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To approve the minutes of the Extraordinary Council and Council meetings held on 28 September, 12 and 22 October 2020 as an accurate record.
The minutes of the meetings held on 28 September 2020, 12 October 2020 and 22 October 2020 were agreed as an accurate record.
Disclosure of Interests
In accordance with the Council’s Code of Conduct and the statutory provisions of the Localism Act, Members and co-opted Members of the Council are reminded that it is a requirement to register disclosable pecuniary interests (DPIs) and gifts and hospitality to the value of which exceeds £50 or multiple gifts and/or instances of hospitality with a cumulative value of £50 or more when received from a single donor within a rolling twelve month period. In addition, Members and co-opted Members are reminded that unless their disclosable pecuniary interest is registered on the register of interests or is the subject of a pending notification to the Monitoring Officer, they are required to disclose those disclosable pecuniary interests at the meeting. This should be done by completing the Disclosure of Interest form and handing it to the Democratic Services representative at the start of the meeting. The Chair will then invite Members to make their disclosure orally at the commencement of Agenda item 3. Completed disclosure forms will be provided to the Monitoring Officer for inclusion on the Register of Members’ Interests.
There were none.
Urgent Business (if any)
To receive notice of any business not on the agenda which in the opinion of the Chair, by reason of special circumstances, be considered as a matter of urgency.
There were no items of urgent business.
To receive Announcements, if any, from the Mayor, the Leader, Head of Paid Service and Returning Officer.
Madam Mayor gave her announcements to the Members of Council.
All the schools taking part in Croydon Connected were thanked for their participation. The paperchain entries were beginning to be received and would be displayed during the following days in the Town Hall. It was recognised that with the Town Hall being shut due to the pandemic this would limit the number of people who would be able to view the entries, however they would all be linked together and would stretch the length of the Town Hall.
Members were informed that the planned Travelling Grotto which was to visit Croydon’s children was no longer able to take place due to covid-19. Madam Mayor advised Council that she had arranged for presents to be purchased for each child who would have been visited and a recorded video with Father Christmas would be shown when the present was delivered.
Madam Mayor congratulated three children from Winterbourne School who had won the Mayor’s annual Christmas card competition. It was noted that there was a wealth of talent in Croydon, particularly in the children and young people of the borough.
Madam Mayor’s announcements were concluded by wishing Tom Downs, from Democratic Services, the best of luck in the future as he was sadly leaving the Council having. Tom Downs had been a member of the Democratic Services team since April 2018 and prior to that had been a member of the Town Hall Concierge Team.
Madam Mayor invited the Leader, Councillor Hamida Ali, to make her announcements.
The Leader reported that the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s (MHCLG) non-statutory rapid review had almost concluded. The review had been tasked with providing assurance to the Secretary of State for Housing Communities & Local Government on range of matters including the council’s request for a Capitalisation Direction.
The Leader stated that she expected the work of the review team, which had taken four weeks to be completed, to be reported to the Secretary of State in due course.
The Leader was conscious that a number of officers and Members had been involved in the review. The Leader was confident that the new leadership team and management team had demonstrated their understanding of the situation facing the council and the improvement required. It was reported, in informal meetings with the lead reviewer that the review team had found the council had been forthcoming.
The Leader thanked officers for their hard work in facilitating the review team’s work and stated that she looked forward to receiving their report in due course.
For Members to debate a Borough Petition.
Ahead of the substantive items of the agenda Madam Mayor advised Council that in accordance with Paragraphs 1.2 and 3.5 of Part 4A of the Constitution she would vary the order of the agenda to consider item 11 (Recommendations of Cabinet to Council) following Croydon Question Time. As such, the order items were considered at the meeting was as follows:
· Item 6 – The Croydon Debate
· Item 7 – Croydon Question Time
· Item 11 – Recommendations of Cabinet to Council for Decision
· Item 8 – Member Petitions
· Item 9 – Annual Reports
Council were advised that with the agreement of the Group Whips the time allowed for the three pools of questions to Cabinet Members had been reduced to 20 minutes each. Madam Mayor thanked the Whips for all their work in reaching cross party agreement on the process to be taken at the meeting to allow for additional time to be given to the debate on the Croydon Renewal Plan and Strategic Review of Companies.
Madam Mayor noted that the petition to be discussed had been validated and in accordance with the provisions in Part 4A of the Constitution and invited the Council Solicitor to read the borough petition which read:
“I support the Purley and Woodcote and Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown councillors’ campaign to save Purley Pool and Leisure Centre and call on Croydon Council to save them from closure."
Ms Theresa Paul, as the lead petitioner, was invited by Madam Mayor to address Council on the petition.
Ms Theresa Paul stated Purley Pool was close to her heart, having used the pool since she had been born and having taught a number of children to learn to swim there. Concerns were raised that without a pool in Purley there would be a large impact on people’s access to local pool facilities, including schools which had a statutory responsibility to teach pupils to swim 25 metres unaided. This, it was noted, was an important lifesaving skill and the pool in Purley enabled schools in the south of the borough to provide this training.
Council were informed that the average school’s journey time to Purley pool 32 minutes each way on public transport. If schools were required to use the pool at Waddon leisure centre the journey time would increase to, an average, 52 minutes each way. The increased journey time, it was stated, would be at the cost of another area of the curriculum. Furthermore, private pools in the area were not 25 metres and were more expensive to hire.
Ms Paul stressed that she would like all residents to have equal access to a local pool and the closure of Purley pool would impact not just schools, but all local residents who used the pool.
It was noted, that Swim England had issued research which showed that swimming was ideal for those who could not exercise on firm ground and improved a person’s ability to concentrate and supported the management of long term conditions such as ... view the full minutes text for item 139/20
a) Public Questions (30 minutes)
To receive questions from the public gallery and questions submitted by residents in advance of the meeting.
b) Leader and Cabinet Member Questions (105 minutes)
To receive questions from Councillors.
Madam Mayor explained that Croydon Question Time would commence with 30 minutes of public questions to the Leader and Cabinet Members. In accordance with advice from the Government and Public Health England, it was not possible to hold public meetings in the Town Hall. As a result, members of the public were unable to ask questions from the public gallery in the Council Chamber. Questions had been received by email up till 12 noon on Friday 27 November 2020. Twelve questions had been submitted. Madam Mayor advised that a number of questions related to the Low Traffic Network and unfortunately those could not be taken as the Council’s Constitution specifically prohibited questions pertaining to ongoing litigation. Those residents which had submitted questions relating to the Low Traffic Network had been written to and advised of the situation.
Madam Mayor read a question from Maria Nawrocka:
“The Croydon Renewal Plan paper to Council on 28 September estimated in-year staff savings of £2m. How many council staff have lost their livelihoods as a result of:
· Voluntary redundancy; and
· Compulsory redundancy.
What is the current in-year (2020-21) savings projection as a result of staff redundancies?
How many staff continue to be paid by the council through agency or consultancy contracts?
What is the in-year (2020-21) cost of agency and consultancy staff?”
In his response the Cabinet Member for Croydon Renewal, Councillor King, informed Council that 94 staff were leaving the council has a result of redundancy during 2020/21. 48 of those staff members were leaving under a voluntary arrangement and the remaining 46 were under a compulsory arrangement which would result in savings in the region of £1,386,000. Councillor King stated that figure excluded vacancy deletions and redeployment costs. In response to the final part of the question, Councillor King stated there were 267 staff employed on an agency contract basis and the in-year expenditure for those positions was in the region of £13,840,000.
Madam Mayor read a question from Kostandinos Dexiades to the meeting:
“When I emailed Councillor Ali to ask what is the Labour Council doing about stopping fly tipping in Croydon, I got email back from Councillor Ali to report fly tipping on My Account. I do this, but that's not the issue. My question was what is Labour doing to stop fly tipping? Councillor Ali responded it is not Labour that is fly tipping – that is not the way to email Croydon voters. So, what is Labour doing to stop fly tipping in Croydon, so that taxpayers don't pay to clear up after fly-tippers?”
In his response the Cabinet Member for Sustainable Croydon, Councillor Muhammad Ali, stated fly tipping was a national crisis and was costing local government, as a whole, significant sums of money to tackle. It was noted that the former Cabinet Member for Clean Green Croydon had lobbied the Secretary of State for DEFRA. The response from DEFRA had not addressed how the issue would be tackled nationally.
Councillor Ali stated that ... view the full minutes text for item 140/20
To receive notice of petitions presented by Members on behalf of local residents.
Madam Mayor advised Members, following legal advice, it was not possible for Council to receive the petition contained within the report. Council were informed that this was in accordance with Paragraph 3.12.4 of Part 4A of the Constitution which prohibited any petition which pertained to ongoing litigation.
For Members to receive the following annual reports for 2019 – 2020:
i. Corporate Parenting Panel; and
ii. Health and Wellbeing Board.
Corporate Parenting Panel
The meeting received the Corporate Parenting Panel (CPP) Annual Report for 2019/20. Madam Mayor invited Councillor Flemming, in her capacity, as the Chair of the Corporate Parenting Panel to provide an introduction to the report.
Councillor Flemming informed Council that the reports that had been used to produce the Annual Report had been considered by CPP during the previous year. Councillor Flemming highlighted the contribution of the Empire Members who attended Panel meetings, on a regular basis, and were of different ages. It was noted that prior to the pandemic young people had attended the meetings to speak directly on key areas, such as the Staying Put Policy, which supported 17/18 year olds who were leaving care to remain with their foster carers, where possible. Councillor Flemming commended the young people for their contributions which had resulted in changes to policies.
It was recognised that challenges remained and CPP were looking at key areas such as; health visits and how to undertaken health assessments of young people in care, such as asylum seeking children. Councillor Flemming noted that it had been an interesting year and that following the Ofsted inspection the council’s children services had been rated Good.
Councillor Flemming highlighted that one of the key areas going forward would be related to housing. CPP was committed to review and investigate this area. Councillor Flemming concluded that she looked forward to working with members and Empire Members going forward to ensure they were delivering for the young people of Croydon.
Councillor Gatland was invited to ask a question on the Annual Report and thanked officers for their hard work in developing the report and the young people from Empire and others who had attended CPP meetings for their important contributions. Councillor Gatland noted that one the areas of improvement within the Ofsted report had been corporate parenting and highlighted that at the last meeting of CPP, officers had raised concerns that services for vulnerable young people would be impacted by staffing cuts and queried whether staffing levels would be cut or whether caseloads would be increased.
Councillor Flemming responded, that whilst she had focussed on the Empire children she also recognised the fantastic work of others who had been involved in the CPP. Councillor Flemming noted Councillor Gatland attended the meetings also and would be aware that discussions had been held with CPP in relation to social worker retention. Councillor Flemming stated the council were keeping a close eye on staffing levels and had reconfigured adolescent services to ensure sufficient resourcing was available. It was reflected that before the Improvement journey 70% of social workers had been agency staff and since then the council had been able to reduce that number significantly.
Councillor Flemming further informed Members that there was an upcoming staff webinar and there would be a Children’s Race and Equality Review Board meeting taking place which would ensure the voices of staff were being heard. The Cabinet Member committed to continue to champion and ... view the full minutes text for item 142/20
Council Debate Motions
To debate any motions submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rules.
Following the agreement of the Group Whips, Madam Mayor advised there were no Council Debate Motions at this meeting.
To consider the recommendations made by Cabinet since the last ordinary Council meeting relating to the following matters:
i. Developing Croydon’s new Community Safety Strategy;
ii. The Croydon Renewal Improvement Plan and the Croydon Renewal Improvement Board;
iii. The Croydon Renewal Financial Recovery Plan and Submission to MHCLG for the Capitalisation Direction; and
iv. Strategic Review of Companies and other investment arrangements – Brick by Brick Croydon Ltd (“BBB”) Shareholder decision – Directors and articles of association
Madam Mayor informed Council that she had received a request for all of the recommendations contained within the report be referred for debate. Following consultation with both Groups it had been agreed that the three sets of recommendations would be considered individually with three speakers from each Group speaking for up to three minutes each.
The Croydon Renewal Improvement Plan and the Croydon Renewal Improvement Board
The Croydon Renewal Financial Recovery Plan and Submission to MHCLG for the Capitalisation Direction
In moving the recommendations contained in the report, Councillor King noted that the report were perhaps the most important to be presented to Council in recent years. There was considerable detail in report in relation to organisational, financial and managerial challenges faced by the council and it categorises the actions and inactions which had contributed to the weakened financial position.
Councillor King stated the report recommended the development of a Croydon Renewal Plan and the establishment of an independent chaired Improvement Board. It was noted that all of the improvement proposals were framed around different areas of work and would include new priorities, ways of work, improved governance, management and leadership practice. Service improvements were planned to better manage demand and costs.
Council were informed by Councillor King that a review of the Member and officer Code of Conduct was planned. This would fully embed the Nolan principles in all of the council’s work. It was recognised that the financial gap for the following year remained significant with over £30million of savings identified and more required in addition to a successful submission to MHCLG for a capitalisation direction.
Councillor King concluded that the scale and nature of the challenge was unprecedented but that he was confident that with the new Leader and Interim Chief Executive leading the way in delivering the plan that Croydon would be efficient, effective and financially stable going forward.
Councillor Young seconded the recommendations and reserved his right to speak.
Councillor Jason Cummings noted that the use of the word ‘renewal’ meant that something had fallen into disrepair or had failed and that this word represented the current state of Croydon. It was stated that the Plan set for departmental budgets to increase by £105 million to offset budgets which had previously been under forecast; as such there would be no additional services but a promise of an accurate budget only.
Councillor Cummings stated that when the savings of £41 million were applied there remained a budget gap of £64 million which had to be breached by savings; which it was stated, would be felt by residents as cuts.
It was stated by Councillor Cummings that his response was not in relation to the content as he recognised that a number of officers had put in a large amount of work into developing the Plan but rather his concerns were in relation to the delivery. Councillor Cummings noted that the Leader and Deputy Leader had been members of the Cabinet which had overseen the issues. ... view the full minutes text for item 144/20
Exclusion of the Press and Public
The following motion is to be moved and seconded where it is proposed to exclude the press and public from the remainder of a meeting:
“That, under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act, 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information falling within those paragraphs indicated in Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended.”
This item was not required.