a) Public Questions (30 minutes)
To receive questions from the public gallery and submitted questions by residents in advance of the meeting.
b) Leader and Cabinet Questions (105 minutes)
To receive questions from Councillors.
The Mayor began the item with questions from the public.
Norman Young asked what awards Brick by Brick had won. Councillor Butler responded with the list of awards that the company had won as well as other awards that the company had been shortlisted and highly commended for.
Norman Young asked a supplementary regarding the awards being won before building had taken place. Councillor Butler responded that the awards recognised the design work prior to building the properties.
Tony Pearson asked how events marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice would be funded. Councillor Godfrey responded that the Council would work with its partners to deliver on the events.
Joseph Lee asked for an update on the Blackhorse Lane repair works. Councillor King responded that phase one of the works had been completed and the detailed design work was well under way with a target of beginning enabling works in June 2018.
Joseph Lee asked a supplementary on minimising disruption during the school holidays. Councillor King responded that officers were working with TfL to consult with schools in the area to ensure the limited time the bridge would be closed would avoid school opening times.
Sharon Swaby asked whether drainage issues in Shrublands had been addressed. Councillor King responded that officers were not aware of the issue but would look into it as soon as possible.
Leslie Curtis asked what the criteria was for refusal of planning applications, due to concerns of developers targeting the Riddlesdown area. Councillor Butler stated that the criteria was stated in the national policy framework, the London plan, and the Croydon Local Plan. The number of objections to an application was not a valid criteria for refusal. The Council had to strike a balance between the objections of residents and the housing needs of residents.
Leslie Curtis asked a supplementary question regarding suggestions that developers were being guaranteed planning permission. Councillor Butler responded that the planning documents containing the criteria were publicly available which allowed individuals to identify what were grounds of refusal.
Ola Kolade asked what was being done to improve the children’s services since the Ofsted inspection. Councillor Flemming responded that an improvement board had been set up to hold the Council to account for improvements and that a significant amount of funding had been allocated for frontline improvements in the current budget and the 2018/19 budget. Peer support was also being received from Camden Council.
Tony Campbell asked a question regarding the protection of public parks and open spaces in the Local Plan. Councillor Butler responded that no protections had been lost as the 31 open spaces were protected both by the Local Plan and the national policy framework. A robust defence of the green spaces was submitted to the inspector however the inspector did not agree with the proposals.
The Mayor then moved to Councillor questions to the Leader.
Councillor Tim Pollard asked whether the Leader would put an emergency halt on Brick by Brick developments to consult with residents. The Leader responded that the administration had committed to building homes in the borough and that tough decisions had to be made to tackle the housing crisis and ensure young people were provided with housing opportunities.
Councillor Prince asked whether the Leader would join her in congratulating the staff, local businesses and emergency services who supported Waddon residents during the gas leak evacuation. The Leader responded that he was moved by the efforts of the different groups to support the relief on the Sunday night, and those people would be properly recognised by the Council in due course.
Councillor Chatterjee asked whether the Leader would apologise for a number of policies the administration had undertaken such as 20mph speed limits and intensification of local areas for housing. The Leader responded that he was proud of policies such as 20mph speed limits and air quality initiatives, which were saving lives and promoting the health of Croydon residents.
The Mayor then moved the item to Councillor questions to the first pool of Cabinet Members.
Councillor Butler announced that the 31 local green spaces referred to in previous public questions were protected under planning regulations.
Councillor Ali announced that a number of local community projects had won community seed funding from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) to support projects tackling knife crime in the borough. Cabinet Members had also recently met with the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime to discuss preventive and public health initiatives in dealing with knife crime in Croydon.
Councillor Shahul-Hameed announced the recent launch of Croydon Means Business, which would host 120 events throughout the borough in 2018. It was also announced that the Council would be sponsoring two awards in the Croydon Business Awards event.
Councillor Hale read out a question from a resident regarding the replacement of family homes into blocks of flats. Councillor Butler responded that intensification in some areas of the borough was required to meet the demands for homes in the borough, and targets set by central government. The Council had a duty to grant planning permission where none of the planning regulations were being contravened.
Councillor Hale asked a supplementary question around developments that had stalled such as the former Taberner House site, Royal Mail sorting office and Nestle tower. Councillor Butler responded that the delay to Taberner House was due to the deal made by the previous administration that, it was claimed, was a poor deal for residents with limited affordable housing and significant encroachment onto the neighbouring Queen’s Gardens. A better deal had been agreed and development on the site was now moving forward. The other mentioned sites were privately owned and the Council was doing what it could to encourage development but lacked powers from central government to speed up development. Impositions from central government made it difficult to build council housing whilst keeping the current stock in a good and safe condition, such as installation of sprinklers in council tower blocks, which the government were refusing to help fund.
Councillor Canning asked for more information on the Croydon Means Business initiative. Councillor Shahul-Hameed responded that it was an initiative proposed out of the Small Business Commission findings. It fostered links between local businesses and colleges to grow young local talent and promote opportunities in the borough such as apprenticeships.
Councillor Canning asked a supplementary question regarding how the initiative could encourage businesses to sign up to the Good Employers charter. Councillor Shahul-Hameed responded that the charter was embedded in the principles of Croydon Means Business and a number of initiatives were taking place to promote the values of the charter with local businesses.
Councillor Helen Pollard asked a question on behalf of a resident regarding development work on a green space at the end of Eldridge Road. Councillor Butler responded that the space in question had been considered carefully for development and was not used for recreation and was formerly a designated site for housing.
Councillor Helen Pollard asked a supplementary question regarding the aspects of the site such as benches and two trees. Councillor Butler responded that the Ward Councillors for the area had not referred the development application for the area when it had been publicised.
Councillor Lewis asked if the Cabinet Member would welcome the launch of the Building Futures academy in New Addington. Councillor
Shahul-Hameed responded that she very much welcomed it and provided details on the many opportunities it would provide local students with training and qualifications.
Councillor Lewis asked a supplementary question on how this scheme supported getting Croydon’s young people into work. Councillor Shahul-Hameed responded that it was important work that supported businesses and promoted important initiatives for young people such as apprenticeships.
Councillor Bennett asked a question from a resident who had claimed the Council had written to a landowner inviting him to build a large number of flats on his land in Shirely Oaks. Councillor Butler responded that she was not aware of the situation and invited the Councillor to provide the information so that an answer could be proffered.
The Mayor then moved to the second pool of Cabinet Members.
Councillor Collins announced that free bulky waste collection would be rolled out in the borough from April 2018.
Councillor King announced that the Council had pledged to stop using energy generated from fossil fuels by 2050. The Council had joined an alliance of public and private sector organisations committing to sourcing energy from renewable sources.
Councillor Jason Cummings asked what improvements in the People budget had been made since the launch of the monitoring board for the department’s budget. Councillor Hall responded that given the pressures to the department there was successful progress being made on managing the budget.
Councillor Jason Cummings asked a supplementary question as to whether the £33m overspend in the department was acceptable. Councillor Hall responded that the service was dealing with significant funding cuts from central government and rise in demand for the service and the administration would not cut services to the most vulnerable residents.
Councillor Patsy Cummings read out a message from a resident who had thanked the Council for the Council Tax relief for care leavers and asked how this relief was being funded. Councillor Hall responded that the administration had committed to supporting carers and care leavers and had encouraged supported housing for foster children.
Councillor Mohan asked what the Cabinet Member would spend an additional £7m on. Councillor Hall responded that extra funding that had been negotiated was put into front line services.
Councillor Mohan asked a supplementary question regarding alleged business rates lost to the value of £7m due to delays in regeneration projects. Councillor Hall responded that a number of the projects were private sector and the Council was doing everything it could to support the delivery of those schemes. However it was noted that each scheme would be ensured that it delivered the best deal for Croydon residents.
Councillor Pelling asked a question on compensation for missed bin collections. Councillor Collins responded that he had looked at what different offers were being considered by neighbouring boroughs. The Council had been much tougher with the contractor over missed bin collections through measures such as penalty fines. A compensation scheme would be hugely expensive.
Councillor Hollands asked a question on high rates of fly tipping and reduced rates of recycling in the borough. Councillor Collins responded that recycling rates had been falling since 2012 and it was a national trend. The council was working to educate residents on it and with a particular focus on schools and educating young people. The current South London Waste Partnership contract had limited the ability of the Council to make the changes required, however improvements had been made such as reconfiguring recycling centres and there were proposals to increase the recycling bins for home recycling.
Councillor Hollands asked a supplementary question regarding reporting of recycling. Councillor Collins responded that the Council had campaigned to encourage residents to report fly tipping which has led to increased rates of reporting and thus allows for quicker clearances due to better response times. In addition education campaigns were taking place on fly tipping.
Councillor Mann asked a question on proposals to introduce 24/7 surveillance vehicles to combat fly tipping. Councillor Collins responded that it would be an expensive scheme and that covert surveillance being undertaken by the Council was far more effective at catching fly tippers.
Councillor Mann asked a supplementary on the increase in green waste collections. Councillor Collins responded that through requests from residents the green waste collection would be year round service and would include Christmas tree collections after Easter.
Councillor Bains asked a question on the reduced rates of recycling in the borough. Councillor Collins responded that this was a national issue that required a national campaign. However local initiatives were taking place such as education campaigns and street champions, who had worked hard on improving recycling rates and it was noted that Croydon was above the London average for recycling rates.
Councillor Newman proposed, and Councillor Tim Pollard seconded, a procedural motion to move to the next item of business to ensure discussion was held for the remainder of the agenda.
The motion was put to the vote and carried unanimously.
Councillor Godfrey announced that funding had been secured from the Mayor of London for the establishment of a creative enterprise zone in the borough. In addition, Cabinet had recently approved the establishment of a collections trust to ensure the borough’s collections of artwork was protected.
Councillor Flemming announced that 86% of primary school students moving to secondary school got one of their top three choices. The recently established single point of contact for children’s services was explained in detail and the Cabinet Member congratulated the successful candidates for Youth Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
Councillor Woodley announced the successful Health Extravaganza that had taken place in the Whitgift Centre and noted that a national medical journal had published an article on the success of the One Croydon Alliance and the achievements it had made in reducing hospital intake.