Thursday, September 24, 2015

I would make Croydon better by...

Introducing a Croydon Citizenship Test to all new residents to our borough. The purpose of the test would be to highlight all that is culturally stimulating and great in the borough, from Coombe Wood to Croydon Tech City, and from The Alchemist to The Oval Tavern, and everything in between. Questions on elected officials would also be included, including details of the last set of election results. Estate Agents will be obliged to hand the test to all those moving to our borough and anyone that scores below a low pass mark will forfeit their chance of living here.

Shasha Khan only wants the enlightened.
The Croydon Citizen has a page in its paper which asks how you would make Croydon better.
When I submitted my sugesstion the Senior Section Editor replied:
It's a lighter kind of 'Better By' entry which actually makes a serious point - that a lot of people who complain about Croydon actually have very limited knowledge of life here despite living here, and might genuinely feel happier and more positive if they looked around and engaged.  And of course for everyone to follow and participate in local politics (look at voting percentages!) would transform outcomes: once again people complain, yet contribute to the situation by their own inaction.
Local Tech City guy, and influential figure, said on twitter

Tags ,

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Whipped into submission - my 800th post on this blog

From Croydon Advertiser

Looking at the statistics on this blog, this apparently is my 800th post! Wooohoooo!! My timing is superb because it coincides with two other landmarks being celebrated today: The queen becoming the longest reigning monarch   and Wayne Rooney scoring a historic 50th goal to become England's all-time record goal scorer.

Responding to the article which appeared in the Croydon Advertiser in late July, I sent in a letter which appears below.

From Croydon Advertiser

However, the Croydon Advertiser cut out the names from the letter, as well as a couple of sentences. The full version of the letter is below.

Through my discussions with activists, councillors and the local media in Croydon and Sutton, I have been made aware, from those in the know, whom exactly the beatmasters are we all dance to.

Dear Editor,

The reaction from the Liberal Democrats in Sutton to one of its own, Councillor Nick Mattey, for daring to speak up vociferously against the South London incinerator is a reminder that the role of the councillor, far too often, is to rubber stamp the established view. Councils are set up like tightly run local oligarchies which in turn wield their power using party whips and old fashioned collective responsibility.  In Sutton, it is understood the oligarchs are John Drage, Chair of Sutton Liberal Democrats, his wife Elaine Drage, Tom Brake MP and Niall Bolger – the CEO of Sutton Council. In Croydon, there is a widely held view that the leader of the council, currently Tony Newman, CEO Nathan Elvery and council solicitor Julie Belvir run the show.
Equally, one will also find councillors tend to keep their head down, go along with party view to move up the power ladder thus avoiding being deselected.  Some are dependent on the additional income that comes via allowances.
That is why it is all too rare in Sutton and Croydon to see councillors oppose the party line when voting takes place in the chamber.  Councillors are not allowed to be free thinking advocates for the people they represent. Thankfully, the Green Party and UKIP do not operate a whip system. It does mean that sometimes councils occasionally appear to be disjointed, as was the case in Brighton, where Greens opposed Greens during a bin strike, but I’d rather this than a council chamber full of sycophants.

Shasha Khan
Co-coordinator Croydon Green Party

Tags ,

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

David Petro

I first met David Petro on Saturday 18th October 2008. I know the precise occasion because I have gone through my emails to recall the date. New to the party, he came to a Sutton and Croydon Green Party strategy meeting in Wallington organised by George Dow ( 2010 General Election candidate for Carshalton and Wallington). David came across as a shy man bursting to make constructive contributions on all the topics on the agenda.

For the next few weeks and months David became increasingly active in our local party and quickly became a part of the inner circle, for want of a better term. Within a short time he displayed a natural gift for politics and tremendous intellectual prowess, alongside a mastery of the English language. Arguably, he had the educational background that one traditionally associates with such attributes: Trinity School followed by Cambridge University.

I remember him describing politics as "dark arts," and he certainly had the strategic mind to navigate through our occasionally murky world. He was particularly good with regard to copy and text for communications. It was around this time he went for Green Party National Press Officer role, but sadly he didn't get an interview.

As is common, activists spend a lot of time with each other and this leads to friendships. Around the early party of 2009, I got to know David a bit more socially. He came around for dinner a couple of times and we watched DVDs that he recommended. One film that had passed me by, which we watched together, was Idiocricy. It is a cult classic that is a scarily accurate portrayal of the kind of world future generations will live in.

At the time Croydon Green Party didn't have a website, just this blog. David got to work on a professional website and looked after the design of our communications. He designed from scratch the first Croydon Green Party website. Below is a jpeg of the draft design for the homepage:

In February 2009, there was a by election in Waddon. David put together the design and much of the content for the leaflet below.

We soon got to realise that David was a fairly nocturnal operator. He slept most of the day and was up most of the night. This is symptomatic of those suffering from depression, and through 2009 he was less able to function as he would like to have done - due to this illness. That said, he still continued to help design leaflets, but he was less able to be otherwise involved in the local party. When asked to do design work for the party he would put 100 per cent time and effort into the job to ensure the best results. I once bumped into his dad in East Croydon and we chatted about David briefly and he described his son as a 'perfectionist'. David used to explain in his emails that he was only operating at 40 per cent due to his illness, but in actual fact his 40 per cent was perfectly fine.

The above Waddon leaflet was the very first time the word incinerator was mentioned in any communication by anyone. David got to grips with the whole issue and was integral in Sutton and Croydon Green Party submitting a 5000 word document to the very first consultation. He carefully selected, registered and purchased the domain: - something which has helped boost the number of hits our campaign website has received. Incredibly, given the the dozens of campaigns in the UK, if one googles incinerator, the fourth listing that appears on the page is Stop The Incinerator. This is an example of his clever judgement. He designed and built the first Stop the Incinerator website which was still being used in 2013.

In the 2010 local elections in Croydon he stood in his home ward of Addiscombe and his brother stood in neighbouring Ashburton. He was very much involved in the design and content of all of the leaflets our party produced in 2009 and 2010 when we targeted Bensham Manor ward. It was with his help I nearly polled 1200 votes.

Bensham Manor ward, 2010 election result

Donna Gray (Lab)              3872
Alison Butler (Lab)           3781
Raj Rajendran (Lab)           3480
Greta Sohoye (Con)            1314
Shasha Khan (Grn)             1194
Emerson Roberts (LD)          1142
Abdul Talukdar (Con)           982
Kazim Walji (Con)              950
Jade Small (Grn)               791
Christopher Sciberras (Grn)    603


The last time I spoke to David was probably last summer, when he had thoughtfully nominated me for the Croydon Guardian Community Champion. The first I knew about it was when I got a phone call from the Croydon Guardian. I rang David to thank him. He figured the publicity would help the incinerator campaign. He also explained he had become a trustee of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation and was doing some work for them, including their website.We talked about meeting up sometime soon even though he indicated he was going through a difficult period.

A couple of weeks ago the Stop the Incinerator website went down. The site had disappeared and had been replaced with a message saying "account suspended".

Chair of the campaign, Paul Pickering, contacted me to say that he had sent an email to David because it appeared the domain needed renewing but he hadn't received a reply. I rang David's house and spoke to his brother, Sergio. He gave me the sad news that earlier this year his brother had taken his own life. Sergio explained that David had been struggling with his mental health from around the start of the year, but it was the Body Dysmorphic Disorder that had really got a hold on him. We talked about David, and Sergio pointed out that his brother was passionately committed to raising awareness about the little-known disorder and to helping sufferers.   

It is tough for all of us in our local party who knew him to think that we will never see David again. He was a kind, generous and talented person who sadly suffered from a combination of mental health issues.

He enjoyed being involved in the party because, as he explained, he was with a group of people with whom he shared the same values.

Our thoughts are with his family.

David above - at the Save Our Schools demo outside Croydon Town Hall

*If you would like to know more about BDD please visit their web site*


Tags ,

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Public Question - Council 20 July - Clean up for bill posting‏

From Mr Shasha Khan   
Councillor  Mark Watson  
Question No.   
Given the levels of fly posting by the SayNo20mph campaign and the clear links between their web site and the UKIP Croydon North web site (the 20mph pages are identical), will this council bill UKIP for the clean-up operation or even seek a prosecution?  
Officers have made enquiries regarding the flyposting of SayNo20mph materials. The identity of the person or organisation responsible for the flyposting is not clear and there has been no admission of guilt by any one person. As the Council is unable to prove who actually put them up, the evidential basis for enforcement action, including prosecution or seeking the costs of removal, is not straightforward. The Council is unable to enforce purely based on links and assumptions.   
A warning regarding flyposting has nevertheless been sent to the contact address listed on the SayNo20mph materials as being involved and the materials were removed. No further materials were put up after that point to our knowledge. No reply was forthcoming from the contact address.  
The Council is unable at this point in time to take any more action. Our response has been measured and, insofar as the flyposting appears to have occurred only on those lamp columns where the Council’s own scheme notices were displayed, is considered proportionate.  

Tags ,

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Tom Voute

One can gauge how active or flourishing a local party is by the number of people who leaflet homes regularly, volunteer for officer roles, write letters to the paper, help run stalls, attend and contribute at business meetings, support fundraisers, attend socials, donate to the local party and stand for elections.

Tom Voute did all of the above.

Moreover, as other active Greens know, the more active you become, your colleagues in the local party become your friends.

That it why we were all sad to hear the news that, after a short illness, Tom had passed away on 19th June 2015.

I first met Tom at a local party meeting in Carshalton. Back in 2003, our local party meetings were in Sutton. Croydon had conjoined with Sutton when activity in Croydon had all but ceased at the back end of the last century. It was about the same time that Tom, Bernice Golberg and I started attending meetings in Sutton, as Croydon members.

Tom always made himself available to stand as candidate in his home ward of Kenley. It's a shame we never targeted Kenley because the headline of our pre-election leaflet would obviously be:


Until very recently he was our local party treasurer and London Federation of Green Parties representative. Despite his illness he was active as ever this year.

He was wise man with a great Dutch accent and an infectious laugh. We will miss him.

A good number of our local party attended his funeral, His son, James, made a moving tribute to his father, detailing all the things his father had taught him. He, his brother Nick, and their mother Beth are in our thoughts.

I've searched my PC, laptop and phone and found some photos of Tom over the years. I've put them together in a vid.

Tributes to Tom have been circulating on social media and emails. Here a couple from Tracey Hague and Martyn Post.

"He was a great man, full of experience, enthusiasm and humour but also a great lover of life (who can forget his Argentinian tango at our eco-disco?). Everyone has fond memories of him; he will be sorely missed both locally and at London Federation meetings. In the meantime he would probably want us all to get on with Green Party work in making this world a better place to live for everyone. RIP Tom - I hope I can emulate a fraction of what you embodied so wonderfully." 

"This is such terrible news.  Tom was such a lovely person.  He was always happy to talk about any subject, he was wise, friendly and will be such a loss to the whole local party.
I will always remember meeting up with him and Gordon on pretty much a daily basis last year delivering leaflets across Croham and going for coffee afterwards.  Tom and Gordon would discuss buildings and art, while I sat there listening, unable to add anything to the conversation.
I first met Tom in 2007, a year or so after I joined the party and straight away I liked him. He was very welcoming and so inteligent.
My heart goes out to his family.  I hope we can get a fitting tribute for him."
Tom's occupation was local authority waste management. Last year he wrote a piece on flytipping for Inside Croydon. 

There's a lovely picture of him on the Croydon Green Party Facebook page here and one of his letters to the local paper can be found here.

RIP Tom.
Tags ,

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Letter received from UKIP

Following the press release (post below and here) which ended up being the most read article on Inside Croydon last week, both Inside Croydon and I received an email from Paul Oakley, UKIP London Regional Organiser Team.

The emails says a lot including:

"UKIP have not the slightest idea whether or not Mr Morgan is responsible for the actions about which you complain. Please note however that his membership of UKIP was rescinded some weeks ago. As such, it is false to suggest as you and Mr Khan do that this is a UKIP campaign."
Also, it appears that the UKIP web site is not approved.

"All UKIP websites must be officially-approved. There are no UKIP websites for these areas." 
So it appears Peter Morgan is too extreme for UKIP. Quite an achievement. Moreover, the UKIP Croydon North web site is not approved. Does anyone in UKIP know what is going on in Croydon North? What a joke.

After an exchange of emails, Inside Croydon has posted this article on Morgan:

Tags ,

Friday, June 19, 2015

20mph consultation turns into a referendum

Selhurst family hustings at the Peppermint Centre

The first I got wind that UKIP's Peter Morgan*** [see arrow in above picture] was against 20mph in an almost fanatical way was at the first Croydon North hustings, which was strange in itself because he lives in Coulsdon (Croydon South). 
He asked each of the candidates on their views on 20mph speed limits. He is an interesting bloke, and whilst I don't agree with his politics, he has told me on two occasions he admires the stand I have taken with regards to the incinerator. Maybe he did that so that I didn't get riled by his activities. Inside Croydon has many articles on him.  

As we approach the end of Croydon Council's 20mph speed limit consultation for Croydon North zone , we can see just how fanatical Peter Morgan is about stopping the transition to a 20mph speed limit. He has been active on twitter under many guises including Calvin Mantell as well as the main Noto20mph account 
His activity has not been limited to social media, all across the consultation zone, his stickers and posters can now be found. I have today asked a public question to the Council asking if any action will be taken given there is clear evidence there is a connection between North Croydon UKIP and SayNoto20mph
For more info see press release at the bottom of this post.
Somewhat taken aback by Morgan's active misinformation, including leafleting the whole of consultation zone with at least two leaflets, local Greens are working with Croydon Cyclists to try an achieve a YES vote. Peter Underwood has written an excellent letter which was published in the Croydon Guardian.
I understand Labour's Councillor Kathy Bee has also been active. However, whilst there maybe individual councillors in favour of 20mph speed limits I don't detect massive levels of enthusiasm from Croydon Labour.

*** See here regarding UKIP and Morgan:

Press release immediate (18.06.15):
Croydon Green Party today criticised a campaign to try and stop Croydon Council introducing 20mph speed limits on residential roads in the borough.
The web site is identical to the No to 20mph page on the web site. The twitter account also appears to be run by a UKIP member.
Croydon Green Party spokesperson Shasha Khan (1) said, “Just like on Climate Change, UKIP are once again going against public opinion and common sense by disputing the overwhelming and logical evidence. They say that reducing speed limits to 20mph will have little if any impact to road safety but research shows that, on average, for every 1 mph speed reduction there is a 6.2% accident reduction (2).”
We are pleased the Labour council are following other councils in London, such as Islington and Southwark, in moving to 20mph limits. 20mph speed limits on residential roads has long been a national policy for the Green Party.”
Shasha continued “Unfortunately, the feedback I am getting from many mums and dads is that they thought the notices pinned on lamp posts were more of a notification rather than a consultation. They don’t realise that they have to tell the council that they support 20mph limits so that they are brought in.”

The no campaign have also been illegally flyposting their spurious messages on lamp posts in the area. We must not allow UKIP to hijack this consultation It is vitally important people go online and complete the survey at or obtain a paper copy from the council.”
The consultation ends on 24th June. Croydon Council state that evidence has demonstrated clear benefits from lowering speed limits in residential areas, including
  • Improvement in road safety
  • Discouraging passing traffic
  • Encouraging walking and cycling
  • Improving the local environment

  1. Shasha was the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Croydon North

Tags ,

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

South London Incinerator: evidence of corruption

From PRIVATE EYE 1st May-14th May

There was also some additional coverage that I helped instigate just before the election. Private Eye carried a piece on the latest revelations in the infamous Rotton Boroughs page. Councillor Nick Mattey has been excellent in exposing this stuff. As someone who quietly cajoled Nick to come out in the way he has, I am so pleased with the results!

Jim Duffy from Sutton Greens has written an excellent letter to the CEO at Sutton Council which explains where we are at now.

Niall Bolger
CEO Sutton Council
Dear Sir


I read with some dismay, but not with surprise, that Viridor has donated £275,000 to the Holy Trinity C of E Church Hall in Wallington which is used routinely as a meeting venue by Sutton Liberal-Democrats.  The figure is so high that it draws attention to the fact that the local Lib-Dems have also been pushing through the planning application for the company's incinerator and it makes one wonder if this, in some way, is a reward for the council's co-operation in this matter.             
I would be grateful if Sutton Council could set up an independent inquiry into the whole process with a wide scope allowing investigation into any connected areas.               
In asking for this inquiry I would submit the following points:             
1. No other local churches or charities have received anything in the order of £275,000 from Viridor Credits, the committees allocating monies from Viridor's land-fill tax revenue. All Saints church, the nearest to the planned incinerator received just £15,000 despite being considerably less well off than Holy Trinity church hall. Apart from the church-hall, only national-level monuments such as Canterbury Cathedral and Glastonbury Abbey have received six-figure sums. Although there have been claims that the money is for the church building restoration, it does in fact appear destined to go to the adjoining well-appointed church-hall, for a car-park, landscaping and drainage. One must question the justification for such a huge donation to an already affluent church hall and how it is possible to spend so much on a car-park.            
2. I understand the £275,000 was allocated to the church hall shortly after the three Lib-Dem councillors of the Wandle Valley ward had run a campaign promoting the Viridor incinerator. Two of the councillors are apparently regulars at the Church. The third one also sat as liaison person on 'Viridor Credits' at Sutton Council, helping advise how Viridor money should be best spent. Elaine Drage, the wife of John Drage, one of the Wandle Valley councillors is also an elder of the church and, like her husband, a major sponsor of Tom Brake who has from the beginning promoted the incinerator. It is now public knowledge that John Drage (and Elaine Drage) has had a long term personal friendship with Colin Drummond the recently retired chairman of Viridor but it is not clear at what stage in the promotion of the incinerator this declaration was made. Apparently he did not declare this conflict of interest to the SLWP, on which he served, until after substantial contracts had been awarded to Viridor.
3. It is believed that Viridor may hold some sway over the Viridor Credits Scheme.  Or perhaps pressure was applied here from some other quarter. It is perhaps here that special emphasis  of the inquiry needs to be focussed.

Points on the broader planning process:
4. National Lib-Dem policy is against waste incineration. Many Lib-Dem councils have fought against such planning applications on the grounds of health-risk to the public and that incineration would undermine recycling. It was in this respect somewhat 'contrary' for Sutton Lib-Dems to support the incinerator.             
5. At Sutton's second planning meeting to decide on the incinerator the Chief  Planning Officer wrongly stated that "there's a strong economic case" for a heat supply system from the incinerator to the Felnex estate. This statement seemed to sway the argument in a meeting delayed due to a split vote at the initial meeting. However a London conference of waste experts called "Where there's muck there's money" had previously unanimously agreed that such heat transfer systems are not economically viable. Also it was already known that the South East London Combined Heat and Power (SELCHP) incinerator was not supplying heat to local residences for economic reasons, despite the incinerator being in existence for some twenty years. Recently a Sutton Council document has come to light, through the Sutton Guardian, showing the heat would be more expensive than from conventional boilers, not less expensive as had earlier been claimed, thereby throwing further doubt on its viability.
6. Councillor Stephen Fenwick has said publicly that he was coerced into changing his vote to favour the incinerator.              

7. Councillors Margaret Court and Monica Colman also changed their votes. It is not known what pressure if any was applied to them and all the councillors and officers involved in the planning process.
8. Viridor has been tardy in implementing timetabled planning agreements in Beddington Farmlands, due for transformation to a regional wildlife park, resulting in the loss of some rare species. Sutton council for its part seems to have let Viridor 'off the hook' in applying these crucial habitat agreements. As the unimproved land consequently had less ecological value this arguably balanced the planning application in favour of the controversial incinerator. Eleven local bird species were defined as rare and important in Viridor's planning applications. Two have now disappeared from the site, four are dangerously low in number and two were predicted to colonise but didn't. Viridor felled trees used by rare Tree Sparrows two years ago but this was met with impunity by Sutton Council.       
Lost birds: Redshank, Yellow Wagtail
Dangerously low in numbers: Tree Sparrow (Beddington is only one of two habitats in the South UK), Little Ringed Plover, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting
Predicted to colonise but didn't: Common Tern, Ringed Plover             
There appear to be numerous inconsistencies and opportunities for a conflict of interest which need to be questioned and I believe it would be best if Sutton Council could undertake a thorough means to clear up what might to outsiders seem like corruption. There is firstly the narrow question of how the Viridor Credits scheme could possibly justify such a large donation to an affluent resource which is so intimately linked with the ruling political party. Then there's a wider question of whether suspicious-seeming planning decisions could be linked to this (and any other unknown) donation, or pressures or coercions. 
The inquiry should be open and transparent and, in my view, should be undertaken by a local authority not involved with the South London Waste Plan, or otherwise by some other entirely independent agency with respected experience in this type of investigation. I would like to see representation from the Stop the Incinerator campaign in setting the parameters and agreeing the executors of the inquiry. I'm happy to help with any aspect of the investigation.
Please acknowledge receipt of this request by return and copy all replies to Paul Pickering from the Stop the Incinerator Campaign (above) as I may be off-line during the half-term break.               


Jim Duffy 

Tags ,