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 introduced public questions and noted that due to a full agenda and limited time, it would not be possible to take supplementary questions from members of the public. Additionally, those questions submitted in writing by those not able to attend the meeting were to be provided with a written response within three weeks. Those responses were also to be published on the Council’s website.
Question: Croydon resident, Alan Poole asked a question about the standard of rubbish collections in Rylandes Road, Selsdon, providing the details of the service experienced. He highlighted that despite bins being placed for collection on the correct day it was variable whether or not the collection actually happened. He described how bins had been thrown on the road with rubbish spilt and bins broken. On one occasion, having challenged one of the collection crew, his rubbish was then not collected. Mr Poole went on to detail his experience of the complaints process and having sent 10 emails before receiving a response. The phone had been put down on him when he called the Council’s customer care team. He had then spoken to Councillor Helen Pollard, his ward councillor. He had canvassed his neighbours who had a similar experience of the waste collection service. Finally, it was noted that he still had not received a replacement bin.
In response, Councillor Collins, Cabinet Member for Clean, Green Croydon, apologised on behalf of Veolia, the waste contractor. The Councillor requested that further details be provided so that he could look further into the matter. He noted that most other complaints of missed collections had been resolved satisfactorily. He reported that incidents of more than one missed collection were being explored with the Waste Services Manager.
Leader and Cabinet Member questions
Madam Mayor introduced questions to the Leader of the Council and noted that this item has a time allocation of 15 minutes. She then proceeded to ask a number of Councillors to put their questions to the Leader. They were all invited to ask a supplementary question.
Councillor Tim Pollard noted that the London Borough of Bromley had its Children’s Services judged inadequate by Ofsted a year before the same had happened in Croydon. Bromley’s Children’s Services had been reinspected in November 2018 and had been judged to be good. The Leader was invited to congratulate Bromley on its achievement.
Councillor Newman accepted Councillor Tim Pollard’s invitation and confirmed he was always pleased to have the opportunity to congratulate officers for their successes. The Leader went on to congratulate Croydon’s own frontline Children’s Services workers and noted the positive indicators being achieved in delivering the Council’s improvement plan, while highlighting that Bromley’s improvement journey was 18 months ahead of the work being done in Croydon.
In a supplementary question, Councillor Tim Pollard noted his comparison made between what Bromley was achieving 18 months ago and the recent feedback provided by Ofsted to Croydon’s Children’s Services. He highlighted the feedback received by Bromley at the same point had been less negative and more positive about the progress being made.
Councillor Newman responded that the Opposition had previously been responsible for Croydon’s Children’s Services and that his Administration had inherited a lot of issues with the service of which the Opposition would have been aware. He also noted the new inspection regime and that despite Government cuts to local government spending, there had still been a lot of additional investment made into the service which was being turned around.
The Leader noted that he had already apologised in the Council Chamber for it having taken a year longer than it should have done to have realised the extent of the issues inherited in Children’s Services.
Councillor Audsley noted the pressures under which local services are operating and asked the Leader how he was working with the Mayor of London to alleviate these issues.
Councillor Newman responded by highlighting the importance of the partnership with City Hall with the priority being to ensure Croydon benefited from sustainable growth and investment. Examples given included the London Living Wage, improvements to transport infrastructure and air quality. The Leader acknowledged that whilst there was a lot happening there was still a long way to go. He highlighted his desire for the Clear Air Zone to be extended and the further electrification of buses. The Leader shared that he wants Croydon to thrive by being a place where people wanted to work and spend their leisure time. He highlighted that this was dependent on working in partnership with other boroughs and City Hall.
In response to Councillor Audsley’s supplementary question, Councillor Newman highlighted the pressures caused by the uncertainty of Brexit. It was noted that the Council was working closely with businesses at this time and called for a General Election. The Leader noted the potential offered by the devolution agenda for locally determined budgets and greater involvement by local people.
Councillor Perry asked the Leader to clarify his comments made last week at the scrutiny committee regarding the Westfield development not starting during this year.
Councillor Newman reported that he had held a positive and constructive meeting with the new owners of Westfield, Unibail-Rodamco. He noted that whilst there was uncertainty in the retail sector that there would always be retail centres that would thrive. He expressed his determination to make Croydon one of these retail successes. The Leader called on Conservative Councillors to get behind the town.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Perry stated Conservative Councillors were always behind Croydon and had in fact brought the Westfield development to Croydon which was being delayed by the current Administration despite it offering the potential of 7,000 plus jobs. Councillor Perry noted that Westfield was not mentioned once in the agenda for the Council meeting and that a private meeting in a private office was not a success.
In response, Councillor Newman highlighted that there had been lots of public meetings focused on the borough’s economic development including the recent summit at Boxpark. The Council’s work with the private sector was described as a true partnership and in contrast to the previous Conservative Administration’s free market approach.
Councillor Pasty Cummings asked how Croydon would continue to work innovatively with the community to mitigate the effects of current financial constraints.
In response, Councillor Newman gave his assurance that as had been the case since the start of his Administration in 2014, with relatively limited powers, all that was possible was being done be done to protect Croydon from the Government’s austerity programme and do so by working in partnership with voluntary and business sectors.
Cabinet Member questions
Madam Mayor invited Councillors Collins, Scott and Hall to make their announcements.
Councillor Collins, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Clean, Green Croydon, reported the successful prosecution of the individual responsible for flytipping over 10 tonnes of waste in Croydon. However, he noted his disappointment that this had resulted in community service rather than a custodial sentence. The Cabinet Member announced that he had approached Veolia, the Council’s private waste contractor, to be able to put in place clearing flytips as part of this community service. A letter had been written to the Probation Service making that offer and other boroughs were being encouraged to take the same approach.
Councillor Scott, Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and Regeneration, reported that a response had been provided to the Government’s latest consultation on permitted development rights objecting in the strongest terms. The Cabinet Member highlighted that the Council had been unable to refuse approval for two studios on Russell Road, Purley despite the overall footprint of these being smaller than the minimum recommended size for a bedroom. It was hoped this development would not go ahead and that the Government would scrap its support for such developments.
Councillor Mohan asked why the bin collections of numerous elderly and vulnerable residents with assisted collections had been missed?
In response, Councillor Collins highlighted that this was being discussed as part of South London Waste Partnership (SWLP) and noted his disappointment with the service being provided by Veolia. It was highlighted that this was causing the waste service team lots of work with a large number of missed assisted collections having been rectified. Such failures in the service were being discussed with Veolia. Additionally, the contractor was being held to account through the SLWP where similar issues were being experienced across all the boroughs in the partnership. Finally, the Cabinet Member confirmed that the requirements of the contract were being enforced.
Councillor Mohan thanked the Cabinet Member for his response and asked a supplementary question linking missed assisted collections to a failure of leadership. He highlighted his belief that data on assisted collections had not been successfully transferred to the new contractor. Given that those issues had persisted for longer than the initial 12 week period, the Cabinet Member was asked to clarify the level of fines that had been imposed on the contractor.
Councillor Collins clarified that it was not a matter of imposing fines but rather that payments were withheld. It was noted that the tolerance for the withholding of payments had also declined from 1 in 90,000 to 1 in 30,000 missed collections. The Cabinet Member reported that he had requested full performance statistics to be included on the SLWP agenda. Commitment was made to provide a detailed report to the Council on the level of payments withheld.
Councillor Canning asked for an update on what was being done to continue the fight against flytipping.
Councillor Collins reported how Croydon’s investment in covert surveillance was leading to successful prosecutions with 522 Fixed Penalty Notices, 49 Community Protection Notice Warning Letters and 11 prosecutions in the last six months. it was highlighted how the individual who had flytipped 10 tonnes of waste in the borough had been caught red handed. The Cabinet Member took the opportunity to highlight the hard work of enforcement officers.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Canning gave thanks to the Cabinet Member for his response and paid tribute to hard working officers. Councillor Canning requested that the 240 hours community service resulting from the recent prosecution for 10 tonnes of flytipping be carried out in Waddon Ward, where the offence had occurred. He also asked the Cabinet Member to clarify how the current level of prosecutions for littering and flytipping compared to that achieved by the previous Conservative Administration.
Councillor Collins responded that during the last eight years of the Conservative Administration, there had been no prosecutions for littering and/or flytipping despite the level of flytipping starting to significantly increase in 2012. He agreed that some of the community service should take place in the community that had been disrespected.
Councillor Jason Cummings noted that the Pension Fund property transfer proposal has been heavily debated in the Pension Committee. He asked if the proposal had been supported by the pensioner representatives on the Committee.
Councillor Hall, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, agreed the proposal had been heavily debated by the members of the Committee. He emphasised that the objective of the proposal was to secure assets for the pension fund and reduce the Council’s payments. Bromley Council was noted as having completed a similar transaction. It was emphasised that due to Local Government funding being cut by central Government, there was a need to innovate. It was noted that the proposal had been supported by experienced officers, (including the Section 151 Officer), the actuaries to the pension fund and legal advisers.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Jason Cummings stated that pensioner representatives on the Pension Committee did not support the property transfer proposal. Councillor Cummings emphasised that the motivation behind the proposal was the benefit to the Council’s revenue budget. This was understood by the pensioner representatives. It should not be the responsibility of the pension fund to be concerned about the Council’s revenue budget.
In response, Councillor Hall stated this was a misrepresentation. The proposal was innovative and would bring benefits to the pension fund and the Council’s revenue budget. It was highlighted that the liabilities on the pension fund had a long duration. The example of an 18/19 year old joining the fund was given and how this could result in a liability lasting for another 90 years. However, against this the assets held by the pension fund tended to be short term in duration and that therefore this proposal was about rebalancing the pension fund. It was also emphasised that the actuarial triennial review would determine the assets and liabilities of the fund on which basis adjustments would be made.
Councillor Mann requested that the Cabinet Member for Clean, Green Croydon attend a Crystal Palace Transition Town meeting to learn more about its objectives to become a zero waste area.
Councillor Collins agreed to this request, highlighting the need to focus on reducing, reusing and recycling resources. He noted that a paper would be presented to Cabinet in March 2019 addressing those issues through initiatives such as making water fountains available across the borough and working with traders to reduce plastic packaging. The Cabinet Member noted his desire to work with Crystal Palace and other district centres to trial a range of initiatives before they were rolled out across the whole borough.
In a supplementary question, Councillor Mann asked about the feasibility of using dog waste to power street lighting.
Councillor Collins reported this idea had been investigated and that it was not financially viable. Each bio digester unit would cost £5,000 and would require at least 100 bags of dog waste a day in order to generate sufficient energy. The Cabinet Member welcomed the suggestion and expressed his willingness to discuss this again should it become more a feasible option.
Councillor Oviri asked why recycling boxes had been removed from Godstone Road, Purley, highlighting that this was a steep road where is had been agreed wheeled bins were not suitable. Residents in the road had been left without any recycling facilities.
Councillor Collins acknowledged that he had been aware of this situation and had been in conversation with the contractor and waste service team. He reported that the bins had been taken away by mistake and should not have happened. This situation should have been rectified. The Cabinet Member had been in discussion with Veolia regarding the incident to determine if disciplinary action should have been taken against the responsible team. A promise was made to update Councillor Oviri on the outcome of those discussions outside of the meeting.
In her supplementary question, Councillor Oviri asked if it was the policy to reduce the quantity of waste collected in the borough by reducing access to recycling facilities.
In response, Councillor Collins disagreed that this was the policy; reducing access to recycling would simply increase the quantity of waste going to landfill. The Cabinet Member reiterated that there had been no instruction given to remove the recycling containers in Godstone Road. Rather this was simply a mistake by contractors. It was highlighted that since the new contract had come into place, there had been 3,000 tonnes less waste going into landfill.
Councillor Prince sought clarification regarding the management of construction traffic. She wished to know if whilst using holding places, construction traffic would be required to turn engines off.
Councillor King explained how these holding places were located outside of the immediate town centre area. Permits for use by construction traffic were only issued if the conditions of use were accepted. These include that engines must be turned off when in holding bays. Action can and would be taken if contractors were not compliant. The Cabinet Member offered to share the details of those conditions.
In her supplementary question Councillor Prince noted that she would welcome seeing the conditions and highlighted the benefits for air quality and the safety of others resulting from the use of holding places. Councillor Prince asked if a best practice approach by contractors had been encouraged through the procurement process and enquired about the use of the Construction Logistics and Community Safety (CLCS) standard.
Councillor King agreed with Councillor Prince. He noted that whilst HGVs accounted for 4% of all road mileage, those vehicles were responsible for 58% of cyclist fatalities. That made it really important to secure the agreement of contractors to best practice and for that to be in place right across the borough. All major developments required a construction and logistics plan with the Council using the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS). This was aligned to the CLCS standard but went beyond its requirement.
Councillor Buttinger highlighted that an elderly and frail resident in her ward, who had previously received assisted bin collections had found that these had stopped once the new waste service came into effect. It had taken eight weeks of emails, the Councillor’s involvement, a Stage 1 complaint and the threat of a solicitor’s letter to get this rectified. The Councillor sought to understand why this had taken so long.
In response, Councillor Collins stated that all the boroughs in the South London Waste Partnership (SLWP) had passed on the details of existing assisted collections to Veolia and were addressing with Veolia where these collections were not happening. The Cabinet Member noted that crews needed time to get used to their routes and where these included assisted collections. However, it was taking an unacceptable amount of time for this to happen. The importance of continuing to raise those issues direct with the contractor was emphasised.
Madam Mayor invited Councillors Lewis, Flemming and Avis to make their announcements.
Councillor Lewis, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, informed Council that Croydon had been named as one of the first Cultural Enterprise Zones by the Mayor of London in late 2018. This was supported by £500K of funding that would be doubled through the support that came associated with achieving the status. The Cabinet Member gave his thanks to the officers involved in writing the bid and securing the status.
Councillor Flemming, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Learning, informed the Members of Council that Rob Henderson and Nick Pendry had respectively started in the key posts of Executive Director of Children, Families and Education and Director of Early Help and Children’s Social Care. The Cabinet Member also highlighted that as part of the improvement plan, the Council had three managed teams of social workers. These had been reviewed and it had been established that Croydon had the lowest case load average in London (16). The commitment was made to continue to monitor these to ensure that they did not increase. Tribute was paid to David Butler, Director of Education, who had announced his departure from Croydon. Councillor Flemming gave her personal thanks to the Director and on behalf of parents and children. He was described as having been an asset to the Council which would be poorer without him.
Councillor Avis, Cabinet Member for Families, Health and Social Care, announced Croydon Dementia Action Alliance had awarded the Council its highest accolade of working towards Dementia Friendly status. Additionally, the One Croydon Alliance, integrating health and social care, had been recognised in the LGC Awards. The Shared Lives scheme (support for a young person or adult who needs support to live in or be regularly visited by a Shared Lives carer) was awarded outstanding by the Care Quality Commission. The Cabinet Member congratulated all the officers concerned.
Councillor Gatland took the opportunity to support the comments made about David Butler and to seek clarification from the Cabinet Member regarding the pace of improvement for Croydon’s Children’s Services compared to other boroughs.
In response, Councillor Flemming reiterated that there was no complacency with regard to the improvement of Croydon’s Children’s Services. The Cabinet Member emphasised that the safety of children in Croydon was of the greatest importance. With regard to ensuring the pace of the improvement journey, caseloads were under control enabling social workers to be on the frontline and ensure safeguarding. The relatively high number of children involved in Croydon compared to other boroughs was highlighted and the complexity of Children’s Services in Croydon emphasised. The care being given to Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children was specifically mentioned with the Councillor Flemming noting she was looking forward to meeting with the minister and would be raising issues regarding the lack of funding for those children.
In her supplementary question, Councillor Gatland highlighted the importance of leadership and culture and noted how those had both received positive comments in Ofsted’s four monitoring reports on Bromley as part of its improvement toward securing a good judgement. The strong commitment from elected members was specifically highlighted. Councillor Gatland acknowledged that progress was being made but questioned if there was still drift and delay and noted high vacancy rates.
Councillor Flemming responded that as she had already informed Council, key appointments had been made. They were crucial to delivering improvement. The importance of listening to staff feedback was emphasised and it was explained that this was being achieved through supervision. Vacancy rates were being monitored with the stability of the Children’s Services workforce a key workstream of the improvement plan. The Cabinet Member welcomed Councillor Gatland’s recognition of the progress made. In terms of the leadership for Children’s Services, Councillor Flemming emphasised that she would be staying in her role and that she was committed to young people and residents and was continuing to listen. The Cabinet Member reported on a recent Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) strategy meeting which had given her the opportunity to listen to parents and young people with SEND including some who had been in the care system. This form of consultation was influencing the care strategy. The high numbers who needed support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services was noted along with Councillors lobbying for funding to make this possible.
Councillor Pelling expressed his understanding that the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) would be asked to make a 20% funding cut leading to a further reorganisation.
Councillor Avis agreed that she shared Councillor Pelling’s concern. The rumoured 20% cut was thought likely to necessitate a further merger with boroughs that bore no resemblance to Croydon and its healthcare needs. The Cabinet Member noted that this was being discussed with the CCG and the Council’s concerns and unhappiness had been clearly expressed.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Pelling expressed his additional concern about a further £20m cut to the local NHS to be achieved through demand management or treatment denial. Remote services being delivered by American companies was an example of the privatisation of the NHS and private companies making decisions on who would and would not get treatment.
Councillor Avis responded in agreement and took the opportunity to express her belief in the NHS.
Councillor Parker invited Councillor Flemming to congratulate Croydon’s academies for how they were adding value especially for those with additional learning needs.
Councillor Flemming gave her agreement and noted that the new free school in New Addington was going to make a difference for many residents with additional school places being made available in the borough for young people. Its focus on autism and SEND would allow many more young people to be educated in the borough with associated benefits such as better friendship groups. The Cabinet Member highlighted the aim was for the school to work with Croydon College, to provide opportunities for employment supporting young people through into adulthood.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Parker asked if the Cabinet Member was going to lobby for the Labour Party to end its opposition to free schools.
In her response, Councillor Flemming emphasised that she passionately believes in local schools for local children whatever their needs and that a Labour Government would give back power to local authorities to deliver more school places without all the barriers to delivery that existed. The Cabinet Member emphasised that her focus was on the delivery of places rather than politics.
Councillor Fitzpatrick asked what new opportunities would be brought by the opening of the Cherry Hub.
In response, Councillor Avis clarified that the Cherry Hub was an all age all disability facility which she had recently visited with Councillor Fitzpatrick in his capacity as the Council’s Champion for autism. This was described as offering many opportunities for numerous organisations in Croydon. Its holistic approach meant it included a garden centre offering those with learning difficulties employment opportunities.
Councillor Hopley asked about Toldene and Freeman Courts, two care facilities in the direct control of the Council. Councillor Hopley reported that she had visited both facilities recently and had found residents in a dreadful position with no disabled bath facilities, no hot water and overrun gardens. Some residents were described as trapped in their own rooms.
Councillor Avis stated that a review of all care homes had been started last year and that the Council was in the process of taking the management of all homes back in house. Conditions at Freeman Court had been found not to be good. As a result, 150 heaters had been made available whilst the heating was fixed. Whilst facilities did break down, these were being addressed immediately and there was daily communication with residents.
In her supplementary question, Councillor Hopley stated this was not good enough and that this situation had been going on for years. It was stated that residents had been emailing the Cabinet Member for some time. It was stressed that residents had reported that they could not keep warm and that with no disabled access they felt trapped. The fan heaters supplied as a temporary measure were insufficient and as a result, residents were sitting in their coats to keep warm. The Councillor asked if the Cabinet Member had visited Freeman Court?
Councillor Avis provided assurance that there was daily communication with Freeman Court, that she knew it personally and that she had received personal assurance that the heating had been fixed. The Cabinet Member said she had visited the facility and would look to address any further issues immediately.
Councillor Fraser requested an update on progress at the Oasis Academy Ryelands in South Norward following it being judged inadequate by Ofsted.
Councillor Flemming reported that the Director of Education and the Head of School Strategy had met with the Regional Oasis Manager and had been assured the Ofsted judgement was being taken seriously; a new substantive Head had been appointed and an improvement plan was in place. Meetings were happening to ensure rapid improvement and it was noted that two new members of staff had been appointed who had previously been school inspectors.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Fraser asked if it was more difficult to ensure adequate progress was being made given the school was an Academy and therefore operated at arm’s length to the Council.
Councillor Flemming acknowledged that it was her preference for the Council to run its own schools. The Cabinet Member highlighted that the Council understood the needs of residents and young people and would be in a position to provide the required educational provision on a ward by ward basis. However, officers were working with the Academy with very strong links in place in order to oversee and ensure improvements were taking place. It was highlighted that officers had this type of relationship with schools that were at risk of poor Ofsted judgement and not just those that have been put in an improvement category. It was noted that the Director of Education had been working to improve relationships with academies. Regardless of political preferences, the quality of education had to be the priority.
Councillor Bird asked the Cabinet Member why she was not aware of the conditions of residents of Toldene Court, highlighting that residents did not have access to disabled bathing facilities and that they were unable to access medication over the Christmas period.
In response, Councillor Avis clarified that she had visited the home last year. The Council had started a review of care home facilities which was not yet complete. The Cabinet Member reported that the showers would be fixed by 30 January 2019. It was also highlighted that a consultation on required facilities had been conducted at Freeman Court. However, this could not be delivered immediately as the available budget had been prioritised for fire safety measures following the Grenfell Tower Fire.
Madam Mayor invited Councillors Butler, Hamida Ali and Shahul-Hameed to make their announcements.
Councillor Butler, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Homes and Gateway Services, announced that the Council was consulting on the introduction of an Article 4 Direction to come into force from January 2020 which would require planning permission to change multi-bedroom properties into small HMOs (houses occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals). The Cabinet Member asked that Councillors encourage residents’ associations in their wards to participate in the consultation which was open until 8 March 2019. Members of Council were also informed that from April 2019 onward, properties that had been empty for two years would no longer receive any Council Tax discount and would have to make payment in full. The Cabinet Member commented that the Council would like legislation to support them in going further to penalise properties that were kept empty.
Councillor Hamida Ali, Cabinet Member for Safer Croydon and Communities, highlighted the civic event that had taken place to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Importantly, this had been used to engage Croydon students who had participated through a writing competition with a torn from home theme. The event had featured personal testimony from those who had survived genocide in Rwanda and Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was noted that those testimonies had highlighted how extreme forms of violence had started with discrimination. The Cabinet Member thanked the young people who participated and council staff for the success of the event. The Council was congratulated for the achievement of being just one place short of the top 100 Stonewall employers, having jumped up the index by 120 places. Credit was paid to the Council and the allies network for this success.
Councillor Shahul-Hameed, Cabinet Member for Economy and Jobs, informed Council of a recent consultation event on the borough’s economic future and strategy. This had a high turnout with members of the public and stakeholders attending.
Councillor Hale noted the £3.5 billion funding given by central Government to the Mayor of London to boost home building with £61million coming to Croydon. Councillor Hale asked the Cabinet Member to clarify the number of new homes this would be used to build, where these would be located and when they would be ready.
Councillor Butler responded that this would be used to build approximately 888 new homes. However, this was a grant towards the cost and would not pay for the development in full. Whilst some of those new homes were already in the pipeline, others were not fully planned as yet and others were being identified for development. Those homes were to be spread across the borough for the benefit of residents.
In her supplementary question, Councillor Hale requested that Councillor Butler confirm that all those new homes would be subject to the provisions of the Right to Buy policy. Councillor Butler stated that she was unable to confirm this.
CouncillorDegrads congratulated the Cabinet Member for consulting on the Article 4 Direction which would require planning permission to change multi-bedroom properties into small HMOs. Councillor Butler emphasised the importance of those proposed changes and noted her disappointment that due to legislation this could not be immediately introduced. The Cabinet Member highlighted that the Local Plan had recognised the need for family homes across the borough and therefore there was a need to stop splitting properties into HMOs and flats. Where this was happening was due to permitted development. It was stressed that the proposed change would have a difference across the borough but especially in the North.
CouncillorChatterjee sought to understand if there was likely to be any further delay in the delivery of new homes developed by Brick by Brick.
Councillor Butler highlighted that she met many people involved in new home development and had received congratulations on the speed of development being achieved by Brick by Brick. It was noted that some developments were seeking planning permission whilst others were close to delivery. The Cabinet Member explained that much learning was being done during this ongoing process to allow for faster delivery of developments in the future.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Chatterjee sought to understand if those new homes would solely be for Croydon residents. Councillor Butler confirmed that this would be the case and explained it was the stated policy of Brick by Brick that Croydon residents would get the first opportunity with preference on proximity. This policy was to be applied across all classes of homes including affordable and shared ownership with allocation based on the Council’s waiting list.
Councillor Jewitt congratulated Crystal Palace Football Club for opening its facilities to the homeless and thanked the other agencies involved in homelessness support throughout the year.
Councillor Butler agreed that this had been a fantastic development and gave thanks to the Council’s Gateway Team and specifically, Julia Pitt, Director of Gateway Services, for putting this arrangement in place. This had helped raise the profile of the support that was needed and provided. The Cabinet Member also thanked Croydon Churches for its support in offering cold weather shelters. The Housing First initiative was also highlighted and how this sought to get the most vulnerable people off the streets by prioritising housing provision. The first five individuals were already benefitting from the initiative and this was to increase to 20. The Council had also commissioned a mental health outreach worker which was highlighted as important given the nature of the issues being faced by those living on the street. An employment and accommodation service for migrants was also being piloted which sought to find work and re-establish links with the country of origin. This was providing 12 weeks of accommodation to support migrants back into work. Intensive employment work was being provided for those in temporary accommodation which aimed to sustain employment.
In her supplementary question, Councillor Jewitt suggested the Council’s partnerships with different organisations shouldn’t be needed given the Government had stated it would eradicate rough sleeping.
Councillor Butler acknowledged that some funding was being provided by the Government to address rough sleeping but that this was nowhere near enough. The Cabinet Member stated that this was why the numbers of rough sleepers were continuing to increase. The link between changes to housing benefit and welfare reform for single people and rough sleeper numbers was emphasised. Councillor Butler questioned if austerity was really over.
Councillor Brew asked for clarification from Councillor Hamida Ali regarding her lack of response to his emails requesting the use of CCTV on Russell Hill Place Purley to address a drug use problem.
Councillor Hamida Ali gave her apologies and stated that the issue would be on the agenda for the next meeting of the Joint Agency Group which was to take place on Thursday 31 January 2019. The Cabinet Member highlighted that it was the remit of this multi-agency forum to look in turn at each area and respective issues including incidents of anti-social behaviour.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Brew noted that he had raised these issues previously and was disappointed they hadn’t been addressed before. Councillor Brew suggested that drug issues outside the centre of the borough were not a priority.
Councillor Hameed Ali highlighted that the issue raised had been placed on the agenda for the next meeting and that it was for the Safer Neighbourhood Teams to use all available resources to address the issues as known. All Members were encouraged to come forward with known issues so that these could be escalated and addressed quickly.
Councillor Hay-Justice requested further information on the Council’s apprenticeship programme including demand, period taken to complete apprenticeships and the resulting qualifications gained.
In response, Councillor Shahul-Hameed noted the Council’s apprenticeship programme had been launched in October 2017 with just two apprenticeships and this had grown to 40 apprentices working at the Council. Expressions of interest to have apprentices had been requested from managers. Demand was high with 60% of requests coming from managers who had never previously had apprentices. A campaign was underway to achieve 100 apprenticeships in 100 days. Work with partners was highlighted including with colleges and employers. The level of qualification achieved was noted as variable ranging from Level 2 up to Level 4. Therefore, the length of the apprenticeship varied accordingly from 12 months to three years. Other sectors were being explored to offer apprenticeships. For example, the health and social care sector and the feasibility of offering degree level apprenticeships.
Councillor Bains asked for clarification regarding the new London Plan housing target which set an annualised target of 3,000 new homes to be built in Croydon every year for the next decade. This was described as unfair and undeliverable given that it was higher than the target for neighbouring boroughs.
Councillor Butler recognised the need for a variety of new homes right across the borough and that there was a need to strive to respond to housing needs. The opposition at the Planning Committee from Conservative Councillors to proposed developments was highlighted. Whilst the Administration was responsible for setting housing targets in the local plan, the Mayor of London was asking Councils to go further. The Cabinet Member highlighted that the Administration would go above and beyond to ensure all residents had a home.
In his supplementary question, Councillor Bains asked for clarification as to why Croydon had not lodged representations to the Mayor of London stating that the new targets were not deliverable or sustainable.
In response Councillor Butler highlighted that the Council would always strive to meet housing needs whether or not it had sufficient resources. The Cabinet Member explained that the Council wanted to serve its residents. Therefore, it was for the Council to act as a voice for the 2,000 households in temporary accommodation.
Councillor Clouder congratulated the Administration and the Cabinet Member on establishing a social letting agency and asked for an update on the progress of the initiative.
Councillor Butler highlighted the social letting agency as an important piece work aimed at better preventing homelessness. Whilst this mostly benefitted the families involved there was also a financial advantage for the Council. The Cabinet Member explained that there was a difference between the level of market rents and housing benefit. This was a huge issue and the highest cause of eviction from private rented accommodation. The social letting agency had been working with landlords to ensure tenancies could be sustained. Wrap around support was offered to vulnerable residents and assurances offered to landlords. The agency was working with 70 landlords and had secured a local housing allowance. On average, 15 to 20 residents a month were placed that would have otherwise presented as homeless.
Madam Mayor thanked all for their contributions during Croydon Question Time.