)  (PQ005).

Revenue from PCNs: 2010-11: £6,029,930; 2011-12: £6,447,735); 2012-1: £6,411,320. (CQ068)

No ward analysis. (ditto)

Revenue spent on range of public transport and road matters, including the Freedom Pass. (ditto)

Benefit Changes

Over 16,000 households were affected by the ConDem attacks on welfare benefits: council tax support, benefit cap and under-occupancy.

13,798 residents were affected by changes to Council Tax benefit rules, the highest % of the total being 1,080 (8%) in Broad Green, 1,028 (7% in Selhurst), 923 (7% in South Norwood) and 910 (7% in Woodside. 82% are making payments in line with their instalment plans. As at 16 January, 2,572 accounts had progressed to a court summons for non-payment.

1,026 Council tenants were affected by under occupancy (bedroom tax). 414 are behind with the rent payments and 423 in credit. Fieldway has the highest number in arrears at 92. The next highest is New Addington at 39. Rent collection rate in December 99.1%. 43% of under-occupancy tenants in rent arrears at 6 January, compared with 37% of all Council tenants.

(CQ011; see also CQ022)

Bernard Weatherill House

Total moving costs £3.143m. (CQ059)

Furniture and fittings £2,506,635. (CQ070)

The CAB has had to be re-located from two of the office buildings (one in New Addington and Strand House) emptied as part of the Council move into Bernard Wetherill House. (CQ008)

Broadband in Croydon

Croydon is one of six Boroughs to pilot the Government funded Super Connected Cities Voucher Scheme (CVS). The aim is to fund 200 businesses to increase their broadband capability by 1 March, on a first come first serve basis. www.connectionvouchers.co.uk. From 1 March the funding is open to all London Councils. (CQ092)

Unemployment

JSA claimant numbers down 27.3% on previous year at 21 December to 7,210.

JSA claimants count for 18-24 year olds down 36.5% to 1,505.
Tories say this partly the result of its Pathways to Employment Partnership approach, and that the situation will improve with the major investments planned for the Town Centre. (CQ100)

Council Tax Collection

The amount uncollected in 2005 was 6.49% reducing to 3.78% in 2012. The accumulated debt outstanding (excluding the current year is £25.2m. The Council does not have policy to write-off debt but pursues all debts ‘whilst it remains financially viable to do so’. Over the last 3 years £13.4m has been collected in old debt. (PQ013)

Libraries

Pollard: ‘As part of the TUPE transfer and prior to the contract starting ’library staff were informed’ by JLIS now Carillion IS, ‘of their intention to restructure the service following their transfer.’ ‘JLIS notified the staff in writing by letter that there would be a restructure that might include some redundancies.’ (CQ071)

Pollard: ‘there are no plans to end or change the Home Library Service to vulnerable and elderly people who cannot visit a static library.’ (CQ030)

Nightwatch Soup Run

Fisher denied that he had ‘asked officers to remove the Nightwatch soup run’. ‘What we would like to see is an alternative way of delivering this work.’ The concerns about its location is about anti-social behaviour and it being ‘an unsafe environment for both workers and service users.’ He referred to alternative ways of providing food by the Westminster Drug project, and the Salvation Army. (Full explanation in CQs 053 & 102)

Child Poverty in Croydon (CQ041)

Under 16: 28.3% Aug 2007 down to 25.2% in August 2011 compared with England from 22.4% to 20.6%.

All under 20: 27% down to 24.6% (21.6% to 20.1%).

Youth Provision (CQ042)

Pollard admitted that ‘these is less direct provision of universal youth services’. Investment continues in the 5 youth hubs. Voluntary sector an increasing provider.

Cutting the Arnhem Grant (CQ059)

Fisher justified the cut to the grant for twinning with Arnhem ‘Given the dramatically reduced funding available for local services, we are working with the Arnhem gallery to help it become community based, localised and autonomous rather than council led. The reduction in funding is a step forward in achieving this ideal.’

Education

Both parties interpret the statistics differently: things are good and improving (Tories) and that things are very worrying (Labour). (CQ009 sets out Key Stage 2 results)

Borough ranking for per pupil funding in 2014-15 Croydon is 28 out of the 32 London Boroughs. In 2014-15 Croydon  will receive £4,559.18 per pupil compared with Lambeth at £6,384.03. (CQ091)

With reference to discussion at a community meeting where it was ‘agreed’ that there was no education strategy in Croydon, Cllr said this was ‘not true’. The School Improvement Strategy had been updated in September. (CQ098)

Government given Council £47m for improving school estates.

Government has approved Harris Federation as provider for new 2FE primary school at Haling Rd and secondary on London Rd. Oasis Community Trust has been approved for a sports and science secondary school at  the Arena.  Glyn Learning Foundation will run the Westway primary school off St. James’ Rd in Broad Green, and Step Academy Trust will run the primary next to Spices Yard in South Croydon. (Pollard In Step Bulletin p. 3 &  CQ065)

The top end of Highbury Ave Playing Field is for the proposed Advance Academy free 3FE primary school. Design work is still being undertaken. (CQ077) The Council is negotiating to buy two plots of land to add to the school site. (CQ078; see also CQ106)

Residents recycling rate (CQ085)

2005/6: 16.2%; 2012/13: 44.3%.


More detail on re-cycling in CQ94.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Diary February and March 2014

Until 2 February 2014. Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789-2013
Tate Liverpool exhibition examines how the production and reception of art has been influenced by political values such as collectivism, equality and the search for alternative economies. It includes William Morris and Jeremy Deller, along with political memorabilia such as trade union banners and Atelier Populaire posters from Paris. The exhibition also features interactive works, including David Medalla's A Stitch in Time, a large sheet which visitors are encouraged to sew items onto in order to help the artwork grow, and a jukebox by artist Ruth Ewan from which visitors are invited to select protest records to play in the gallery. More information on the exhibition and its events programme. www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-liverpool.   

February IHR Seminars
For full details see www.history.ac.uk/events/ihr/2014-01 inc:
3 -  Brian Harrison on Voluntarism and democracy in Britain since the 1790s
19- Thomas Hardy, Religion, and Public Discourse in the 1790s
19 - Popular protest and public history
25 - David Killingray on An 'industrial village' in Sevenoaks, Kent in the nineteenth century
28 - Clare Midgley on Indian Feminist Pandita Ramabai and Transnational Liberal Religious Networks

Saturday 1 February. 10.30am-4pm. Independent Working Class Education London Meeting
Brunswick Centre (Foundling Court), Community Room 10, next to Russell Square tube. Short presentations and a lively participatory approach. Lunch included. £6 - pay on the day. Contact: Keith Venables: iwceducation@yahoo.co.uk. http://iwceducation.co.uk_  


Saturday 1 February. 10.30am-4pm. Independent Working Class Education London Meeting
Brunswick Centre (Foundling Court), Community Room 10, next to Russell Square tube. Short presentations and a lively participatory approach. Lunch included. £6 - pay on the day. Contact: Keith Venables: iwceducation@yahoo.co.uk. http://iwceducation.co.uk.  

Saturday 1 February. 2pm. 'Queer Britain - the struggle for LGBT rights 1958-2014
Speaker Peter Tatchell Old Fire Station, The Crescent, Salford.

Saturday 1 February. 2.30pm. The (Unofficial) Naming of Lake Conan Doyle

Saturday 1 February. 7.30pm. Cinema Ruskin – Classic Film Club
And then every first Saturday of the month. Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Rd, Croydon. www.ruskinhouse.org.uk/index.htm.

Tuesday to Thursday 4-6 February. Babylon
Folk music show produced by The Flanagan Collective, is about kings and queens and revolutions. Tickets for the show are just £10. Spread Eagle pub next to Croydon Town Hall. To book go to www.spreadeaglecroydon.co.uk/theatre. See more details at http://insidecroydon.com/2014/01/06/babylon-gets-a-staging-at-croydons-pub-theatre.  


Tuesday 4 February. 7pm. Progress with the Post North East Popular Politics Project
John Charlton will talk about the ‘Trauma of World War on the coalfield: Ashington 1914-1930’ component at Northumberland Collections. Woodhorn, and Peter Brabban will talk about the plan to build a director of North East labour movement biography. North East Labour History First Tuesday meeting. Irish Centre, Gallowgate, Newcastle. www.nelh.org. NEPPP database www.ppp2010.co.uk.

Wednesday 5 February.  Steve Knightly and the Show of Hands
Modern folk opens Stanley Halls public performance programme. Early bookings are advised. Tickets are £16 plus a booking fee. Secure online box office: www.ticketsource.co.uk/date/80943. Stanley Halls: www.stanleyhalls.org.uk.

Thursday 6 February.6.30pm. London and the Crowd
First meeting of theme group of London Studies Network. 354 Malet St, London, WC2. Convenor Max Sexton. maxlondonuk2010@yahoo.co.uk

Monday 10 February. 5.30 pm. Fertility and Maternity, Then and Now
In 1915, Margaret Lleyelwn Davies published Maternity: Letters from Working Women, a compilation of letters by members of the Women's Co-operative Guild. They made for a vivid and poignant portrait of pregnancy and pre-natal care, abortion and death, exhaustion and self-sacrifice in industrial Britain. Davies was encouraged by Virginia Woolf: "Do publish these letters.... they are so amazing." In the near hundred years since, scholars of various stripes have explored women's experiences of fertility and maternity. They have focused especially on the event of birth and on the ideology of motherhood. This roundtable brings together analysts of past and present to discuss research on fertility and maternity in the expansive sense identified by Davies and her compatriots. Institute of Historical Research Conversations and Disputations Seminar. Holden Room (room 103), Senate House, London, WC1. Speakers: Angela Davis (Warwick), Sarah Franklin (Cambridge), Sarah Knott (Indiana).  All welcome. For more info, email b.g.taylor@qmul.ac.uk.

Wednesday 12 February. 2pm. The unknown achievements of the 15 February 2003 anti-war march
Using testimony and arguments from his book The March That Shook Blair Ian Sinclair will challenge the popular understanding of the 2003 march as a failure, by demonstrating how it constrained the British Government's actions in Iraq. In addition Ian will explore some of the long-term impacts the march and anti-war movement has had on the British political landscape. Working Class Movement Library, 51 The Crescent, Salford.

Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 February. Workers' Internationalism before 1914 International Conference
2014 is the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the International Working Men's Association in 1864. It is also the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the Socialist International in 1889, and the centenary of the outbreak of the war which precipitated the collapse of that International. Talks inc: Robert Owen and Workers' Internationalism before Marxism; The Early German Labour Movement 1830s to 1860s; The International Working Men's Association's role in promoting Internationalism, 1864-1874; Garibaldi's Armée des Vosges"; French revolutionary thought in exile, 1871-1880"; Rosa Luxemburg "Clara Zetkin: Anti-militarism, John Burns, Tom Mann and the culture of socialist politics in England, 1884-1887; Iranian Socialist Movement (1906-1911); Internationalism and the Radical Press in Russia, 1906-19. School of History, University of East Anglia, Norwich. Full programme at www.uea.ac.uk/history/news-and-events/workers-internationalism.  

Thursday 20 February. 7.30pm. Victorian artists Henrietta Rae and Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale
Upper Norwood Library, 39-41 Westow Hill, Upper Norwood, SE19.  All are welcome. There is no charge but donations are welcome towards refreshments.

Saturday 22 February. 2pm- 5pm. Labour Heritage West London Labour History Day. The Dublin
Lockout of 1911& its impact on the future of Labour in Ireland - Ivan Gibbons (Director of Irish Studies at St. Mary’s University College, Twickenham); The Suffragette Movement & its Relations with the Labour Movement - Philippa Bilton (relative of Emily Wilding Davidson; Ramsay MacDonald & his Stand on the First World War - John Grigg (Labour Movement historian & treasurer of Labour Heritage). Labour Party Offices, Ruskin Hall, Church Road, Acton, W3 (buses – 207, 607, 266, E3. nearest tube station: Acton Town). Admission £5. Concessions £2. Tea.

Saturday 22 February. 2pm. 'Infidels, Atheists and Secularists'
Talk by Christopher Richardson.’ From Susannah Wright, Richard Carlile and the ‘Nottingham Friends of Freedom’ to Emma Martin – a journey through 30 years and more of working class activity in secular education, operatives’ libraries, the Operatives’ Hall, campaigns against compulsory church rates and the Poor Law - and the role of religion and the Church of England.’ Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Labour History Society. Doors open at 1.30 pm. The Nottingham Mechanics Institute, 3 North Sherwood Street, Nottingham, NG1.

Tuesday 25 February. 11am-4pm. Children of the Great War Open Day
Clapham Library, Mary Seacole Centre, 91 Clapham High Street, London, SW4. Age Exchange and Lambeth Libraries are recording stories, collecting photographs, letters and memorabilia about the First World War for a centenary display later in the year. If you have a relative who fought in the war and have memories
which you would like to record, book a slot in advance with Annicka Anciff, email AAncliff@lambethgov.uk or telephone 020 7926 4788.

Tuesday 25 February. 5.30-7pm. Launch of Look How Far We’ve Come
DVD/book, which documents African British histories from the context of racism and racial equality policies. House of Commons. Free. For more information or to book: www.LookHowFar.eventbrite.com.

Friday 28 February. 7.45pm. The South London Botanical Institute: Introducing People to Plants for over 100 years
Talk by Roy Vickery. The SLBI, near Tulse Hill station, was founded by Allan Octavian Hume in 1910 to interest local people in plants and fungi.  Roy will talk about Hume’s extraordinary life as an ornithologist, founder of the Indian National Congress, social reformer, and, finally, botanist, and describe the Institute’s on-going work. Lewisham Local History Society. Methodist Church Hall, Albion Way, Lewisham, SE13. Visitors welcome. Donations of minimum £1 invited.

March  IHR Seminars
For full details see www.history.ac.uk/events/ihr/2014-03, inc:
3 - Pan-Africanism and Communism. Hakim Adi.
11 - Searching for Sailortown: naval towns and urban cultures, c.1820 to 1914.
12 - Making the East India Company at home in Osterley Park
Kate Smith (UCL) & Claire Reed (National Trust).
20 - A Women's Work Is Never Done: Women and the British Anti-Fascist Movement. Joe Mulhall (Rhul).
25 -  'Indigenous London' - perspectives of the indigenous peoples of Empire on the Empire's capital. Colm Thrush (University of British Columbia/IHR).
War and independence in Spanish America. Anthony McFarlane (Warwick).

Saturday 1 March. Taking sides: artists and writers on the Spanish Civil War
International Brigade Memorial Trust Len Crome Memorial Lecture. Manchester Conference Centre, Sackville Street, Manchester M1. Under the heading there will be a series of presentations on themes from cinema to foreign correspondents. More details of the programme, and how to book: www.international-brigades.org.uk/content/2014-len-crome-memorial-lecture.

Saturday 1 March. Leisure History Workshop
The British Society of Sports History South.  University of East Anglia, Norwich. Inaugural event for the network's East of England Branch (comprising the counties of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk). Themes Leisure and Politics, Rural Leisure, Representing Leisure on Screen. Further details from bssheast@gmail.com.

Saturday 8 March. 2pm. Socialist women of the Independent Labour Party - political propagandists and trade union organisers, 1890s-1914
Talk by June Hannam, Professor of History (Uni. West of England). Working Class Movement Library, Salford. June writes on Women's history, feminist history on the IHR Making History website: www.history.ac.uk/makinghistory/resources/articles/womens_history.html.

Saturday 8 March. 4-6pm. Black History, Personal Empowerment and African Cultural Studies with Robin Walker
Start of 18 week course. Croydon Supplementary Education Project, 32-34 Sydenham Road, Croydon, CRO. Free. For more information ring the Project on 020 8686 7865. www.csep.org.uk.

Thursday 13 March. Tayo Aluko’s excellent show: Call Mr Robeson

Monday 17 March. 7.30-11pm. St Patrick’s Night
Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Rd, Croydon.

Monday 17 March. 8pm. Sustaining the High Street
Jeremy Keates, Clapham and Brixton Town Centre Manager at Lambeth Council will talk about the Council’s current approach to town centres and work at present being done in Clapham, led by the local business community. Clapham Society. Omnibus, 1 Clapham Common North Side, London, SW4. Omnibus bar opens at 7pm. For full details about the new Omnibus community venue see www.omnibus-clapham.org. Full details re-Clapham Society at www.claphamsociety.com.

18 March. 6.30-8pm. After the Asylums: A public discussion of mental health care in Britain, past and present
Launch event for The Last Asylum by Barbara Taylor (Penguin, 2014). Queen Mary, University of London, Maths Lecture Theatre, Mile End Road, London, E1. (The Maths Lecture Theatre is in the Mathematical Sciences Building which is building number 4 on the www.qmul.ac.uk/docs/about/26065.pdf. This event is free of charge and open to all. To book a place, please follow the link: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/after-the-asylums-tickets-10043294765.  

Friday 21 March. Tayo Aluko’s excellent show: Call Mr Robeson
Theatr Hafren, Newtown, Wales. http://cmr.tayoalukoandfriends.com/performances.

Thursday 27 March. 7pm. From Gun Running to Philantrophy: Katherine Low and her family (provisional tile)
Talk by Sean Creighton about Katherine Low, after whom the Battersea Settlement is named. Part of Battersea Society AGM. St Mary’s Church. The Society is planning a plaque on the Katherine Low Settlement building 17 May.

Saturday 29 March. 9.30am-c5pm. Law & Order in West London’s History
West London Local History Conference. Talks on West London Crime at the Old Bailey, 1674-1913 (Prof.
Bob Shoemaker, Old Bailey Online project); Highwaymen of Hounslow Heath; Football, Fairs and Fun: suppressing public nuisances; Crimes and punishments readings from historical documents; Behind Bars - a history of Wandsworth Prison (Stewart McLaughlin, Honorary Curator of the Prison's Museum); and Dear Boys and Fassy Ole' Pots: Feltham's Industrial School and its successors. Tickets £10 in advance only from J. McNamara, 31B Brook Rd South, Brentford, TW8 ONN. Cheque payable to ‘West London Local History Conference’. Conference fee includes morning coffee and afternoon tea. Participants are welcome to bring a picnic lunch and there are cafés and shops in Chiswick High Road nearby.

Monday 31 March. 5.15pm. Uncharted Waters: Researching Sounds, Ships, and Sailor Towns
Talk by Dr Catherine Tackley (Open University). The IHR Sport & Leisure seminar Senate House, Malet St/Russell Square, London, WC1. bsshlondon@gmail.com.



Friday, 24 January 2014

Croydon Council Secrecy Over Vacated Offices

Commercial confidentiality is being used by the Council as an excuse not to publicly release the addresses of the Council offices vacated with the move of staff to  Bernard Weatherill House. This is the gist of the reply to me from the Council in response to a Freedom of Information request.

What are the names and addresses of each of the vacated Council buildings?

‘The Council is of the view that this information under section 31 (1) (a) (Law Enforcement) of the Freedom of information Act is exempt from disclosure.

As a result of the case EA/2011/007 hearing at the General Regulatory Chamber dated 22 January 2013, the First –tier tribunal decided that the addresses of empty residential and commercial properties were exempt from disclosure pursuant to Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act.
Section 31 states:

(1) Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice—
(a) the prevention or detection of crime,

The Tribunal found that Section 31 (1) (a) (Law Enforcement) exemption was engaged and that the public interest in withholding the information outweighed the public interest in providing the information.

The factors in favour of maintaining the exemption were:

a. The inherent public interest in the prevention of all crimes (even those where the damage caused may be limited or the chances .of securing a conviction problematic)
b. The cost of securing properties vulnerable to squatting and repairing damage resulting from it, whether that cost falls on the private or public purse.
c. The cost of evicting squatters.
d. The potential detrimental impact on those directly affected by criminal damage.
e. The impact on the community in the vicinity of a squatted property.
f. The problems faced by Council staff having to deal with squatting and it consequences.
g. The impact on police resources.
h. The direct financial cost caused by property stripping.’

What Council services were housed at each of them?

The annual running costs of the office premises is indicated.

1      Children’s social services, JCDLT (DASHH-NHS joint team delivering services   to adults with learning disabilities plus social services) and CFL. £283,043
2      Physiotherapy unit, NHS.  (part of JCDLT).£14,943
3      Economic Development. £350,727
4      Housing team now Landlord Services. £126,066
5      Adult social care service. £103,355
6      Children’s Social services. £93,652
7      Children’s Social services, Children with Disabilities team, CFL Finance team     and School’s Transport service, Croydon Landlord services and some JCDLT.   £ 450,091
8      Schools for the Future / Schools catering team. £88,999
9      Croydon landlord Services, CFL, Finance & Assets, Corporate services,   
        DASHH, Legal & Democratic, Customer Services - (revs & bens,
        contact centre, access croydon, comms), HR, P&E. £3,051,753
10    Registrars, ICT including Capgemini. £849,183
11    ICT Cap Gemini. £189,000
12    CALAT & ICT Capgemini. £591,285

How much money has been allocated for security on each for the next twelve months

The Council’s answer is covered under it confidentiality justification above.

What is the market value estimate for each of them?

‘The Council considers this information to be commercially sensitive information and covered by the exemption provided in Section 43 of FOIA. This exemption applies to information which if disclosed would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person, including the Council.  In deciding whether to apply this exemption the Council is expected to balance the public interest test in withholding the information against the public interest in disclosing the information. The information is considered, by the Council, to be commercially sensitive as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of the of Council, as it is considered that if the information is disclosed to you it could potentially weaken the Council ability to obtain value for money. ‘ 

1, 2, 4 & 9 are ‘commercially sensitive’. 3, 5-8 & 12  were occupied on leasehold.  10 & 11 were ‘Part of a larger site redevelopment for BWH’.

Does the Council have any plans for alternative Council uses for any of them?

The figures are the gross internal area in sq.m.

1 & 2 ‘Looking to redevelop’; 2,180 and 1,040.

4  ‘Using as a temporary community hub’; 700.

9 ‘To be demolished and redeveloped, handed to contractors 20.01.14’; 25,550. I guess this is Taberner House.

The remainder were occupied on leasehold

Has any estimate been carried out (and what is it) on whether concentrating 2,800 staff at BWH will result in increases in time and travel costs to visit different parts of the Borough?

‘No, however, it is anticipated that the benefits of having 2,800 officers assigned to BWH would greatly out way any additional travel times.’


The full reply and attachments can be seen at www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/london_living_wage_3#incoming-474493

Monday, 20 January 2014

Helping Awaken Hands-on-Skills in Secondary Pupils

I have never been very good at vocational activities such as art, woodworking, and DIY. I did manage to make a cabinet in the woodworking class at school on which to place a massive radio which required two people to lift it. This cupboard lasted for several decades until my move to Croydon in 2011. What I think I did come away from school with was an admiration for those with hand skills talents, such as wood and metal work and artists. However the vocational side of education does seem to have been eroded over the years, which does not help those who are not very good at academic subjects. The collapse of industrial work, apprenticeships, and the destruction of the skilled manual working class has had a negative effect on communities where skilled workers provided leadership through trade unions and friendly societies. It is a shame that the planners have not seen that in agreeing to let the developers sweep away the industrial heritage of the North Battersea, Nine Elms and Vauxhall area they should have established a ’museum’ that could be used to inspire a new generation to see that vocational skills are worthwhile. (See my blog at http://historyandsocialaction.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/real-mccoy-developing-interest-in.html)

So it is good that there are people who would like to introduce 11-16 year olds to vocational activities in schools. The Croydon Tech City movement is helping children to learn programming skills. Croydon resident Allan Kwamegah and colleagues have set up Skyspring UK. Initially it was registered as a company limited by guarantee with the aim of registering later with the Charity Commission. Allan and his colleagues are now faced with a dilemma. They want to get started in a school in Croydon but have no money. Their ability to raise money is limited by not being a registered charity. They cannot register as a charity until they have £5,000 in the bank. By introducing vocational training as an after school activity has several advantages. It gives break from the academic treadmill, will help pupils experience something they may have the potential to become skilled in, something that is creative and practical that may be useful if everyday life even if they do not go onto obtain vocational qualifications and employment. The potential range of skills training includes catering, metal craft, dress making, nail and beauty, leather craft, electrical engineering, hairdressing, paper craft. welding, clay modelling, woodcraft, gardening, plumbing, plastering, bricklaying, glazing and decorating. 
If any of my Croydon readers think this is an idea worth exploring in more detail, especially if you have children or are teachers and governors at secondary schools, please contact Allan. at If you know anyone who is involved with Croydon secondary schools please let them know. Contact can be made via


Assessing the Westfield/Hammerson Scheme

Croydon Town Centre Regeneration is the topic for the Tuesday 4 February meeting of the Croydon Council Scrutiny & Strategic Overview Committee. The Committee will review the project plans for the Westfield/Hammerson development, and consider the potential for disruption to town centre services, such as transport and access, and how this can be mitigated. It will also review the proposed allocation of funding from the Community Infrastructure Levy. Council Chamber, Town Hall, Croydon. Full agenda papers will be put on the Council website a few days before the meeting at
https://secure.croydon.gov.uk/akscroydon/users/public/admin/kabmenu.pl?cmte=SSO_Committee.How should the Committee members be considering it? They can look at suggestions by New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies.

NEF and the Requirements of the National Planning Framework

Nearly two years ago the Government published the National Planning Framework. The New Economics Foundation commented at the time that whatever other drawbacks the Framework had it marked a victory for its seven-year campaign ‘against clone towns, - and to revitalise high streets as the beating hearts of local economies.’: ‘It is a slap down for those very powerful interests which have, in recent months, been calling for high streets to be abandoned.’ The retiring head of Land Securities, Francis Salway, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 in March 2012 ‘effectively admitted that it is in the business DNA of profit hungry retail chains to be fair weather friends to communities. For long term success and quality of life, town centres need local retailers who are bound by more than a desire to extract cash from consumers’ pockets.’ The Framework instructs planning authorities to ‘recognise town centres as the heart of their communities and pursue policies to support their viability and vitality’. But that is not all:
  • ‘Town centres will have to demonstrate their “individuality” and a “diverse” retail offer. Clone towns are clearly out.’
  • ‘Markets have to be enhanced and, where they can be, re-introduced. So the coalition has also listened to some of Mary Portas’ recommendations.’
  • ‘Bigger developments will require ‘impact assessments’ to see how they would affect “town centre vitality and viability” – not just now but five years ahead, taking a leaf out of the approach of several cities in the United States. The kind of superstore that corrodes the economy around it will not be allowed.’
However as NEF points out ‘This is all subject to local interpretation, and there can be many slips between cup and lip. It may not work out as expected. It may, for the time being, put money into the hands of lawyers. But in the right hands, an imaginative and far-sighted local council, this is a huge tilt of the balance of power away from the big retailers. www.neweconomics.org/blog/entry/time-is-running-out-for-clone-towns.  

CLES: Productive local economies: creating resilient places

In a report published in December 2010 Neil McInroy and Sarah Longlands argue:

‘Local economies aren’t simply an isolated silo of private sector activity that can be encouraged and shaped. They are made up of a network of social, public and commercial economic activity. These aspects are interconnected and dependent on one another.’ CLES believes ‘that local economic development in the UK needs to refocus on ‘development’ which works within environmental limits, the nature of the place, and fairness rather than just growth for its own sake.’ This view lies at the heart of many of the debates in Croydon over such matters as the Whitgift/Centrale redevelopment.


It is a report that is well worth reading and thinking about its application to Croydon. It can be downloaded at www.cles.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Resilience-for-web1.pdf