Minutes of the Spring Park Residents’ Association 90th Annual General Meeting held on Wednesday 31 May 2023 at West Wickham and
Shirley Baptist Church
SPRA Executive Committee: Geoff Flook, Mandy Hopkins,
Chris Kirwan, Milton Moore, Lawrie Rendle, Mike Roberts, Kirti Thakrar, Winsome Thomas. Trustees: Andy Bebington, Bev Tanner
Sarah Jones MP, Executive Mayor Jason Perry, Neil Garratt (London Assembly Member), Cllr. Jason Cummings, Cllr. Scott Roche, Cllr. Richard Chatterjee,
Cllr. Sue Bennett, Alderman Janet Marshall, Beverly Warner (Shrublands RA), Alex Arbisman (Shirley Oaks Village RA), Douglas Fletcher (Shirley Oaks Village RA), Dawn Brook (Shirley Hills RA), Sony Nair (Monks Orchard RA),
Ian Leonard (Longheath Gardens RA), Jonathan Baxter (SPRA Auditor), Steve Murray (SPRA Auditor), Suzy Stoyel (Shirley Neighbourhood Care), Sergeant Nathan Saville, PC Michael Cordrey and PCSO David Thompson.
54 SPRA Members (excluding Committee and trustees).
Total Attendance: 81
Trevor Ashby (President, SPRA), Cllr. Martin Johnson, Alasdair Kennedy (Headmaster, Trinity School), Paul Newton (Addington Village RA), Charles Marriott (Addington Village RA), May Asfahani (Shirley Oaks Village RA), Sharon Swaby (Shrublands RA), Doreen Jansen, Christine Maslona, Cliff Underhay and
The Chair Geoff Flook welcomed everyone to SPRA’s 90th AGM and in particular the guest speakers and visitors from other residents’ associations. Sarah Jones would be joining the AGM later due to another commitment.
2. Croydon’s First Year with an Executive Mayor – Presentation by Executive Mayor Jason Perry
Mayor Perry thanked SPRA for all its hard work. It had been a tumultuous year but it was a privilege to be elected as the Mayor for Croydon and it was an honour to try and put Croydon back on the map.
Mayor Perry gave the following answers to pre-submitted questions:
2.1 What would you say were the four most important achievements in your first year in office?
His first important achievement was planning, which had been an issue across the borough for many years. He had promised to remove the Design Guide and this was accomplished in July 2022. He was looking at how the Council could change the local plan in order to preserve the local character of neighbourhoods.
A key focus was the regeneration of the Town Centre. Westfield had bought out Hammerson’s stake in the project and the Council was now dealing with one entity. There would be a more phased redevelopment.
Another achievement was cleaning up the borough: cutting grass (the Council was trying to achieve a four-week cycle of cutting) and cleaning the streets. The graffiti removal team had been restored and there was a Public Spaces Protection Order in Croydon Town Centre.
With regard to Regina Road, there had been a ballot of local residents who had asked that the estate be demolished and redeveloped.
2.2 What represent the biggest disappointments/setbacks of your first year?
Mayor Perry’s biggest disappointment was having to introduce the 15% Council Tax. He had instigated an “opening the books” exercise to understand the problems. There was a ‘legacy’ debt of £161m and ongoing issues. The Council could not pay off the £1.6 billion debt and it was a difficult decision for him to approach the Government to request support. There was a £2m hardship fund and £33m Council Tax support for residents who required this. The Government was listening to the Council, which was trying to get its finances under control, and there was an ongoing dialogue. Mayor Perry hoped that Croydon would be back on track in the coming years.
2.3 The ministerial statement of 23rd March said the Council’s ‘acknowledged and welcome work of the new leadership has made good progress’ but nevertheless sought to introduce stronger directive control from central government via its Improvement and Assurance Panel. Doesn’t this mean the Mayor’s financial recovery package is failing?
The Improvement and Assurance Panel had been involved since 2021. Prior to May 2022 the Panel had issued six Advice Notes to the Council, but since then it had received none. The Council had received a quarter of a million pounds from the Government and it was not unreasonable for them to expect some safeguards in return. The Council was working closely with the Government and Mayor Perry was confident that the Council would continue to work with the Panel over the next couple of years.
2.4 Surely having to accept oversight from the Panel undermines the principal of local democracy, which local Executive Mayors were put in place to deliver.
Cabinet members were in place, they still worked together on a daily basis for the Council and were held accountable for decisions. Mayor Perry did not think the current situation affected local democracy.
2.5 The Council has now formally agreed to take legal action to recover a settlement payment to Jo Negrini, Croydon’s previous CEO. In addition, it will be referring the Penn Report and the Kroll Report which detail misconduct, wrongdoing and failures in governance of former senior leaders; and also referring individuals to relevant professional institutions for possible disciplinary measures. Can the Mayor comment on progress please and explain why this process has taken so long.
The Penn Report had been published. There was a possible fraud investigation into the refurbishment of Fairfield Halls. The police had been asked to investigate whether former Council officers were guilty of Misconduct in Public Office and individuals had also been reported to their professional bodies. The Council was pursuing Jo Negrini, Croydon’s previous CEO, for repayment of her severance payment.
3. Presentation by Cllr. Jason Cummings
Geoff introduced Cllr. Cummings, who has Cabinet responsibility for Finance.
3.1 At least year’s AGM you painted a bleak picture of Croydon’s finances in the short to medium term. How is the Council’s financial plan at this moment? Can you comment on future increases in the Council Tax for 2024-25?
Cllr. Cummings said that when he spoke at last year’s AGM, the “opening the books exercise” had not been started. This found there were large holes in the budget, which included £14m in parking revenue forecasts and £5m in housing benefit. Through strict controls these issues had been dealt with in the first six months and finances would be balanced at the end of the financial year. There was greater control by Officers and an ambitious programme of cuts and reorganization to reduce Council costs. There would be cost savings over the course of the year. The Council had to increase Council Tax by 15% but this would not occur again.
3.2 According to the Tax Payers Alliance latest figures, on average each London council employed 22 staff members on salaries of £100,000 or more. How many of Croydon Council are paid more than £100,000 pa and why? What is the ratio of Managers to workforce for each executive on such a salary?
There were twenty members of staff earning £100,000 per annum. Croydon was the largest London borough in terms of population. Westminster had fifty members of staff earning over £100,000, despite having one of the smallest populations.
3.3 In the light of such financial failure, is it appropriate that senior officers currently working in the Council should be awarded salary increases for 2023-24?
The senior officers in place now were not those who caused all the issues and they would be receiving the same annual pay rise as other members of staff. Councillors’ allowances had been frozen.
3.4 Can you tell us the current position regarding Expressions of Interest in relation to Shirley Community Centre. What are the criteria for a successful bid? What if no appropriate bid is received? What is the timescale for any change?
Cllr. Cummings reported that under the Community Asset Transfer system, the existing Shirley Community Centre Association had been given “first option”. Three other local organisations had submitted Expressions of Interest and had been asked to submit a business plan. The business plans will then be scored by officers to decide the successful one.
3.5 What is the Council’s current position on provision of library services in the Borough and how will it affect Shirley?
The libraries have been reviewed a number of times over several decades and a review was currently being undertaken. There were thirteen branch libraries across the borough but they were currently only open 2/3 days per week. In the future there would probably be fewer libraries open for longer hours. Cllr. Cummings did not think that in the long term the Council would be able to maintain Shirley Library as it was the smallest and least used library. It could be the eventual subject of a Community Asset Transfer.
4. Presentation by Local Police
The Chair welcomed Sergeant Saville, who has overall responsibility for policing in the SPRA area and other local wards.
Sergeant Saville explained that he was the Sergeant for Shirley South and Shirley North. There was a new Inspector, who is Andrew Smith, and a new Chief Inspector and Superintendent.
4.1 Can you describe the benefits of the reinstatement of the local Ward Panel and what it has achieved so far?
The Ward Panel was a group of local community members and partner agencies. The Panel met every three months and set Ward priorities, focusing on what mattered to the residents and tackling significant issues. They wished to recruit more members for the Shirley South and Shirley North Ward Panels.
The Panel had been reinstated a year ago and had only held three meetings. The main issues were vulnerable victims to fraud offences and cold callers. A panel member was providing information to residents and the police had visited victims. They were also addressing the concerns of Shrublands residents.
4.2 Accidents are still occurring on Bridle Road, many due to speeding drivers. Can you comment on what measures are being taken/will be taken to reduce speed and improve safety on this road?
Speeding was an ongoing issue identified by residents. They were planning to conduct speed operations in Bridle Road and Wickham Road using a speed gun.
The local police were looking for other offences, e.g. the use of mobile ‘phones while driving, anti-social driving, such as off-road bikes in fields and handbrake turns. Sergeant Saville asked that if residents witnessed any of these incidents, they reported them to the police, who had the power to deal with them. Residents could either report via 101, the Met Police website or by e-mailing the Shirley South Ward SNT.
Geoff thanked Sergeant Saville and his team for their input to the community.
5. Minutes of the last Annual General Meeting held on Wednesday 1 June 2022 and Matters Arising
The minutes of the last AGM, approved by the Executive Committee, had been published in SPAN in August 2022. There were no objections or amendments. The vote to adopt the minutes was passed unanimously (Proposer: Karen Crouch, Seconder: Liz Bebington).
6. Treasurer’s Report and Matters Arising from the Report
Kirti Thakrar had taken up the post of Treasurer following last year’s AGM and Geoff thanked Kirti for her hard work over the past year.
Kirti advised that SPRA received income from two main sources, which were subscriptions and advertising revenue from SPAN. £10,491 had been received in subscriptions and SPAN income was £27,132.04.
On expenditure, SPRA had supported the following local events:
Tree planting in Millers Pond to mark SPRA’s 90th Anniversary
Donations to four local causes: The Shrublands Trust Food Bank, Friends of Millers Pond, Shirley Town Youth FC and Croydon Boys Brigade
There was a deficit of £983.80 at year end but there was cash in the bank.
Geoff moved to approve the accounts (Proposer: Jonathan Baxter, Seconder: Karen Crouch). The vote was carried but there was one dissenter, who stated that he objected to the voluntary donations, clarifying that it was to one or more of the recipients he objected, not the principle. Geoff replied that the decision had been taken by the Executive Committee and there were opportunities for SPRA members to join the EC and make their views known.
Geoff reported the sad news that Brian Cantrell, who had served as a SPRA Auditor for 11 years, had passed away earlier this year. He thanked all those individuals, like Brian, who support SPRA and the community.
7. Presentation by Sarah Jones, MP
Geoff said that since her election in 2017, Sarah had held several posts and was currently Shadow Minister for Policing and the Fire Service. Sarah went to school in Croydon and was committed to our area. With the proposed change in constituency boundaries it was very likely she would not be our MP in the future.
Sarah reported that it had been a busy year politically. Chris Philp was her opposite number on Police matters, which was a very busy brief. There was continued controversy about the Met Police and unsuitable officers had to be identified. Police should be in the community and as visible as possible.
Many residents were affected by the cost of living crisis and Sarah had carried out cost of living surgeries in various locations in conjunction with Citizens Advice, MIND and the South London Law Centre.
Her case work for Shirley South had been 175 cases. She had received 25,000
e-mails which were either problems that residents required help with or views on matters such as the environment. Residents could contact her via e-mail or ‘phoning her office.
The outcome of the boundary changes would not be known until September. Sarah would be SPRA’s MP until the next General Election.
7.1 What is your position on the extension of ULEZ to Croydon, implemented by a Labour London Mayor and what do you say to many SPRA members who feel annoyed at having to choose between paying the new road charges, or making an unwanted outlay on a replacement car purchase?
Sarah replied that many of her constituents had cars and relied on them for work, shopping, etc. ULEZ was designed to improve people’s health.
Nine out of ten cars were compliant and there were a small number which were not. She had contacted the London Mayor to discuss what could be done to assist those residents who were affected, working with him on the scrappage allowance.
7.2 As Shadow Minister for Policing, can you tell us what policing in Croydon and South London would look like under a possible future Labour Government?
There was a lack of police presence on the streets to prevent crime and ensure that residents felt safe. Labour would put 13,000 Police Officers and PCSOs on the streets. The aim was to keep our streets safe, halve knife crime, and violence against women and girls. We had to achieve excellent standards in policing, which included training and misconduct procedures. They were looking at placing youth workers in A&E and custody suites.
Geoff thanked Sarah for her address.
8. Presentation by Cllr. Scott Roche
Cllr. Roche was appointed by the Mayor last year as Cabinet Member for Streets and Environment.
8.1 Following residents’ concerns of speeding vehicles and serious accidents in Bridle Road, reported to the Ward Panel, you and Cllr. Jason Cummings agreed to enquire whether funding is available for a review and consideration of possible traffic calming measures. Can you please report what progress has been made to address residents’ safety concerns on this road?
Cllr. Roche replied that the Council had limited funding due to the Section 114 notice. TfL awarded the Council funding for road safety improvement measures, which was ring-fenced for projects where sadly there had been fatal and/or serious collisions or where the data suggested there was a need. He had asked officers to review the data on fatalities and serious collisions. The Council could look at installing monitoring equipment to determine the speed of cars and any other issues if the data was not sufficient and if the financial constraints on the Council allowed. Given the length of Bridle Road, it would be beneficial to understand if there were any hotspots of concern. Only the Met Police had the authority to enforce action in cases involving reckless driving, speeding and road safety. Cllr. Roche had been to several residents’ meetings regarding road safety and suggested holding a public meeting with the Police.
8.2 The effects of climate change on our planet are already evident. It has been said we now have the knowledge and science to halt its worst effects but that we lack the political will to do so. What priority do you give to the climate crisis when making decisions? Can you tell us any decisions and actions you have taken which show you understand the seriousness of the climate crisis and are giving priority to tackling it?
In February 2022 the Council formally approved the Croydon carbon neutral action plan, which built upon the recommendations found within the Croydon climate crisis commission report. It set out the Council’s latest position on, and approach to, reducing carbon emissions from activities within the borough. At present the Council lacked the resource and capacity to progress the plan but they were in the process of recruiting two officer posts. These had been advertised and the officers should be in post by the end of the summer. In the meantime, the Council continued to undertake work which contributed to tackling climate change. This included work to encourage active and sustainable travel, which included enhancing the provision of electric charging stations, and work to support households to make their homes more energy efficient.
8.3 Given the valuable and effective example of cooperation between councillors, council officers and members of the public which was the hallmark of the Croydon Cycles Forum for many years, can you please advise when this will be revived now that the Covid lockdowns have ended?
There had been three long-standing forums, which all discussed similar issues concerning active and sustainable travel in Croydon. These were the Cycle Forum, Mobility Forum and the Public Transport Liaison Panel. It had been decided that the three forums would merge into one in order to be more productive and better support and advise the Council. This new body would include one to two representatives from each of the previous forums and would look across all active and sustainable travel modes, and matters leading to impaired mobility, considering the needs of all road users. The scope of the forum was on the Council website.
8.4 Why has no progress apparently been made with replacing the bus shelters that have been removed in various locations, despite promises of replacements in 2022?
Cllr. Roche advised that the old contract had been terminated by the previous Labour administration in March 2021 and when the contract ended the bus shelters were removed by the contractor. The new contractor had since delayed delivering the new shelters. There were issues the previous administration should have foreseen: it was an overly ambitious contract, and the contractor had no previous experience in delivery. Officers were urgently seeking firm assurances the contractor could still fulfil its contractual obligations.
8.5 What is the future of the disused amenity site at the junction of Wickham Road/Monks Orchard Road? Is the CCTV camera there still functional?
Two cameras were installed when the recycling facility was at the junction but these had now been relocated.
Geoff thanked Scott for his presentation.
9. Presentation by our London Assembly Member, Neil Garratt AM
Neil Garratt advised the meeting that he covered Croydon and Sutton and was the Leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly. He primarily dealt with the Police and Transport.
9.1 Can you please let us know the detailed reasons given by TfL for not adjusting the traffic lights at the Bridle Road/Monks Orchard Road/Wickham Road junction to split the northbound traffic in Bridle Road from the southbound traffic in Monks Orchard Road? It seems that this would eliminate the existing conflict without necessitating any costly and disruptive road engineering works. Please let us have a timeframe for fixing this problem.
Neil had contacted TfL regarding this issue. Its traffic modelling showed that if the northbound and southbound traffic was split, there would be queuing on all approaches and less green time. He felt TfL’s main aim was to keep the east/west traffic flowing.
TfL was entirely data driven and sadly there were not enough fatalities or serious injuries at the junction for them to make any changes. However, when the junction was studied, there were several near misses.
9.2 You have helped lead the campaign to prevent the ULEZ extension scheme coming to Croydon but it looks like it is coming anyway. Many residents view the scheme as making a vital contribution to cleaner air and a greener environment. Do you still believe they are wrong?
Neil replied that the suggestion was that ULEZ would remove older vehicles from the road and improve air quality. It was not known how many people would drive less or pay the £12.50 daily charge. Another report had suggested that it would make no real difference and that the least well-off would be disproportionately affected. There were working people who were on a low wage and could not afford to change their vehicle. When the ULEZ was introduced in inner London there was a much bigger switch to public transport.
The statement that nine out of ten cars were compliant had been generated by cameras while people were driving and did not reflect vehicles owned but not driven. Organisations such as the RAC and Society of Motor Manufacturers believed that a quarter of cars which were owned were non-compliant. Neil had asked the London Mayor if he would ring-fence for local use the money generated in the each borough but he had replied that this would be too difficult complicated. There were few alternative public transport options.
9.3 TfL is consulting on a speed limit of 20mph on the A232 in West Wickham High Street which also includes a section from the borough boundary to Monks Orchard Road. Can you tell us about the likelihood of this being eventually extended along the Red Route through Shirley? How will the speed limit be enforced?
Mayor Khan’s policy was that there would be a 20mph limit on all TfL red routes, which included the A232 and A21 in Bromley.
In conclusion, Neil reported that there was a new police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowland, and he was confident that Sir Mark was “on the right lines”. There was more focus on local policing within London and we should be seeing more resources. There was a new Borough Superintendent for Croydon, who had been in post for approximately two months.
10. 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 Sheila Salter and Alan Scotcher into Life Membership.
11. Motion to Revise SPRA Rules and Constitution
The Executive Committee of SPRA proposed the following changes to the Constitution:
Rule 8h should be amended to replace ‘The minutes of each General Meeting (GM) and all motions passed at a GM, shall be published in SPAN as soon as possible after the meeting’ with ‘The minutes of each General Meeting (GM) and all motions passed at a GM, shall be published on the SPRA website as soon as possible after the meeting. Hard copies will be available on request’.
The motion was passed, although there was one dissenter who felt this method would not be transparent and that SPAN was the most appropriate place for the minutes to be published.
12. Resignation and Election of Officers, Trustees, Auditors and Members of the Executive Committee
The election for the position of Chair was conducted by Andy Bebington.
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 announced that Chris Kirwan, who had been a member of the Executive Committee for several years, was standing down and thanked him for all his hard work. Chris was undertaking great work with the Ward Panel.
Geoff thanked everyone for their attendance. In addition, he thanked the visitors and speakers, particularly Mayor Jason Perry.
The meeting closed at 9.30pm approximately and was followed by refreshments.