Labour forces shocking decision through Pension Committee 22/11/2018 12:46:00......Posted by Simon Brew
I'm on the Council's Pension Committee, which determines investment policies designed to ensure that the pension fund whose current value is about £1000M is able to pay its obligations to past, current and future employees. We're on the Committee to represent the interests of all Pension Fund members, and not to represent the interests of the current Council members. As a result of a poor Labour decision in 2014 (which the the Conservatives members of the committee voted against), the fund has lost £40M by investing in a severely restricted investment fund which performed far worse than the comparable mainstream fund. This amounts to a loss for every resident in Croydon of about £100, and is one of the reasons that the fund is currently only 72% funded and has an amber solvency warning from the Government Actuary; by comparison, Conservative Bromley's pension fund for example, is currently 91% funded.
At the Pensions Committee on 21/11, Labour came up with another "cunning wheeze" - this time by pledging to transfer 346 Council houses currently worth £104M to the Pension Fund in 40 years time, in exchange for a 2.5% reduction in current payment contributions. One of many risks with this scheme is that the assets may or may not rise in value by the assumed CPI+1.7% over the 40 year period; if they do not, Council taxpayers will be left with an enormous bill to pay, and an increasingly small number of years in which to pay it. There are also many legal problems such as the fact that the Council cannot legally contract with itself to transfer the assets to the Pension Fund in 40 years time, so we're left with a Council Resolution as the only commitment to transfer of future assets.
A paper from the Pension Board (which is a governance committee) was presented two minutes before the committee meeting, and also highlighted a number of concerns, such as the fall in the rate of incoming cash and the funding gap.
At the meeting, I and the other Conservative councillors on the committee both spoke and voted against the idea, as did the independent committee member who represents Council employees. All the Labour members voted in favour, so unfortunately it was carried, and we have to cross our fingers that future Croydon residents will not have to pick up the bill for Labour's property speculation.
A relatively quiet week... 14/01/2019 14:52:00.......Posted by Simon Brew
I had just three ward-related meetings last week (plus lots of phone calls).
On 8th January I attended the monthly PWRA committee meeting which was quieter than usual because there were fewer planning applications to discuss.
On 9th January I joined some local residents who were fuming about the fact that a planning application had been lodged over Christmas to demolish yet another large family house, this time in the Hartley Down area of Purley, and replace it with another block of nine flats with inadequate parking provision. We agreed all the reasons for objecting to this scheme, including substantial evidence of a local badger sett, and will lodge our objections in due course.
In the evening of 9th January, I attended a packed meeting of the Purley SNT (Safer Neighbourhood Team) Ward Panel, joining over 20 other local residents. The panel acts as an advisory body to the local Police, giving them a steer on what crimes and other local issues they should concentrate on, within the constraints of manpower and other directions from the Borough Commander and London Mayor. It was apparent that burglary was high on everyone's list, along with violence against the person and anti-social behaviour, and that 20MPH enforcement came a long way down the list.
Repeated flooding of a council flat 07/01/2019 09:53:00.......Posted by Simon Brew
Last week I was asked to help with a flooding problem in a Council flat which was caused by the upstairs residents regularly letting the bath overflow. Apart from the obvious damage & inconvenience, there was a particular problem downstairs because the long-suffering resident had mental health problems and was not coping with the resultant stress. I asked Social Services to investigate what was going on upstairs, and Housing to expedite the repair of the damage downstairs.
Dangerous leafy paths in Winter 07/01/2019 09:35:00.......Posted by Simon Brew
At this time of the year, leafy footpaths are an obvious hazard for the elderly, especially in the hillier bits of the ward, so at one resident’s request, I’ve asked for the footpath between Oakwood Avenue & Selcroft Road to be cleared. It’s also easy for residents to report these issues report online via the Council’s website.
A distressing Adult Social Services issue 07/01/2019 09:30:00.......Posted by Simon Brew
For a few weeks, I’ve been dealing with the distressing case of an elderly lady who is bed-ridden following a stroke, and has been assessed as requiring four visits per day by social care professionals. When they’re not there and even sometimes when they are, her daughter has to step in, providing for absolutely all her personal needs every day of the year. The result is that the daughter’s quality of life is now at rock bottom, so I’ve arranged for a social services assessment of the daughter’s needs to see what extra support services can be provided for her. I’ve also strongly advised her to contact the Carer Support Centre in George Street, which is a fount of useful information as well as providing a very friendly and supportive environment.
As a separate issue, the daughter wants to move onto a new funding scheme called personal health budgeting, under which she receives cash payments which she can use to fund the services she needs at the times she needs them, and for her this would be a big improvement on the current system. My role has been to ask the Council and the funding body to speed up this process.
Access to local councillors 04/01/2019 09:44:00.......Posted by Simon Brew
Weare always trying to think of ways to make ourselves more accessible to local residents, so during the summer, we ran an experiment of also holding a monthly surgery at St Johns church Dale Road. Unfortunately we have discontinued this because of lack of demand, though we still hold monthly surgeries at our offices opposite Tesco, as advertised on the Council’s website. Many issues can be more easily dealt with by email for this who have access, while we’re always available to make home visits if this is required. Our contact details are always available on this website, which links to the Council's.
Bangladeshi Victory day celebration 31/12/2018 11:08:00.......Posted by Simon Brew
Yesterday, it was a pleasure to attend a Bangladesh Victory day (Bejoy Debosh) celebration organised by the British Bangladeshi Society of Croydon. The occasion was the celebration of 47 years of independence from (West) Pakistan which followed a brutal civil war. The hosts were very hospitable to me and to the Mayor who had also been invited.
There were several interesting speeches which taught me a lot about the background to the conflict, but the emphasis now is on reconciiation with Pakistan and integration into the UK, while retaining Bangladeshi cultural identity.
Problems with bulky waste collection 31/12/2018 09:48:00.......Posted by Simon Brew
Many residents are not aware that the Council offers a free collection up to three times per year of bulky waste such as white goods, furniture etc, and I strongly recommend its use.
A resident contacted me to complain that her bulky waste had not been collected as scheduled on 27 December. She reported the missed collection and was astounded to be told that it wasn’t collected because it was not “available for collection”. She had CCTV evidence that it WAS available, so it seems likely that disciplinary action will follow. Sadly I have to report that this is not the first case like this to come to my attention; I’m aware of four or five similar cases since the summer, including a non-collection of my own garden waste which was also falsely reported as not being available.
Whitgift Carer Support Centre Christmas Party 15/12/2018 20:54:00.......Posted by Simon Brew
I'm usually at the CSC in George Street on alternate Thursdays providing voluntary support to any carer with IT or mobile phone problems, but yesterday was different - it was their annual Christmas party! It was a pleasure to meet so many carers enjoying themselves in a relaxed atmosphere and with some excellent food laid on. It was also a pleasure to see the Centre manager and her daughter participating in an ABBA Karaoke session!
Planning subcommittee sensibly voted in favour of new children's cafe and play area 14/12/2018 20:38:00.......Posted by Simon Brew
Planning (sub)committees are usually quite a painful experience for Purley residents; they, supported by me or one of my colleagues, often appear at them to object to some totally inappropriate planning application, such as to demolish a large family house and replace it by a block of flats.
Last Thursday was different. The planning officers had recommended refusal of a planning application for a change of use of the shop in Purley High Street right next to the Downlands Precinct. The application sought to merge the ex-Big Mike's restaurant with the ex-optician's shop to create a single premises which would be used for a mum's cafe and play area for children. The problem was that a shop and a cafe count as different use classes, and the officers were reluctant to allow the shop to be converted into a cafe because there are already several cafes in the High Street. I and the applicant argued that the shop and the ex-restaurant had both been empty for about five years, so it seemed pretty unlikely that anyone would come forward to take the shop as-is whereas a cafe and play area was something different and a very welcome addition to the High Street. There were absolutely no objections to this proposal, which was also supported both by Purley BID and by the PWRA.
I was delighted that the members of the committee unanimously agreed with me and the applicant and decided to overturn the officer's refusal; we can now look forward to something new in the High Street which will in turn attract more footfall and thus encourage more trade in the High Street.
Purley Rail Art project - now down to a small shortlist 10/12/2018 17:02:00.......Posted by Simon Brew
In the end we received no less that 23 entries for this project which was a very satisfying total. The artists live in all parts of the UK including one in Croydon, and they proposed a variety of artforms including sculpture, ceramics and mosiacs; many stressed how keen they were to involve the local community in the finalisation of the design.
We've now managed to whittle the applicants down to a small shortlist, and we hope to conduct final interviews before Christmas.
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