Thursday, 10 July 2014

Does Croydon' Labour's Economic Development Plan Go Far Enough?

While the paper says that economic development policy cannot be based on ‘business as usual’, the big question is whether it  sets out a sufficiently new pathway which does not rely too heavily on the property development world.

Whitgift/Hammerson Development

Support for the Whitgift/Hammerson redevelopment of the Whitgift and Centrale shopping centres seems to remain a centrepiece. It avoids the question of the quality and pay levels of projected 5,000 jobs. There is no reference to the administration’s commitment to see Croydon as a London Living Wage Borough. The Council will be unable to require retailers and employers in the new Centre to implement the wage, and Westfield says it cannot require the businesses it will let to do so either. So are the 5,000 projected jobs going to be based on low pay, minimum wage and zero hours contracts, further underpinning the deprivation in the Borough rather than contributing to its reduction?

Consideration needs to be given to what action the Council will need to take in stimulating other economic development approaches if the Westfield/Hammerson scheme either does not go ahead, or is not completed on time.

Private Rents

The report is based on an assumption that the average monthly private rent level in Croydon was £890 last September. This may already be out of date and now stands at £1,056 (

The implications of increasing private rent levels be analysed.

Affordable Housing

While the target is the 30% pledge in the election campaign, there is no discussion on whether so-called affordable homes are actually affordable.

There should be an analysis of the rent levels charged on so called ‘affordable’ homes over the last two years.

Para 3.6. District and Local Centres

An important change is the new emphasis on revitalising the district and local centres. While there is talk of consultation there is not mention of the need to have district and local centres committees of Councillors and local people steering the plans, the expenditure and the implementation.

Discussions should begin with residents and other organisations in Norbury, South Norwood and New Addington with a view to establishing joint committees of them and local Councillors to oversee the planning and implementation of  expenditure on local regeneration.

Office Space

The more demand for modern office accommodation is satisfied it is likely that commercial rents will increase, adversely affecting the affordability for SMEs and start-up businesses.

Consideration should be given to using any Council owned empty or underused office blocks to provide affordable accommodation for SMEs and start ups, especially in the tech sector.


The report contains no reference to travel to work statistics; both inward and outgoing. Improving travel access in and out of Croydon could mean a significant number of the expected new jobs will not be filled by Croydon residents, leaving a continued pool of unemployed in the most disadvantaged  parts of the Borough.

A travel to work analysis should be undertaken on the numbers of people coming into Croydon to work and the number of Croydonians going out of Borough to work, the analysis to include ward level so as to ascertain whether there are particular problems facing people living in the more deprived wards.

Pathways to Employment

There is no estimate of the number of jobs in Croydon that the Pathways to Employment programme may help local people fill.

An analysis should be published on the number of types of jobs it is anticipated will be filled through the Pathways to employment including likely wage levels.

A University For Croydon

There may well be many advantages to attracting a major UK university to set up a campus in the Borough. However, consideration will need to be given to the nature of the jobs that will be created, especially as so many University support services are now contracted out, especially those jobs at the lower pay end of the market. There may also be added pressures on the local private rented housing market from students wanting to live in the Borough.

The negotiations with Universities should include the issues of the nature of jobs that will be provided and their pay levels and student demand for housing.


While it is important for the Council to lobby for improved infrastructure there is no discussion on the challenges faced by the digital divide and how reducing it can contribute to improvement pathways to employment.

The next phase of analysis in developing the Growth Plan should include ways in which the digital divide can be reduced.


The report rightly emphasises the importance of SMEs and start-ups, especially in the tech sector, which helps towards creating a diversity of employment opportunities, and the growth of some into larger scale businesses which might wish to stay in the Borough if the office accommodation is appropriate to their expanding needs. The importance of encouraging mutuals, co-operatives and social enterprises is welcome, but like the tech businesses these need to grow organically from below, rather than be solutions forced on employees under pressure to avoid their firms collapse or redundancies.

Council’s Purchasing Power

The recognition of the important role of the Council as purchaser is welcome in being able to give priority to local businesses. This will require a detailed analysis of what it purchases, where it currently purchases from, and whether there are local businesses which can offer themselves as suppliers. There may need to be assistance to help existing local businesses adapt to supplying the products the Council needs, and setting up new businesses that can act as suppliers. It may be that some businesses will need to be encouraged to manufacture the goods the Council needs. However, there will be limits to the Council’s role as its purchasing power decreases given the further cuts it will have to make in the next three years.

A purchasing power plan should be drawn up listing the purchases and their value, where they are currently sourced, whether there are local suppliers who can meet the Council’s need, or whether action will need to be taken to assist the development of local suppliers.

The Revolving Investment Fund

Is the Fund an alternative to creating, or something that would complement a Croydon Bank?

The above analysis is a preliminery one.

A news report on the Growth Plan report can be seen at:

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Limitations of Croydon’s Culture Seminar on 8 July

Given the structure of the Culture seminar held on Tuesday 8 July, the new Labour administration has a lot to learn about consultation events. For my news summary of the event see:

The initial presentations left only 35 minutes for round table discussions, a classic problem with the format of so many consultation meetings in the past. The seminar was ended  with no opportunity for broader discussion or to discuss priorities. Therefore there was no chance for any consensus on urgent issues to emerge. This leaves Cllrs Godfrey and Lewis  free to decide what they will take action on and what they will not take action on, with no basis for accountability back to those present. The seminar represents a half-way house in Labour’s goal to be more open and transparent and involve people more in decision making.

It would have been useful to have been able to sound out the whole meeting about some of the big and urgent issues raised from the discussion tables, as to whether the Council should:

  •      reinstate the £50,000 Council funding to the Croydon Music Service. This now appears to have been a 100% cut in Council support, leaving CMS dependent on funding from other sources.

  •      withdrawal of the proposal at the 14 July Cabinet meeting to purchase SEGAS House for an Oasis Academy, given the site’s inappropriateness for a school, and instead to investigate the feasibility of e.g. making it the base for a substantial Croydon Museum.

  •      return the Section 106 money originally transferred to the Council when Warehouse Theatre closed, given that the developer’s new planning application provides for a 200 seat theatre.

  •      give more importance to the allocation of funding for culture from the Community Infrastructure Levy. 

  •      negotiate with Westfield/Hammerson and other developers to invest more in public art.

  •      put resources into looking at how to create a cluster of cultural venues linking Fairfield Halls, the Clocktower, the possibility of SEGAS House as a museum, etc.

  •      reduce the barriers to organising cultural events by simplifying rules and regulations and charges.

Diversity and Racism

One table suggested that because the cultural offer does not reflect the diversity of the Borough’s residents, this was  tantamount to racism or institutional racism. This is an issue I have examined in my discussion paper.  The general emphasis on digital publicity and a one-stop website has the danger of reinforcing institutional racism because of the digital divide: the large number of households that do not have home based internet access.

Where Next?

Cllr Godfrey’s announcement that the Council would be working on a  Borough wide Croydon Festival for 2015 is very much a  top-down initiative and was not open to discussion about the genuine differences of opinion as to whether such a Festival is needed or whether more effort should be put into local Festivals.

The people attending the seminar are now in limbo, having to wait to see how Cllrs Godfrey and Lewis develop a new Council cultural strategy, without any ability to influence the detail until a draft policy is available. There may well be a drip feed of  top-down announcements. 

What is needed is a clear position statement of where things stand now on a whole range of issues such as those raised in my list of questions to bring people up to-date: see:

Placing the Seminar In the Wider Context of Culture Debate

It will be crucial that when the Godfrey’s draft cultural strategy is available that the new pre-Scrutiny process is undertaken on it.

None of the above is a criticisms of Godrey’s decision to hold the seminar. But was not held out of the blue.

There has been much dialogue over the last couple for years, helped by the South Croydon Community Association initiated discussion on the future of Fairfield Halls leading to the formation of the Croydon Arts Network, the scandal of the sale of items from the Riesco Collection, and the activities of the Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign.  All of this has been supported by the mushrooming of activities from below, including the development of Matthews Yard and the Spread Eagle as venues, and the Fun Palace and Turf Projects.  It is because of those initiatives that Labour realised it had to change the Council’s approach to culture following the years of vandalism by the previous Tory administration.

The danger is that the approach being taken is still to top- down. This is why it is important that through the Arts Network that cultural activists and organisations develop their own strategy of demands, including  principles and methods of working with the Council.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Discussion of Croydon Cabinet Papers 14 July

There are a number of elements in the positive aspects of the new Labour administration’s changing policies as being discussed at the Cabinet meeting of 14 July than could be improved. This suggestions are based on my practical experience with these issues over the years. 

Note: news reportage of items on the agenda are posted on my News & Events Blog site at

Leasing Property for Homeless Families

For background see:

Improved Action on Empty Property


It is surprising that with new rules about to come in on contract processes that the contract decisions under current delegated authority have not been  not deferred until they can be dealt with under the new rules, especially as they can be called in by the Scrutiny Committee. It is to be hoped that such a call in will be made so that the Committee can begin to test its new powers.

Ear-marked financial reserve

Given the underspend carried over from 2013/14  Labour has been able to set up an earmarked reserve fund out of which it has already agreed to spend £. This leaves over £2m to allocate. What could it spend it on? Should any of the Tory cuts of £18.083m for 2014/15 be re-examined  and re-instated (see:
My top ones for reinstatement are:
  •          Museums and Archives Services £30,000
  •          Grant to London Mozart Players £90,000
  •          Subsidy to School Music Service £50,000
  •          Reduce diversionary activity work for young people £20,000
  •          Reassess eligibility of Taxicards and disabled persons freedom pass £20,000
Openness Agenda

The allocation of more time for public questions is welcome. This could be further improved by:
  •       A shorter timetable for submission of public questions so that very up to-date issues can be subject to questions.
  •      Enabling more than one question per member of the public.
  •       Ending the restriction on the way in which the question can be formulated.
  •       A ban on questions which contain an  attack on an individual - but not a question seeking accountability of individual Councillors or officers.
  •      A ban on personal attacks being included in answers to public (and Councillor) questions.
  •      Inviting members of the public to put their question on the floor of the Council Chamber and not from the public gallery.
  •      Part of the openness agenda is clearly to encourage residents and organisations to make better use of the Town Hall complex. It may therefore be useful to consider:
  •      Ensuring that the Clocktower cafĂ© is open up to at least the start of Council meetings to enable members of the public to have some refreshment before the meetings.
  •      Returning Local Studies to the Library room and using the current ground floor room in which it is located to display the whole of the Croydon art collection.
An element of the openness debate is the greater use of electronic media. Given the digital divide which particularly affects communities in the ‘socially deprived’ neighbourhoods encouraging engagement has to be carried out by non-electric means as well. Indeed the petition scheme should also stress the role of paper based petitions.

Thought is needed as to the future way the Council organises and runs public meetings. See my discussion piece at

Academy Expansion and SEGAS House

It is surprising that Labour is proposing to delegate the decision to purchase SEGAS House to the relevant Cabinet member. Given concerns about the lack of suitability of the site for a school and the debate about potential alternative uses then it is to be hoped that the Cabinet will withdraw this proposal and the Scrutiny Committee will consider the future of the House.

It is clearly too early for the new Labour administration to develop a new approach to the way in which academies and free schools are being foisted onto to the Borough, and whether they have the power to reduce their enabling support for them. By adopting a business as usual approach to the paper at the Cabinet meeting on 14 July, Labour is signing up to more fragmentation, the further reduction of LEA community schools, and the uncertainty of free school and academy initiatives.

London Living Wage

Given that it is said that a large percentage of Council ‘staff’ are on temporary or freelance contracts, has their remuneration level been included in the assessment of who is not being paid at London Living Wage level?

When was the last assessment made of whether those on freelance contracts would actually be regarded by HMRC as employees because of the requirements such as their hours, their work base location, and the degree to which they are managed?   If some of these ‘staff’ should be on employee contracts, then how many would need to have a remuneration increase to LLW level?

Capital to Coast LEP

I addressed some of the issues facing Croydon’s involvement in the LEP a note I submitted to Cabinet members in January - see 

For my discussion on Croydon Economic Development see:

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Croydon To Lease Housing for the Homeless and Improve Action on Empty Properties

Improved action to house homeless families in the Borough and bring empty properties back into use is outlined in two papers to the Cabinet on 14 July.

Purchase of Homes for Homeless Families

It will create 189 homes as temporary accommodation for homeless families on 10 year leases on Concord House at  454-458 London Road (126 units) and Sycamore House at 799 London Road (63 units).

Comprising 149 purpose built studios and 40 one bed self-contained flats with a shower room and kitchenette, of which 8 flats on the ground floor of Concord House are designed for disabled use, these temporary homes will not be generous but an improvement on living in bed and breakfast. The studio apartments are to be fitted out with 2 single beds and the flats with 4 single beds to maximise flexibility.  Given that at 23 June there were a total of 513 households in bed and breakfast these 189 units are a significant contribution, as well as saving on the cost of bed and breakfast.

This leasing mirrors the experience I had in signing up blocks of flats in the private sector leasing scheme West Hampstead Housing Association ran for Camden Council in the 1990s.

Given the multiple problems homeless families face in getting their lives back on track, an efficient and sensitive housing management and welfare advice service will need to be provided. The child density across the whole age range is likely to be high, so there may well need to be targeted support services. e.g organised play. Assuming these blocks will be on entry-home systems it would be worthwhile considering wiring each flat with some form of free internet access so that families can link in with information and services on line.

It is to be hoped that in the future the Council might consider buying the freehold of private blocks, especially those with smaller units, which could then be offered, with moving assistance, to Council tenants who wish to move from larger properties, thus releasing those properties for family use.

Empty Properties

Council action to bring empty properties into use is an important additional tool to ease homelessness.

The Council estimates that there are 636 long term empty properties in Croydon as at 31 March 2014 which have been empty for more than 2 years is 298; more than 6 months 163; empty and owner  receiving care or giving care elsewhere 133 and empty for miscellaneous reasons. Of the 1444 properties noted as empty in the Council Tax records the remainder are believed to now be back in use.

The Council plans to encourage empty property owners to bring properties back into use by:

  • By continuing its capital funding for a grants programme over the next two years.
  • Using empty property grants more flexibly (including making payments in instalments while works are underway);
  • Offering incentives to owners to declare their properties as empty, and a package of assistance to help with moving where required;
  • Improving joint working between Empty Property Officers, Corporate Debt Recovery, Revenues and Benefits, Council Deputyship including arrangements to share information where this will help identify owners of empty properties;
  • Carrying out a further targeted audit of Council Tax list empty homes over the next 12 months;
  • Improving administrative support and IT equipment for Empty Property Officers to enable them to use time more effectively through mobile working.
It will continue with enforcement action:
  • responding to complaints and enquiries about long term empty properties, inspecting empty properties for hazards, obtaining court warrants and orders to enter empty properties, joint working with the Housing Enforcement Section to tackle any problems with pests, drainage or refuse, joint working with Corporate Debt Recovery to take action for bankruptcy and enforced sale, and taking action to compulsorily purchase the property.
Priority actions will include:
  • Increasing the frequency of compulsory purchase order applications;
  • Using Empty Dwelling Management Orders to bring empty properties back into use;
  • Negotiating the purchase of empty properties where appropriate;
  • Increasing the use of Planning powers to improve appearance of property (S215 T&C planning 1990); Building Act notices to improve condition of property; Environmental Health Act 1990 powers to tackle pest and drainage issues;
  • Engaging with Banks and Building Societies to repossess properties in poor condition/sell repossessions quickly.
What More Can be Done?
  •        Working in partnership with housing associations for them to buy up empty properties.
  •        Ensuring that when the Council buys or compulsory purchases empty properties it is ready to move in quickly to carry out the works.
  •        After a minimum amount of work to clean and make safe, letting suitable purchased empty properties as temporary accommodation for the homeless until full scale conversion or improvement works can be carried out.
  •        Systematically Identifying empty or underused rooms above shops with a view to helping the owners/shopkeepers to turn them in to resident accommodation. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Why are Croydon Planning Officers Recommending Approval Re—7 Beatrice Ave, Norbury?

Croydon officers are recommending that the Planning Committee on 10 July accept the conversion of the outbuilding at 7 Beatrice Ave in to a games room and gym for the use of the ground floor flat.
There are several aspects of the application and the recommendation which seem to me to be a real concern.

Firstly, there appears to have been a history of the Council not wanting the outbuilding to be retained at all. Yet the officers provide no detail and no proper explanation as to why they are now happy to retain it in a reduced size.

Secondly, the paper states: ‘there is no planning history for this conversion but it is thought to have commenced more than 4 years ago.

Does this not make it an illegal conversion against which the Council could take action|?
Even if it is out of time to do so granting permission on the outbuilding is tantamount to letting the developer get away with it.

Given the intention of the Council to get tougher with landlords, granting permission will give a contrary signal to other landlords and developers converting houses into flats. 

It would also weaken the Council’s future ability to defend areas of special character.

Thirdly, the  recommendation is against the views of the residents association.

There is an objection reference to ‘The support has been entirely from the Labour Party and none from the local residents.’ 

Granting permission would undermine the development of improved partnership between Norbury Councillors and the particular residents association and will spill over into that with the other three associations, given they are now working closely on the Love Norbury campaign. 

Fourthly , it seems strange that a private landlord would be turning a single storey outbuilding fur use as a  games room and gym by the occupants of a ground floor flat. Ciould it be a holding exercise by the applicant in the hope that in the future he can try and get permission to knock it down and build a small house. Granting planning permission gives Council approval to the existence of the site of outbuilding site as a building plot.
It is to be hoped that the Planning Committee will reject the officers’ recommendation and instruct them to bring a paper to a future meeting on the situation with regard to the conversion of the house.

Previous Outbuilding Rejection Reasons

This despite their refusal last August of an application to retain the outbuilding, and the fact that it appears that the property was converted into flats without planning permission.   
In rejecting the retention of the outbuilding the officers argued that:

‘1. The proposal would result in an overdevelopment of the site out of keeping with the character of the area and thereby would not comply with Croydon Local Plan Strategic Policy SP4.1, London Plan 2011 Policies 7.4 and 7.6, Policies UD2 and UD3 of the Croydon Replacement Unitary Development Plan (The Croydon Plan 2006) Saved Policies 2013 and Supplementary Planning Document No. 2 on Residential Extensions and Alterations.

2. The development would be detrimental to the residential amenities of the occupiers of the adjoining property by reason of visual intrusion and loss of outlook and would thereby conflict with Croydon Local Plan Strategic Policy SP4.1, London Plan 2011 Policy 7.6, Policy UD8 of the Croydon Replacement Unitary Development Plan (The Croydon Plan 2006) Saved Policies 2013 and Supplementary Planning Document No. 2 on Residential Extensions and Alterations.’

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Is Racism Off The Croydon Agenda?

Tackling racism needs to be back on the agenda in Croydon. This was a strong view coming out of the discussion at the Look How Far We’ve Come event organised by the Radical History Network in the Heritage Festival on Wednesday 2 July. It is not an issue in the newly adopted  Community Safety Strategy approved by the new Labour Cabinet on Monday 30 June.

There does not appear to have been any urgent need for the  adoption of the paper. It could have been subject to the new  Scrutiny draft policy review approach. When the main Scrutiny and Overview Committee meets on 11 November it will be questioning Mark Watson, the Cabinet Member for Safety & Justice on the Safer Croydon Partnership and Domestic Violence.  It is to be hoped that BME and anti-racist organisations in the Borough will begin to prepare the case for inclusion of action of racism to submit to the Committee, and also to the Fairness Commission when it gets started. It is also an issue I have raised in my discussion paper for the culture seminar on Tuesday 8 July.

Unimaginative Scrutiny Work Programme

Although some minor amendments were made at its meeting on 1 July the initial Scrutiny meetings programme for 2014-15 looks like an officer dominated agenda with no sense of Labour determined priorities.  
Economic development is not to be looked by Scrutiny  until 10 February in terms of a discussion with the Cabinet member Toni Letts. What is needed is a new style Scrutiny review to explore the development of an alternative economic development policy designed to broaden the economic basis of the Borough. This is needed regardless of whether the Westfield/Hammerson development proceeds. But it also needs to be a Plan B in case that development collapses or does not deliver the alleged economic benefits.
Of the many mini-scrutiny reviews needed the programme leaves out a scrutiny of the process about the sale of items from the Riesco Collection and its future, and of the emergency response capability of the Council.

Emergency Response Capability

While the Council emergency response to the floods earlier in the year was rightly much praised, there has been criticism of its failure to respond to the effects of the illegal rave confrontation with the police, which so easily could have escalated into a riot.  There needs to be an urgent review to ascertain what went wrong and why, and what can be done to ensure proper response to any future crisis.

The Appointment of Chief Executive

Given this failure of the emergency response of the Council machine it is all the more surprising that the acting Chief Executive has been given permanent tenure of the post. One of the key challenges for Labour is to change the senior officer culture. It is to be hoped that the Labour Leadership has made it clear to the new Chief Executive that they expect his full co-operation in that process. It is also to be hoped that there is a probationary period included in his contract. As someone who has been quite happy in the past to have my own employment and salary in a publicly funded post open to public scrutiny and debate, I would hope that there will be an open Scrutiny Panel review of his probationary period performance.

Anti-poverty is at heart of Croydon Fairness Commisison

The idea of a Fairness Commission for Croydon was a welcome Labour Manifesto headline pledge. The Labour administration is setting it an ambitious task at the Cabinet meeting on Monday 30 June.


Fairness Commissions in other London Boroughs and cities are essentially about anti-poverty. They are a welcome recognition of the need to revive the former anti-poverty strategy approach of Councils in the 1980s and 1990s. At the core of the concept of ‘fairness’ is the growing wealth inequalities across the country, made worse by such things as people being paid below a Living Wage, zero hours contracts, and cuts to benefits both for those in work and the unemployed.

Fairness Commissions are a means to an end NOT an the end in themselves. The END is the try and halt the growing wealth diversity, and improve the incomes and living standards and opportunities for the least wealthy.

The Webb Memorial Trust, which is mentioned in the Cabinet report recently commissioned some work on poverty, inequality and Commissions for the All Party Parliamentary Group on poverty. A number issues have emerged from Commissions elsewhere in the country that raise a number of questions for the Croydon one to consider.

Pay differentials. Are there other ways to reduce the wide disparities in income between the wealthiest and poorest households? Whilst the Living Wage focuses on the lowest paid, should the pay ratios with higher earners be reduced. Should there be a cut in the pay of senior officers starting with the Chief Executive?

Living Wage. I discuss this at

Debt and credit: How can support be given to  develop the credit union sector to provide an alternative to pay day loans and competitive banking services for people on low incomes? Is it possible to have a bye-law restricting the activity of pay day loan companies?

Increasing job opportunities for local people. How can new local businesses and social enterprises be created with a clear strategy and action plan? How can employers be encouraged to increase the proportion of local people they employ?

Tackling youth unemployment. Can larger businesses be persuaded to effect  a step change in their engagement with local people, guaranteeing to provide an agreed % of work experience placements every year and committing to increasing apprenticeship and other local employment opportunities?

Targeted support for mothers. Can employers be persuaded to 
develop a targeted package of employment support to mothers, especially for those groups of women with particularly low rates of employment, combining advice on childcare, training, volunteering, and employment options? 

Health.  Can greater and more integrated provision of preventative and community based health and social care services, particularly for the elderly and the large gap in life expectancy between the least and most deprived areas be achieved? Can increased attention be given improving the physical health care of people with mental health problems?

Housing. Can a London living rent formula be developed? How can newly developed homes be prevented from standing empty? Can more premises over shops be brought into residential use?

Internet Access. Can a partnership be developed in which universities and the creative digital industries, play a role in  making free access to wireless internet universal across the Borough?

Reducing energy bills. Should the Council and Housing Associations  assess the feasibility of becoming an affordable energy provider? 
Food banks. What support should be given to food banks and other providers of emergency food relief?

Enhancing democracy. More more needs to be done to encourage voter registration and increase the number of voters? 

Implementation. There will be a  problem of moving from identifying achievable recommendations to implementation and action where recommendations are too general or too ambitious. What will happen after the Commission has reported and published its  recommendations? Who will be responsible for implementing the next stage?

Partnership and Consensus. ‘Beyond partnership and calls for more collaboration between public, private and third sector bodies, there has been little in any of the reports about alternative political strategies or recommendations about how tackling poverty and inequality might be advanced in the cut and thrust of public and political life. This is perhaps not surprising given the commission model and the nature of the process. However, the extent to which partnership and consensus alone can deliver the change that is required to significantly reduce poverty and inequality is debatable.’
Anyone who has been involved in partnership processes over the last two or three decades know how difficult they are to work in, especially when small partners like the community and voluntary sector, get marginalised and trodden all over.

Anyone who is nominated to be a Commission member will be taking on a very onerous, time consuming task. They will need to be lateral thinkers with wide experience across economic, regeneration and social policy, analysis and delivery. It needs people who are independent in their questioning and thinking, and who are not locked into existing Council, other public service or private enterprise structures.

A key issue for the Cabinet to consider is whether the proposed £200k cost of servicing the Commission is a typical officer trick witnessed over the years in many Councils. The paper does not give a budget breakdown so it does not show how much money will be needed to fund it this financial year 2014/15 and next year 2015/16 up to the end of the January 2016 when the Commission is timetabled to publish its Final Report.

A small project team is certainly needed to support the Commission, but these could come from existing staff seconded from Departments that are undergoing staff cuts. The experience of the team in public engagement and effective partnership work will be vital, Taken into account my experience of teams servicing other partnerships and enquiries this is a potential Achilles Heel.

The Cabinet report can be accessed at