The London Borough of Croydon is the UK in Microcosm. It is very diverse with a poor north and wealthy south. After twenty years of dithering £5.25bn of investment is due to hit the Borough like an avalanche over the next few years with the focal-point being a £1.5bn retail and Leisure complex built by Westfield / Hammerson.
The Borough itself falls towards the lower end of the achievements of it residents and it does have some horrendous problems in terms of homelessness and poverty. The Council, which is Labour run, is very keen that this once in a life time opportunity will benefit the people of the Borough rather than simply act as a gentrification process to effectively move the problems elsewhere.
A further development area is Croydon Tech city, which is growing very quickly and is housing a number of technology start ups within the town centre. The draw is like minded souls, cheaper rent than central London and a Council very supportive of the sector.
As part of this ongoing development process the Council set up a Commission to look at what assets the Borough had and how, in a cash strapped environment, these assets might be made to work harder for the people of the Borough. The Opportunity and Fairness Commission reported earlier in the year and provided a number of suggestions with regard to potential policy changes.
One of the proposals was to encourage the London Living Wage within the Borough: The suggestion is a Good Employer Charter Mark be created which provided benefits to members, all of whom are paying the London living wage etc.
So far a steering group has met once with a few suggestions provided as to what else the Charter Mark would provide. Further meetings are planned but I fear the present set up is dominated by Council and Charity interests and, without a Business balance, this potentially superb idea will fail to deliver.
Hopefully with the backing of the IOD this balance might be provided with benefits for all.
JCF sat on the Opportunity and Fairness Commission, sits on the Mayoral Fundraising Board and was invited to the inaugural Steering group tasked with identifying what the Charter Mark should entail.
My understanding of what the IOD might offer is as follows:
The IOD have the courses drafted, particularly tasters for good practice. A discounted rate for Charter Members or requirement to complete them in the first year of membership for a fee might fit within the Charter Marks wider objectives.
IOD promoted networking works in Surrey. Charter Marked networking would also open up the opportunity of every business in Croydon receiving information about the IOD. Big well run events in Croydon will show the IOD in a very good light and should not cost it any money. Similarly it could allow non IOD members a taste of what is available who might then consider joining.
The Councillors tasked with Economic Development are very keen for this to work and have offered access to themselves and key Council officers on a regular basis. The perception would be the IOD taking a leadership role and, if manged well allow for good PR ad marketing opportunities.
The IOD through its Membership and Library has a vast amount of information available to those who request it. My understanding is that this resource is much under used.
As well as full members we now have £99 Members. The Charter Mark will need to involve an application fee, the question would be how much was that fee and what did the various interested parties get from it and provide in return.
This paper is written very much from my view of what might be reasonably achieved to benefit both the IOD and the Council. However, exactly what is offered and what the benefits might be would be an evolving discussion over time based on resources available etc
Croydon is a place which is changing fast. There is massive goodwill but little real understanding of what is achievable and how to get there. I am sure the will be some measure of success eventually, but getting there quickly with the assistance of the IOD will be massively beneficial to the Organisation.
If this project works the IOD will recruit significantly more members locally. It will also have a blue print to approach other local government areas, i.e . Manchester, Bristol , Birmingham etc with similar offerings.
There is the possibility here of generating (albeit at a local level) a key area of influence. This will generate examples of benefits and experience to use in other areas. If you succeed central government links will be improved.
First of all the IOD needs to consider what it has and what it would be prepared to offer. Once they are clear then JCF can arrange to meet with the various decision makers at the Council.
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