AGM 2022 Minutes






SPRA Executive Committee: Trevor Ashby, Andy Bebington, Allan Booth, Geoff Flook, Mandy Hopkins, Chris Kirwan, Milton Moore, Lawrie Rendle, Mike Roberts, Bev Tanner and Winsome Thomas.

Sarah Jones MP, Neil Garrett (London Assembly Member), Cllr Jason Cummings, Cllr Richard Chatterjee, Alderman Janet Marshall, Alex Arbisman (Shirley Oaks Village Residents’ Association), Joseph Rowe (Shirley Hills RA), Sony Nair (Monks Orchard RA), Derek Ritson (Monks Orchard RA), Charles Marriott (Addington Village RA), Ian Leonard (Longheath Gardens RA), Jonathan Baxter (SPRA Auditor), Suzy Stoyel (Shirley Neighbourhood Care), Sergeant Nathan Saville and PCSO David Thompson.

47 members of SPRA.  Total Attendance – 73



Cllr Scott Roche, Cllr Sue Bennett, Cllr Martin Johnson, Alasdair Kennedy (Headmaster, Trinity School), Mrs. E. Englefield (Head Teacher, Coloma Convent School), Mrs. V. Forbes (Principal, Harris Primary Academy Benson), Sharon Swaby (Shrublands RA), May Asfahani (Shirley Oaks Village RA), Paul Newton (Addington Village RA), Steve Murray, Brian Cantrell, Maureen and David Hunt, Martin Shute and Doreen Jansen.

1.  Welcome – The Chair, Geoff Flook, welcomed everyone to the meeting.

2.  Living in Croydon under an Elected Mayor – Presentation by Cllr Jason Cummings

2.1 Geoff introduced Cllr Cummings, who was re-elected in May and has been named as the new Mayor’s Cabinet member for Finance.  In January he was asked to serve on the committee to reshape the Council’s constitution.

2.2 Cllr Cummings said that the last few years in Croydon have been turbulent and there has been a poor link between the leadership of the Council and residents.  80% of residents in the October referendum voted to change to an elected Mayor. The main difference in the new Mayoral system is to choose an individual who leads the Council and will serve all residents’ needs across the borough.  Consequently there had been more focus on who should be the potential leader and the candidates had travelled round the borough.

2.3 The new Mayor, Jason Perry, has a significant amount of power.  He has appointed a Deputy Mayor, Cllr Lynne Hale, who is also Cabinet Member for Homes.  Eight Cabinet members have been appointed, amongst them Cllr Cummings and Cllr Roche.  All decision-making power is now with the Mayor, with the advice and assistance of the Cabinet. The Mayor may choose to delegate powers to the Cabinet.  There is also a Group Leader position (of the Conservative group), which could be a different individual but the Mayor had been elected to this position by Cabinet members.

2.4 The largest party represented on the Council is Labour (Mayor Perry is a Conservative).  There is a shadow Cabinet, with one individual shadowing the Mayor.  The Green Party and Liberal Democrat have members elected to the Council, so no one party has a majority in the Council – more co-operation and consensus are to be hoped for.  Views will need to be sought from across the borough and councillors will have to work cross-party more often.

2.5 The Scrutiny and Overview Committee is there to hold councillors to account, the chair of which is from Labour, which will lead to effective scrutiny. There are committees which are not controlled by the Mayor, for example Planning, Licensing and Audit. There remains a Civic Mayor who fulfils many ceremonial and public duties.

2.6 The full Council can vote on whether to accept a budget, but if rejected on a simple majority, the Mayor/Cabinet can return with an amended budget.  For this to be rejected again, a two-thirds majority is required. The Mayor has received a small increase in his staffing budget due to an expected increase in casework and enquiries.

The Chair thanked Cllr Cummings for his useful insight into a new situation.

3.  Presentation by Local Police

3.1 Sgt Nathan Saville has responsibility for Shirley South, Shirley North and neighbouring ones.  There are three PCs and a PCSO in Shirley South.

3.2 The team carry out community-based events and local patrols.  Knife crime is a significant issue and weapon sweeps are being carried out.  They are working with the Council following the murder on Shrublands.

3.3 On catalytic converter thefts, Sgt Saville explained that the metal in catalytic converters is very high value at present.  Unfortunately thefts had increased again in 2022, following a sharp drop last year when a targeted operation involving 300 officers from Bromley and Croydon resulted in a 96% decrease.  Now the perpetrators were more brazen and violent.  Residents should not approach but instead record the registration number and take a picture if safe to do so.  The police are holding local crime prevention catalytic marker events, using SmartWater.  The effects in reducing theft through marking is unknown but ongoing sale is harder.  Another option is installing cages on converters.

3.4 In response to a question about ‘low level’ crimes and even burglary being treated as low priority by police with minimal police involvement Sgt Saville replied that every crime is dealt with on a case by case basis and assessed at each stage.

3.5 The Chair thanked Sgt Saville for his input to the meeting and for the ongoing support of his team to our community.

4.  Presentation by Sarah Jones, MP

4.1 The Chair welcomed Sarah Jones, MP for Croydon Central, for taking time to come to the AGM.  She is a hardworking and committed MP who knows Shirley well.

4.2 Sarah thanked the police for all their hard work.  It had been a difficult few years with Covid and the restrictions they had to implement.  The pandemic has taken up a great deal of her time and the damage done to our community is unknown.

4.3 She is currently assisting a local family who are having difficulty in arranging for refugees to join them from the Ukraine, and is also involved in housing issues on Shrublands.  Sarah asked residents to contact her if they have any problems or issues, for example delayed passports, climate change, or if they are involved in local charities.

4.4 Sarah is starting to conduct tours of Parliament again and there are a small number of tickets available for Question Time.  A patchwork quilt is being made to commemorate Covid and each MP has been asked to provide a square.  Her surgery has returned and there is a monthly newsletter which residents can sign up for.  The three Croydon MPs hoped that the new Mayor could take on more of their caseload.

4.5 Sarah had set up a cross-party Committee when she was elected in order to have more resources to tackle knife crime and look at youth services and school exclusions which has led to more government funding.  Knife crime is on a downward trend in Croydon and other parts of London.

Geoff thanked Sarah for her report.

5.  Minutes of the Last Annual General Meeting held on Wednesday, 9th June 2021 by Zoom Conferencing and Matters Arising

The minutes of the last AGM, approved by the Executive Committee, had been published in SPAN in August 2021.  No objections or amendments had been received in advance of the AGM.  The vote to adopt the minutes was passed unanimously (Proposer: Karen Crouch, Seconder: Glynis Stevens).

6.  Chair’s Report – The Chair’s report had been published in May’s SPAN.

7.  Treasurer’s Report

7.1 Allan Booth has been Treasurer since October 2018.  The accounts to 31st March 2022 continued to show a healthy overall picture.  The in-house operation of the SPAN magazine is showing a small deficit compared to last year of £1,306.97.  With a reduction in the number of copies produced, most of the expenditure is met from advertising fees.  There are net assets of £4,734.79 in the SPAN account after an injection of £3,000.00 to help cover any potential cash flow issues.

7.2 Allan thanked the SPAN Editorial Team for their hard work and Jennie Rutter, SPAN Accounts Manager, for keeping the records and chasing the advertisers for their fees, also Martin Roberts, the new Advertising Manager, for seeking out new advertisers.

7.3 He also thanked the network of Road Stewards, who under the guidance of Mandy Hopkins and Lawrie Rendle, voluntarily collect the subscriptions and distribute the magazine to our members.  It would be helpful if members could submit the necessary form if they are paying their subscription by bank transfer.  He also thanked the Auditors for their efforts in checking the accounts.

7.4 The SPRA accounts showed a surplus of £7,909.13 and the Association’s combined  assets, including SPAN and the Reserve Account balance of £31,663.25, now stands at £42,720.78.  The committee has decided it would be prudent to increase the bonus saver account this year to cover any possible legal challenge costs.In the last year donations have been made to the Poppy Appeal and the Shrublands Food Bank.

7.5 Allan stated he was resigning as Treasurer at the AGM and Kirti Thakrar was a candidate to replace him.

7.6 A vote to adopt the audited financial accounts was unanimously carried (Proposer: Jonathan Baxter, Seconder: Allan Booth)

7.7 Geoff thanked Allan for the service he had given to SPRA over four years and wished him well.  He also registered a debt of gratitude to Brian Cantrell, one of the Auditors, who is relinquishing his post after 10 years.

8.  The Croydon Local Plan and general planning issues.

8.1 Unfortunately Cllr Roche was unwell but had provided written responses to questions concerning progress of the Croydon Plan review, following the recent consultation:

The consultation is closed.  800 responses were received.  The next steps are to analyse the responses and for the Council to respond.  The Council’s responses will be published once the Local Plan Review is submitted to the Secretary of State for Examination in Public before a Planning Inspector.  The Mayor’s manifesto pledge to revisit the Local Plan is also being addressed and he has already asked officers to start this process.  An update on the Local Plan Review programme will be available in due course.

8.2 On questions relating to the removal of SPD2 (the local Planning Design code), Cllr Cummings had attended a number of meetings with the Mayor.  There were legal requirements over changes and costs involved.  A consultation would have to be held and a new document produced, but there was a limit to what could be changed and he would be surprised if the review was completed within a year.

8.3 On delays to the planning process, particularly in respect of enforcement, Cllr Roche had responded:

Due to the Council’s financial position, the pandemic and the national shortage of planning staff, the Planning Team has experienced a reduction in resources over the past 18 months, coinciding with an increase in planning applications. Officer caseloads had increased, meaning all matters could not be dealt with as quickly as previously.  More staff are being recruited to improve the situation.  They will continue to monitor the situation closely, and work with the new Planning Cabinet Member, Cllr Jeet Bains and new Conservative chair, Cllr Michael Neal, to ensure the whole planning process works better in the future.

8.4 In response to a question from an audience member regarding the Fairfield Halls, Cllr Cummings stated that the venue is under-performing.  The current operating model and the way the Fairfield Halls is run are under serious review.  There was a desire to see a larger programme of events and more community involvement.

9.  Neil Garratt – London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton

The Chair welcomed Neil Garratt to the meeting.

9.1 Neil explained that there are 25 members in the London Assembly who scrutinise the London Mayor and hold him to account.  The London Mayor’s remit covers transport, policing, London Fire Brigade and the strategic plan.

9.2 There had been a discussion about the Mayor bringing in an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) boundary charge.  The current idea was to expand ULEZ, affecting anyone driving within the Croydon borough or driving into it from outside.  The consultation runs until the end of July.  It is planned that the entire Red Route will become 20mph by 2024.

9.3 On planning, Andrew Boff, of the Housing Committee, is trying to persuade them that tower blocks are not a popular or long-term solution to providing accommodation and also expensive to maintain.

9.4 Neil responded to a question on the Bridle Road/Wickham Road junction.  He had held a meeting with some of the committee last September and had contacted TfL, who had a number of plans drawn up previously but there was no budget to redraft them.  Funding comes from bus and train fares, which had decreased significantly.  Once TfL funding was back in place, he and the local councillors would ensure this issue was on the agenda.

Geoff thanked Neil for his report.

10.  Previously Notified Questions from SPRA Members

10.1 Cllr Roche, Cabinet Member for Streets and Environment, provided the following response to a question about the re-instatement of bus shelters in our area:

The installation programme is currently being developed by the new concessionaire, who are seeking planning consent and securing power connection with UKPN.  Installation dates will be confirmed in the next few weeks.  He has informed officers that he is not happy with how this scheme has been implemented by the previous administration, with lack of communication and clarity to residents, who are understandably frustrated.

10.2 Questions were raised about green spaces and how they are designated in the Local Plan (different from the National Plan) and whether they are safe. Cllr Roche responded:

Croydon’s terminology does differ, but not the designations for protection. Our designation of “other open space” enables a wide range of green spaces to be used, both green and open.  The strategic policies in the Local Plan 2018 seek to protect the green grid in the same way as other London boroughs do in their Local Plans.

The policy in the 2018 plan provides for green space designations and protection for the next 20 years (Policy 7.2).  Any changes would need to be undertaken through a change of policy through the Local Plan review, which the Mayor has already started.  There are no plans to remove any green space designations, both local and national, in the revised local plan.  The review process is seeking to add an additional layer of protection for some existing borough level protected green spaces by designating them as Local Green Spaces as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework 2021.

Cllr Cummings added that there was no intention to remove protection from green spaces or build on them.

10.3 Responding to a question about staff reorganisation and recruitment to Council posts, Cllr Cummings said that there had been significant re-organisation of the senior membership team over the last two years.  Only one person had been permanent, the Chief Executive, and all the others had been interim or temporary.  The recruitment of a permanent, well-qualified, and respected team has been completed over the last four months.  There is an issue across the Council of recruitment and retention, which is a problem across the whole of London.  There are too many agency and temporary staff and they need to ensure Croydon Council is a good place to work.  If staff are constantly changing, their knowledge and experience is not being retained.  The Council has not been responsive to residents’ needs, particularly with regard to housing.

10.4 Cllr Cummings, responding to a question about Councillors’ discretionary funds stated there was no indication when these would be re-instated.  They fall under his remit and there are no available funds.  In the past, they cost half a million pounds. 

10.5 In response to a question regarding Croydon town centre, development of the Whitgift Centre and high-rise housing developments, Cllr Cummings replied that the number of people visiting the town centre has declined as they are shopping far more online.  Croydon is still the best place to create a hub for other initiatives as there are good links to London and the town is easily accessible from Surrey.

10.6 The first meeting the Mayor had was with Westfield and there are a couple of initiatives which will take place fairly soon.  A new and very different plan involving leisure and culture rather than pure retail is being considered

10.7 The high density housing indicates how attractive Croydon town centre is, with its good links, and property prices in Croydon remain attractive.  Brick by Brick developments are coming to the market.  There has been a change in people’s view of flats that do not have an outside space and this has been brought to the fore during Covid.

11.  Approval of Nominations for Life Membership of SPRA

The nominees are recognized in this way for their ten years’ service as a Road Steward.  There was a unanimous vote to accept Gill Jones, David Latham, Glynis Stevens, Ranjan Shan and Kevin Williams into Life Membership.

12.  Motion to Revise SPRA Membership Rules and Constitution

The Chair explained that the amendment is to tidy up a previous drafting issue and would have no impact on the day-to-day running of SPRA.  There was a unanimous vote to accept the amendment.

13.  Resignation and Election of Officers, Trustees, Auditors and Members of the Executive Committee

The election for the position of Chair was conducted by Allan Booth.  Geoff Flook was duly re-elected.

The following were also duly elected:

Officers: Trevor Ashby (President), Mandy Hopkins (Zone and Road Stewards’ Secretary), Kirti Thakrar (Treasurer), Mike Roberts (Vice Chair) and Milton Moore (Secretary).

Trustees: Andy Bebington and Bev Tanner.

Auditors: Jonathan Baxter and Steve Murray.

Geoff Flook thanked everyone for their attendance and the SPRA members for their continued support.  He also thanked the speakers and wished everyone a happy Platinum Jubilee weekend.

Trevor Ashby thanked Geoff for chairing the meeting.  There are 120 people working for SPRA in various capacities, such as the SPAN Editorial Team and the Zone and Road Stewards.