Agenda item

Croydon Question Time

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.


The Mayor explained that Croydon Question Time would commence with thirty minutes of public questions to the Leader and Cabinet Members with preference being given to those who had questions who were in attendance at the meeting.


Croydon resident, Mr Bernard Mickelburgh asked the Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and Regeneration (Job Share) about the ambiguity of the parking signage at the Surrey Street Pedestrian Zone.  Councillor King responded that he would be brief given that he had previously answered the same question at a recent Council meeting. It was stressed that the signage was correct, legal and this had been checked a number of times with officers.


In his supplementary question, Mr Mickelburgh asked why 22,000 Penalty Charge Notices had therefore been issued for this area. In response, the Cabinet Member noted that the use of Automated Number Plate Recognition technology to enforce the parking policy and restrictions had enabled enforcement to be more effective. It was also noted that changes to the parking restrictions in the area had been introduced to prevent parking by those using night clubs in the area affecting market traders from setting up in the early morning. It was also explained that adjudications had found in favour of the Council almost 80% of the time.


Mr Peter Underwood asked the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources by when the Croydon Pension fund would achieve its objective of completely divesting of its investments linked to carbon. In response, Councillor Hall promised to provide precise details outside of the meeting but noted that a clear commitment had been made. It was noted that the Pension Committee was working with the London CIV, the pool through which investments had to be made, to identify suitable products whilst also providing the returns to which pensioners were entitled.


In his supplementary question, Mr Underwood stated that the Council would be judged by its deeds and not words. He suggest that no real progress had been made in achieving the object of carbon divestment. In response, Councillor Hall emphasised that the instruction had been given to divest and that this was clearly stated in the investment strategy. However, given the size of the Pension Fund (£1.2billion) this would take some time to implement. The Cabinet Member stated that he would be happy to provide regular updates on achieving this objective at every full Council meeting.


Croydon resident, Mr Kosta Dexiades asked the Cabinet Member for Clean Green Croydon by when fly tipping was going to be cleared in the borough. He highlighted the issue of rubbish being dumped by the borough’s trees and called for prosecutions to be used. In response, Councillor Collins noted that he had previously met with Mr Dexiades to discuss fly tipping in Ampere Way. It was described how an enforcement exercise had recently been conducted in that area leading to a Penalty Charge Notice being issued. The Cabinet Member stressed that whilst previously there had been no prosecutions for littering there had recently been 232 prosecutions with two people in prison as a result.  Councillor Collins called on the Government to undertake a nationwide campaign against fly tipping equivalent to that which had change attitudes to drink driving.


In his supplementary question, Mr Dexiade called for there to be more enforcement officers and CCTV used to address fly tipping. Councillor Collins explained that there were 30 enforcement posts with 26 of these filled. It was indicated that work was ongoing to potentially increase this number and an explanation provided that the visibility of enforcement officers was poor as much of their work was covert and happened at night necessitating extra shifts. The Cabinet Member agreed with the need to encourage greater use of the Factory Lane Reuse and Recycling Centre.


Croydon resident, Mr Michael Taylor asked the Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport about tree roots lifting memorial stones at the Greenlawns Cemetery and what would be done to address this before more damage was done. Councillor Lewis expressed regret for the upset caused. It was explained that the tree causing the issue had been in situ for many years and that this was the first complaint received of this nature. The Cabinet Member acknowledged that plaques had been disturbed. It was explained that the level of disturbance being caused would be investigated and rectified over the summer but that it wasn’t the policy to remove healthy trees and that given its maturity the tree shouldn’t cause more disruption. The situation would be kept under review.


Croydon Resident, Ms Suzy Stoyel asked the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources about the awarding of Croydon’s accessible transport contract to a new provider putting the future of 65 local charities at risk. In response, Councillor Hall emphasised that the awarding of the contract had been subject to all the required public procurement rules. This had been reviewed and found to be in line with all requirements following queries raised by those that had been unsuccessful in bidding for the contract. The Cabinet Member acknowledged the service provided by Croydon Accessible Transport (CAT) and encouraged it to bid for funding from the Croydon Community Fund. Councillor Hall described additional efforts that were being made to offer support through meetings being held with CAT.


In her supplementary question, Ms Stoyel described how she worked with a local charity and had been concerned by reports of what had occurred with the accessible transport contract. Councillor Hall stressed the Council’s commitment to the sector and that it would continue to work with CAT.


Croydon resident, Duncan McKane asked the Leader if, in the light of the declaration of a climate emergency, the Council would withdraw its support for the Gatwick expansion. In response, Councillor Newman acknowledged that this was a valid point and agreed that there was a need to fly less. The commitment was made to look very closely at this policy going forward and added that there was a need to also consider the investment in local jobs that would result from any expansion. The Leader highlighted the aspiration to make Croydon and Gatwick a centre for the green economy.


In his supplementary question, Mr McKane asked if the Council would be challenging the Government’s 2030 emissions target for this to be achieved sooner. The Leader described how this was being considered by London Councils with the 2030 target being deemed realistic and potentially possible by 2025. It was explained that there was a desire to ensure targets were not set that are immediately unachievable. The 2030 target was determined based on best advice but acknowledged accelerating policy positions would be key.


Croydon resident, Mr Rob Elliot asked the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Learning if she would do everything possible to teach children and young people in Croydon to be proud of who they are and accepting of difference. In response, Councillor Alisa Flemming noted that children were the future and should be encouraged to show tolerance and love which was already part of the Personal, Social, Health and Economics curriculum. The Cabinet Member highlighted Croydon had recently successfully hosted both the Pride and Mela events which gave a clear indication of the culture of the borough.


In his supplementary question, Mr Elliot asked what the Council would do to prevent demonstrations outside of schools. The Cabinet Member explained that she was unable to speak to individual cases. However, it was stressed that for the Borough of Croydon, across both sides of the Council Chamber, there was a commitment to tolerance and diversity. Once it was possible to look at the Government’s programme in more detail, the Cabinet Member would be able to provide a more in-depth response.


The thirty minute time allocation for public questions having concluded, the Mayor notified those who had submitted a question via email that they would receive a response within three weeks and that these would also be published on the Council’s website.


At this point in the proceedings of the meeting, the Leader, Councillor Newman, requested to move a procedural motion to vary the order of business. This was to bring forward in the following order: item 14 (4), Climate Change Recommendations to Council and a deferral debate on those recommendations; item 13, the Council Debate Motions; and item 10, Annual Reports, before returning to the business as stated. The procedural motion was seconded by Councillor Butler.


Speaking on behalf of the Opposition Group, Councillor Redfern informed Council that it was her impression that the Majority Group Chief Whip had agreed to vary the order of business to also bring forward for debate item 14 (1), Recommendation to Council on the adoption of the Croydon Libraries Plan alongside the Climate Change Recommendations.


The Leader’s motion was put to the vote and carried.


Councillor Redfern’s requested procedural motion was seconded by Councillor Tim Pollard. The motion was put to the vote and fell.


The business of the meeting was reordered in accordance with the agreed procedural motion. However, the business of the meeting is reported in these minutes in accordance with the order as published in the original agenda.


Questions to the Leader


The Mayor invited the Leader, Councillor Newman to make his announcements. The opportunity was taken to thank all the staff who worked so hard to plan and deliver the recent Pride and Mela events. Over 22,000 people had attended the events which were a peaceful celebration of diversity.


Councillor Tim Pollard asked the Leader to provide clarification on the Council’s performance in response to Freedom of Information requests given that Croydon had been reported as one of the worst performing authorities with only two thirds of requests being fulfilled on time. This was compared to other authorities which were achieving the targets on more than 90% of occasions.


In response, the Leader highlighted the comparison with what happened under the last Conservative Administration. It was noted that there had been no cameras allowed in Council meetings with decisions being made in secret. The Leader stressed that the focus was on openness and transparency with Freedom of Information requests being responded to when received.


In his supplementary question, Councillor Pollard asked who had approved the increase in the costs for the Fairfield Halls development. In response, the Leader described how the new Fairfield Halls would provide a cultural venue for the next 50 years with regular briefings being provided on the project. Decisions on the project were taken at an appropriate level and it was not for Councillors to sign-off every decision. The Leader stated that he would not apologise for the funding being provided for the development of a leading cultural venue.


Councillor Pelling asked about the Opposition’s focus on no development outside of brownfield sites and how this aligned with the Secretary of State for Housing’s stated objective of wanting an easier process of planning approvals and an increase in housing.


The Leader stated that the Opposition had no ideas or policies to address housing need in the borough.


In his supplementary question, Councillor Pelling asked if it was wrong for the Opposition to mislead local people by telling them one story about planning which was different from national policy. The Leader described how residents were having their anxiety exaggerated and driven up through fear. This was illustrated with the example of the claims being made about closures to Croydon’s libraries all of which were to remain open.


Councillor Hopley asked about the quality of care in Croydon’s care homes.


The Leader responded by stating the Council was addressing issues in care homes. That many of these issues were the result of outsourcing and that these were now being returned to Council ownership.


In her supplementary question, Councillor Hopley stated she had been telephoned by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which had been desperate to get hold of officers and Councillors. However, not being able to do so, she had been called instead. Councillor Hopley emphasised that responsibility for care home buildings was with the Council and it had, in the words of the CQC, failed to address issues such as the lack of hot water, bed bugs and overgrown gardens. Councillor Hopley asked if this represented a complete failure in care homes.


In response, the Leader said that he would be taking this up with the Chief Executive of the CQC and questioned the appropriateness of this having been addressed in a private conversation with a Councillor rather than officers. Councillor Newman looked forward to receiving the details.


The Mayor announced the start of Councillor questions to Councillors Butler, Hamida Ali and Shahul-Hameed and invited them to make their announcements.


Councillor Butler, the Cabinet Member for Homes and Gateway Services, took the opportunity during her announcements to highlight the MJ Achievement Award received by Gateway Staff. This was won based on the better outcomes Gateway staff were achieving for residents who have been affected by the worst of austerity and Government cuts. The Cabinet Member stressed the work of the Gateway team which went above and beyond.


Councillor Hamida Ali, the Cabinet Member for Safer Croydon and Communities, with great sadness, referred to the three  murders that had recently occurred in the borough; Kye Manning in addition to Kelly Mary Fauvrelle and her baby Riley, born by caesarean who died four days later. The Cabinet Member led the Members of Council in paying deepest respects to the families in mourning. It was explained that a Gold Group meeting had been held with families to share all details possible with a further meeting planned to discuss the community impact. The Council had offered any and all resources possible. Patrols by Neighbourhood Safety Officers had been increased. The Cabinet Member welcomed future prosecutions in both cases.


Councillor Shahul-Hameed, the Cabinet Member for Economy and Jobs, took the opportunity of her announcements to highlight the Best All-Round Small Business Friendly Borough award won by the Council, supported by the London region of the Federation of Small Businesses and London Councils. She gave her congratulations to all the staff involved and thanks to those working in partnership with the Council. The Cabinet Member also spoke about the employment fair held in the borough that brought together a range of employers from a variety of sectors including health, social care and retail. A further economic summit was to be held on 24 September 2019 with Councillors encouraged to put this in their diaries.


Councillor Hale gave her congratulations to the Gateway staff who she described as a passionate and hugely committed team. The Councillor asked what was considered more important - green spaces or housing.


Councillor Butler emphasised that the borough needs housing growth for which a balanced approach was needed. The Cabinet Member described how the borough was lucky to have 127 parks and open spaces. However, the need for green spaces couldn’t always be a barrier to building because housing was so important. It was stressed that there were 2,000 people in Temporary Accommodation in Croydon including hundreds of children who slept in emergency housing. These were children who did not want to stay where they were living and desperately wanted somewhere they could call home.  Again the need for balance was stressed and it was described how many areas of Croydon were once something different but over time these had to change with more areas being developed. The Cabinet Member described how she felt passionately on this issue and that it was not possible to simply say to children that it wasn’t possible to do anything about their housing needs. Councillor Butler expressed her willingness to visit Monks Hill to view the area with the Councillor.


In her supplementary question, Councillor Hale highlighted how the policy on intensification had a critical role in taking away trees and grass which played a role in the reduction of dust, pollution and particulates in the air and was linked to children having breathing difficulties. The Councillor asked who would be making the decisions to protect green spaces. In her response, Councillor Butler stressed it was important that building works were correctly undertaken to lessen the effect on air quality but that it was also necessary to look at the effect of vehicles on air quality. The Cabinet Member stressed how campaigns against low cost housing can be a campaign against those living on benefits based on the assumption of how demographic changes will mean local areas won’t be the same. It was shared that Councillor O’Connell had supported a campaign framed in these terms.


Councillor Flynn expressed her support for Brick By Brick’s schemes and affordable housing.  The Councillor asked for clarification on the methods used to consult the local community and gain its input to the final schemes for development.


Councillor Butler described the focus on being open and transparent with lists of proposed sites being published before moving forward. These sites were being surveyed to assess their suitability. They were in all different parts of the borough reflecting that there is demand for housing right across Croydon. A letter had gone out to residents explaining this and that an initial analysis would be undertaken to determine suitability for new homes to be developed. Some sites had already been determined not to be suitable. Those coming through the surveying process would result in resident engagement to discuss the design of the resulting development.  The Cabinet Member stressed that it was the commitment of Brick by Brick that any resulting properties put up for sale would be offered first to local residents with any resulting profits used for affordable housing. Properties that were to be made available through shared ownership and affordable rent schemes would go to those in housing need in Croydon.


Councillor Chatterjee asked if the Brick By Brick model was unsustainable and failing at every level.


Councillor Butler disagreed and stated that Brick By Brick was delivering Council built homes right across the borough. Those for sale would generate income to be used to support the development of shared ownership and affordable rent homes. The Cabinet Member stressed how the Government had ceased funding house building whilst the Right to Buy policy had taken other homes out of Council stock. Brick by Brick was delivering homes for Croydon residents.


In his supplementary question, Councillor Chatterjee stated Brick by Brick was struggling to find buyers for its developments, that there was slippage in its delivery dates and therefore it should be subject to a thorough review. In response, Councillor Butler stated that the Opposition was opposed to any new development with objections raised whomever brings forward developments. The Cabinet Member described how she had empathy for those who want the world to stay as it but that Croydon was a London borough that was continually changing with growing demand for homes. It was reiterated that Brick by Brick remained sustainable and was delivering homes in the borough.


Councillor Degrads raised the issue of knife crime in the borough, acknowledging the Public Health approach being taken to tackle the issue and asked what were the next steps to be taken.


Councillor Hamida Ali acknowledged that the Public Health approach to knife crime had been a manifesto pledge but that this needed to be properly funded by the Government. The comments by the Mayor of London that addressing knife crime should be made a national priority were referenced. The Council had established a Violence Reduction Unit with the next steps to talk to colleagues across the Council. The Cabinet Member stressed the importance of the Violence Reduction Network and how this was helping to change the approach right across the Council.  It was acknowledged that the Public Health approach was long term, about creating volume and that it would take some time to interrupt and change behaviours. It was described that cultural change was beginning to happen and that the trauma of incidents was leading to a social care response happening earlier.


Councillor Creatura asked if it was believed that crime in London was getting better or worse.


Councillor Hamida Ali explained that a reduction was starting to be seen.  But that this was against a backdrop of youth crime being much higher in Croydon than in the rest of London. This meant drops in Croydon appeared bigger than elsewhere in the rest of London.


In his supplementary question, Councillor Creatura stated crime was getting significantly worse in Croydon; there had been increases in knife crime and gun crime. In response, Councillor Hamida Ali called on the Opposition to be clearer; that when Boris Johnson had been Mayor of London, he had signalled his complacency of crime by cutting youth services and funding for London’s police leading to a reduction by 20,000 in police numbers. The Cabinet Member shared that the Director of Public Health had highlighted the importance of the early years in terms of changing behaviours and called on the reduction in crime to be a key national policy area.


Councillor Canning described how small to medium sized business were vital and asked what steps were being taken for their promotion?


Councillor Shahul-Hameed described how there were 15,000 small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) in the borough and that efforts to support them demonstrated how Croydon meant business. The Cabinet Member highlighted how hundreds of SMEs were being supported by the Council, resulting in employment for thousands of residents. Support for SMEs included business rate relief, an increased emphasis on local commissioning and the delivery of business networking events.


Following the reordering of business, at this point the meeting reached the time specified in the Constitution for its conclusion (10pm). The Leader proposed a procedural motion for the suspension of standing orders for the meeting to continue for not more than 20 minutes to enable outstanding announcements to be made by Cabinet Members as part of agenda item 7b, Leader and Cabinet Member Questions prior to the ‘Guillotine Procedure’ taking effect. The motion was seconded by Councillor Butler, put to the vote and agreed.


Councillor Collins, the Cabinet Member for Clean Green Croydon, took the opportunity to share that as a result of the South London Waste Partnership, 12,000 tonnes of residual waste had been avoided with the rate of recycling now hitting 47%. The Cabinet Member shared that the Council had won a Keep Britain Tidy Award. It was also highlighted that the Cabinet Member had been in touch with the Secretary of State for the Environment to request a nationwide campaign to address the issue of fly tipping.


Councillor Scott, the Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and Regeneration (Job Share), gave his congratulations to the Council’s Planning Department that had won two prestigious national Planning Awards: Croydon’s spatial planning team was recognised for the suburban design guide’s supplementary planning design document known as SPD2 and the Planning Permission of the Year award went to Croydon’s development management team’s role in approving 101 George Street, which would be Europe’s tallest modular, prefabricated building.


The Cabinet Member also revealed, in advance of publication, that as part of the work of the Governance Review Panel, the independent adviser from the Planning Advisory Service had advised that area planning committees would have to reflect the political balance of the Council. Councillor Scott also anticipated further training being provided for Members of Planning.


Councillor Hall, the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, gave his thanks to Officers including those in the Democratic Services team which the Cabinet Member stated had unfairly been subject to criticism during the Council meeting. The Cabinet Member announced that all the Council’s apprentices would receive the London Living Wage, exceeding the  requirements of the London Living Wage Foundation. It was also described how the London Living Wage was being extended to more Council employees as a result of insourcing services, making Croydon a London Living Wage exemplar borough.  The Cabinet Member also described how capital spend was being used to acquire hundreds of new Council owned homes. Whilst not sitting in the revenue account they did provide additional affordable homes in the borough.


Councillor Lewis, the Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, started his announcements by associating himself with the previous comments made about the Pride and Mela events. These were noted for their celebration of diversity and how well these had gone. The Cabinet Member also took the opportunity to congratulate the organisers and participants in the London Youth Games which saw Croydon placed tenth overall.  Disappointment was expressed that the Council meeting didn’t get the opportunity to discuss the issue of Libraries but the Cabinet Member noted this would be addressed by scrutiny providing the opportunity for a full debate.  The Cabinet Member took the opportunity to congratulate the England Women’s Cricket Team; pride was expressed in the team’s achievement and it was noted that this success demonstrated diversity at its best which it was hoped would inspire young people.


Councillor Flemming, the Cabinet Member for Young People and Learning, explained how the Children in Care Council was now called EMPIRE, as chosen by those in care. It was described how, through this body, children in care were shaping and influencing corporate parenting at every level. It was highlighted that the Children and Young People’s Pledge was being reviewed and would be sent to all Members of Council to seek their signature and commit to the pledge. The Cabinet Member shared how a full programme of events for children and young people would be offered during the summer. It was announced that the Legacy Youth Zone would have its official launch in September 2019 with a number of soft launches beforehand. Members were invited to participate. Finally, the Cabinet Member noted that the Local Government Association had chosen the Choose Your Future campaign to highlight as a good practice case study.


Councillor Avis, the Cabinet Member for Families, Health and Social Care, congratulated the schools that had participated in the market place event held in July 2019; the Council was leading the way in this form of school engagement. The Cabinet Member touched on the fight against obesity and how she would be working with Councillors Campbell and Flemming to tackle this issue. The Cabinet Member also noted her pride in supporting the Health and Wellbeing Board Strategy and Care Plan.




Supporting documents: