(Photo courtesy John Nunn)
Dateline Wednesday June 4th
CROYDON’S NEW MAYOR Cllr Manju Shahul-Hameed wants the town hall to become the people’s town hall.
Speaking at a reception following her installation as the new Mayor, who represents Broad Green ward on the council, told guests: “I’ll really be looking forward to getting out to the community and meeting everyone. “My priority is supporting organisations and individuals who contribute to the well-being of the community.
“I want to make use of this opportunity for networking during my mayoral year. “I hope it becomes the people’s town hall.”
Just after the Mayor-making was over, the new Mayor, accompanied by the new deputy Mayor Cllr Patricia Hay-Justice (Addiscombe ward) met around 10 people who had been unable to get a seat in the public gallery to watch proceedings and who were unable to watch them on a giant TV set aside for the occasion as IT systems weren’t working. (see below)
Among them was seven-year-old Rory Gibson, a pupil at Rockmount primary school, Upper Norwood. What was it like to meet the Mayor? “Exciting” he said.
SKETCH FROM THE GALLERY (Well room F5 actually…)
News From Crystal Palace just missed out on the last seat in the public gallery for last night’s Mayor-making.
It would appear this year’s ceremony had attracted far more invited guests and visitors than usual and so it was that around 15 of us ended up in room F5 of the town hall where we could, we were confidently told, watch the proceedings on a huge TV screen.
Unfortunately the screen wasn’t working.
This, it later transpired, was because a new IT system had recently been installed by Capita and even though the occupants of room F5 were assured the system had been working earlier, it wasn’t now.
One member of the F5 audience was already on his soap box: “Then the people STUPIDLY voted Labour and then they EVEN MORE STUPIDLY voted in a Labour council” he declared. (So, OK to vote for UKIP then?)
As doubts among the occupants of room F5 that they wouldn’t be able to watch the proceedings rose, another individual asked if he could e-mail the council leader. “Just give us two minutes” said one of the suits.
The Conservative supporter was back in mode: “This is all the Labour council’s fault. “It would never have happened under a Conservative council” he declared.
Actually not the case. I’m told that up until yesterday Croydon was still, effectively, in Conservative hands. (Just in case the People’s Front of Judea were planning on issuing a communique.)
And who was in power when the new IT contract was signed the contract with Capita…?
The individual who’d asked if he could e-mail the council leader was now texting a councillor friend of his who was in the council chamber.
As the town hall chimes struck seven (the Mayor-making having been under way for 30 minutes) – the Conservative supporter left.
Another person in F5 remarked that: “Croydon aren’t renowned for sharing things with the public.”
The various suits who’d been coming and going were polite and apologetic. “Good luck with your TV watching” said one. (There wouldn’t, it transpired, be any.) “Thank you for your patience.”
“There’s nothing we can do at the moment. “We’r e really embarrassed. “We’ve been let down by IT. “We don’t know what to say to you. “We went through everything but we went through a lot of changes in the last few days.”
One suggestion of putting extra seats in the press gallery to accommodate those of us left in F5 was turned down on the grounds of elfin safety – and that it would cause more disruption. Fair enough.
One of the suits who had been coming and going then offered apologies “on behalf of the head of democratic and legal services.”
Was he from Capita?
“No. “I’m the catering and supplies manager.”
One woman asked if they could all be taken to a private meeting with the Mayor after proceedings were over. In your dreams, I thought.
The Mayor’s mace bearer arrived, apologised and told the remaining ten or so of us: “It’s really good to see so many of the community in the council chamber.”
“I wanted to see the old Mayor” aid the man who had texted his councillor friend.
The mace bearer politely corrected him. “We call it the past Mayor” he explained..
And then the new Mayor – an absolutely charming lady – walked in accompanied by the new deputy mayor. “Thank you so much for coming” she said as she shook hands with the F5 audience.
Making one woman’s dream come true. And scoring a major Mayoral PR coup in the process.
(Justa thought: How many councils have ever had a Mayor and deputy Mayor who both have double-barrelled surnames?)