IT’S IN THE STARS: SHAM ‘SHAMANS’ IN TRADING STANDARDS’ SIGHTS
Victims being asked to contact council
ROGUE fortune tellers and palm readers who have duped people into parting with cash are being targeted by Croydon council’s trading standards team.
The team are asking the victims – described as “vulnerable and unwitting members of the public” are being asked to reveal what happened to them.
The con artists – some of whom are also trading as astrologers – claim to be able to reveal secrets about a person’s past, present and future are operating in the borough.
“Witnesses have told of customers of these scammers who have been left upset and reduced to tears following sessions at which increasing sums of money have been demanded for the phoney services on offer” said a council spokesman.
Now victims of these sham shamans are being asked by the trading standards team to complete a simple, confidential questionnaire outlining details of their experience, and when and where it happened.
Cllr Mark Watson, cabinet member for safety and justice, said: “Many of the people who visit these tricksters do so because of a traumatic event – such as illness, or the loss of a loved one – and are in a vulnerable state.
“That leaves them open to being taken advantage of, and we suspect that’s happening in a growing number of instances.
“There’s no blame attached to them because of this, and they shouldn’t feel at all shamed – they’ve fallen victim to a professional conman who’s out to take them for all he can get.
“That’s why we’re asking people to let us know what happened, and the effect it had on them, and assuring them that their identity won’t be revealed. “We hope to be able to use the information gathered to put a stop to this worrying and damaging trend.”
Anybody who feels they may have been conned by somebody claiming to be a palmist or astrologist, is asked to email@example.com or call 020 8407 1311. (Source: Croydon council press release)
NEW HOUSING COMPANY WILL BUILD MORE HOMES
Croydon council are proposing to set up their own housing company to address the shortage of homes in Croydon across all tenures, including affordable housing.
The building of new homes has previously been financed by the council through its housing revenue account (HRA) which has provided 100 affordable homes for rent with a further 200 set to be built by 2018.
But Croydon say that because of government restrictions on the level of borrowing within the HRA, this is now at its limit.
“The supply of new homes needs to be dramatically increased to meet current and future demands for all types of housing in Croydon” said the council in a statement.
“Therefore we are proposing to set up a ‘wholly-owned housing company’ which will enable it to set the tenure and rent.
“It would also be able to build homes exempt from right-to-buy and have freedom to borrow more money.”
Cllr Alison Butler, cabinet member for homes and regeneration, said: “Given the housing crisis in Croydon and the number of families needing a home to rent or buy, we have to explore every opportunity to boost supply.
“As a council we are committed to increasing housing supply across the borough and given the borrowing cap limiting the amount we can borrow to build new homes, we are keen to pursue other avenues such as the creation of a wholly-owned housing company.
“It would liberate the council from the government-imposed HRA borrowing cap and mean that we could work with partners or on our own to accelerate the building of homes for local residents.” (Source: Croydon council press release)
BROMLEY INVESTING IN PROPERTY
Bromley council have invested some of their funds in income-earning property investments which are on track to earn an annual income of £2 million – FIVE or SIX times the income earned from the equivalent investment in bank deposits.
The figures are revealed in a council statement on how it regularly reviews its budget and the way it handles taxpayers’ money to ensure what it calls best value for residents.
“Council monies are available for treasury management investment for a number of reasons such as positive cash flow, funds awaiting use and council reserves.
“In line with Government guidance, the council’s policy is to seek to ensure the security of the council’s investments, to achieve liquidity and to achieve the highest rate of return on investments whilst maintaining appropriate levels of risk.
“The council’s investments span a wide variety of options ranging from property and corporate bonds to other sound investment choices and also include a £5m investment made in a property fund which has now been increased to £10m as part of a further adjustment to the strategy based on current market conditions.
Bromley council leader Cllr Stephen Carr said: “Bromley prides itself on the robust way we deal with financial matters in order to maximise the resources available to provide quality services for local people who need them most .
“The council had a healthy cash flow position through the whole of 2013/14 and through the first quarter of 2014/15 and as a result no borrowing has been required.
“Our policy of managing our resources well and sustainably will become even more important as we are required to make further savings into the future.
“These are tough times for all but I am confident that we are doing everything we can to ensure our funds are invested soundly and used appropriately.” (Source: Bromley council press release)
CROYDON SHORTLISTED FOR PLANNING AUTHORITY OF THE YEAR (SERIOUSLY)
Croydon is in the running for a major planning award after being hailed as an example to other authorities.
The council has been shortlisted for planning authority of the year in the inaugural MIPIM UK / Estates Gazette Awards.
The nomination says: “Croydon council’s radically pragmatic approach to planning is increasingly being seen as an exemplar for how planning authorities should work across the UK.
“It was recently identified as one of only a handful of authorities practising successful ‘proactive planning’ in the Farrell Review in to Architecture and the Built Environment and is winning awards for its work.
“The ingredients of Croydon’s approach are: a robust, comprehensive planning framework; a structured and thorough pre-app process; good processes and project management for plan-making and decision-taking and front-ending the use of specialist in-house design expertise as part of policy formulation and scheme design.”
A Croydon council spokesman said: “A team of judges have selected the country’s best regeneration projects, acknowledging future projects in Britain, while paying tribute to the best schemes from the private rented sector.
“They were particularly impressed by Croydon’s “radically pragmatic approach” to planning, which they said was an exemplar for how planning authorities should work across the UK.
“The recent Farrell Review, a government-commissioned industry-wide review of architecture and the built environment, identified Croydon as one of only a handful of authorities practising successful ‘proactive planning’,”.
Cllr Alison Butler, cabinet member for homes and regeneration, said: “To be recognised as one of the best planning authorities in the country is a fantastic achievement.
“We are leading the way with our approach to planning, which has a key role to play in delivering future growth in Croydon. “Good planning foundations are vital in attracting developers to invest in our borough.”
Croydon is up against Southwark and Sunderland for the award. The citation for Southwark says: “Southwark has a mission to deliver a fairer future for all and has set about it with urgency. “As a result, it has delivered more affordable homes over the past three years than any other London borough.
“Its next ambition is to deliver 11,000 new council homes over thirty years with 1500 built by 2018. “To developers, Southwark is both welcoming and demanding.
“They are invited to work to the borough’s strengths; the diversity and creativity of its people and its amazing historic position in central London.” The winners will be announced during MIPIM UK in London on 16 October.
(Sources: Croydon council press release, MIPIM UK/Estates Gazette Awards website)
CALL FOR MORE POLICE IN SOUTHWARK
Concerns over local policing levels in Southwark have been raised by the borough’s new cabinet member for community safety, Cllr Michael Situ.
In an open letter to the Mayor of London Cllr Situ argues the recent restructure of the borough’s Safer Neighbourhood Team has jeopardised links between the police and the local community.
Previously, each ward was served by a dedicated team of officers with strong community ties and a solid presence in the community.
With the new changes, introduced by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), officers have moved from ward level support to larger clusters with fewer opportunities to engage with local residents.
Since 2010, police numbers have dropped by 20 per cent resulting in the loss of 194 officers. In addition, the number of PCSOs has been significantly reduced. The council is calling for figures to be bolstered to the levels of 2010 when the borough had 957 police officers and 112 PSCOs.
In response, Southwark council has launched a petition calling on the support of local people for more officers on the ground.
In recent years, the borough has made great strides in crime and disorder and only last year recorded a 25 per cent reduction in violent crime and 28 pc reduction in gun crime since 2010.
The letter stresses the importance of maintaining this progress with a strengthened local police force that continues its successful relationship with the council.
Cllr Situ said: “Only two years ago, the Mayor made an election promise to not reduce the number of police officers in Southwark. “Since then we’ve seen the number of frontline officers and dedicated ward officers shrink in Southwark.
“I fear that a depleted police force could reverse the years of progress we’ve achieved. “Residents now feel safer in their local communities and I would hate to see this jeopardised”.
Addressing the recent recruitment drive for London police officers he added: “I note the Mayor’s recent announcement to recruit more police officers across London indicating that he realises it’s time to re-address local policing.
“I urge him to take the opportunity now to restore our lost officers and keep his promise to our residents.”
People wishing to sign the petition can go to: http://www.change.org/p/the-mayor-of-london-increase-police-numbers-in-southwark and visit www.southwark.gov.uk/policenumbers for more information. The petition closes on Monday 3 November 2014. (Source: Southwark council press release)