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Croydon Advertiser stories feed from registered users of the site and Northcliffe Media editorial

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    AFTER a thumping 9-2 FA Vase victory over Newbury on Saturday, the Trams had less cup joy on Wednesday night when they were knocked out of the Surrey Senior Cup on penalties.

    The Trams went 2-0 down to Combined Counties League rivals Horley Town in the second round tie, but fought back with the teams drawing 2-2 after extra-time.

    However, Horley keeper Ian Chatfield was the star of the show for the visitors when it came to the penalty shoot-out, with the veteran saving all three of the Trams' spot-kicks.

    Meanwhile, on Saturday, Croydon recorded their biggest win of the season to take their place in the last 64 of the FA Vase.

    It was Newbury who took the lead though after 20 minutes, but Croydon hit back in style through Sean Rivers before Claudio De Almeida, Jason Thompson, Taylor Smith (2), Karl Doughlin, Tom Pratt, Ryan Fowler, and Josh Cover all got their names on the scoresheet.

    Croydon host the winner of Littlehampton Town versus Hanworth Villa in the third round proper of the FA Vase on the weekend of December 8.

    Littlehampton and Hanworth Villa drew 1-1 at Littlehampton on Saturday. As a result of the third round clash, Croydon's home game against Guernsey has now been postponed.

    On Saturday, Croydon host Ash United in the league, looking to build on their 6-2 win at Epsom & Ewell last time out.

    Croydon currently sit ninth in the Combined Counties League Premier Division, while Ash currently occupy 19th position, with 17 points from their first 15 games.

    Of their six games away from home so far this season, Ash have won one, drawn one and lost four.

    Croydon Trams knocked out of Surrey Senior Cup on penalties

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    POLICE have released CCTV images of two men they believe could have been involved in the theft of a poppy collection tin from Waitrose supermarket in George Street, Croydon.

    The theft took place at around 5.15pm on November 8 from a counter inside the store and the thieves have been branded as "sick" by Wally Filby, the Royal British Legion's Poppy appeal organiser in Croydon.

    Detective Constable Grant Cable, from Croydon CID, said: "I am sure that members of the public will be appalled that a Poppy Appeal collection tin has been stolen in this way.

    "I would ask the public to take a look at these images and if they recognise who these people are, to contact us or to call Crimestoppers anonymously with any information."

    Mr Filby said the theft from Waitrose was the fourth to have taken place across Croydon during this year's appeal.

    He said the Royal British Legion had distributed around 500 collection tins this year to outlets in the town.

    Mr Filby said: "I can't really use the words in public I would like to use to describe people who steal these collection tins.

    "I think it is disgusting to steal from charities and made all the worse when you think of the ex-servicepeople we are raising are raising money for."

    Anyone with information on 101 or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 quoting the relevant reference number of the images.

    Poppy collection tin stolen from Waitrose in Croydon

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    A WOMAN who swindled nearly £50,000 of benefits while sending money back to her home country of Nigeria has been jailed.

    Clarissa Ihenacho, 55, "set out to defraud" the public purse in a "sophisticated" four-year scam which saw her plough the fraudulent funds into paying off a mortgage at taxpayers' expense.

    The mother-of-five created bogus documents to cheat £48,193-worth of housing and council tax benefits, despite owning stakes in £850,000 worth of property.

    Sentencing the fraudster at Croydon Crown Court on Friday, Judge Andrew Campbell-Tiech said: "The defendant set out to defraud the state and she did it in rather an intelligent and sophisticated way, and then when she was caught, rather than say sorry, she has told lie, after lie, after lie."

    The scam centred on two properties: one in Croydon that she part-owned under matrimonial rights with her husband, and the other in Tooting, which she had a mortgage on.

    However, she denied owning any property in the UK to Croydon Council on benefit application forms, falsely claiming both properties were owned by Family Education Helpline UK (FEH) – a charity to which she was a signatory of the accounts.

    The false claim made it appear she was merely a tenant at the Pemdevon Road home in Croydon, and FEH the landlord, allowing her to claim housing and council tax benefit.

    Meanwhile she had a mortgage on a property in Links Road, Tooting, from which she received rental income after it was converted into two flats. Some of the benefits claimed during the four-year and nine-month scam between 2005 and 2009 were used to pay this mortgage.

    The court was told even upon having her benefits suspended after the alarm was raised in 2009, Ihenacho appealed against the suspension, claiming she was still entitled to them.

    Errol Reid, defending, pleaded with the judge to show "mercy" and give a non-custodial, suspended sentence. However, she was sentenced to a year behind bars after being found guilty by jury on eight counts of fraud following a week-long trial.

    Judge Campbell-Tiech added: "In support of these benefits she manufactured herself false documents to show quite wrongly that she was paying rent for a house she actually owned.

    "It makes it difficult to listen to a plea for mercy, and that this is a woman who has fallen from grace simply by happenstance."

    Emotional scenes followed with Ihenacho breaking down in the dock while her sons and daughter cried in the public gallery.

    As she was taken to the cells she could be heard screaming: "It's fabrication. I'm not the one who filled in the forms."

    Doubts were also raised in court over Ihenacho's claims of gaining a doctorate degree from Sorbonne University, Paris, in education.

    Only evidence of having obtained a diploma from the university could be found, Francesca Levett, prosecuting, said.

    Ihenacho had lived in France after fleeing Nigeria when she was 12 because of civil war there, before moving to England.

    Speaking of the fraud, Mrs Levett added: "It was done with one aim in mind, which was to deceive and acquire huge sums of money. This has also been done to create assets one would not normally be able to maintain."

    Ihenacho's son Amechi also addressed the court in an emotional plea with the judge, saying his mother was "distraught," that "her health has deteriorated" and that a sentence on her "will be a sentence on the whole family who are dependent on her".

    He said she has been involved in charity work which has involved enhancing the education of scores of local children of African descent.

    Croydon mother used charity as front for £48k benefit fraud

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    THE Advertiser's public debate ahead of the Croydon North by-election featured candidates from six of the main parties. Here Simon Lane, candidate for the Nine Eleven was an Inside Job party, answers the same questions submitted by our readers.

    Richard Atkins from South Norwood asked: "What would each candidate do to continue Malcolm Wicks' legacy?"

    Simon Lane said: "When he first became an MP in 1992 Malcolm Wicks said in his maiden speech in the House of Commons that he saw his challenge as being to "bridge the gap between the pomp and circumstance of parliament and the poverty and pain in many of our communities".
    This is precisely what we stand for, connecting the people directly to the decision-making processes of Westminster.
    In short we will set up a system whereby everyone on the electoral role in Croydon North will be able to directly engage in the democratic process in real time, using for example text messages, the Internet, sending in a postcard or visiting the constituency office to vote on anything you want me to do in my role as your member of Parliament.

    Eileen Gale, Thornton Heath, and a number of other people asked: "What are your views on the proposed incinerator on the Croydon/Sutton border?"
    SL: "On this issue I defer completely to the people of Croydon North. When elected I will set up a poll, as a priority, to gauge opinion in the constituency and act accordingly. Based on the views I have heard expressed thus far I would expect that many voters would like to express concerns over this. With my constituency office staff, we would collect the various opinions and present them on your behalf. My job with respect to this issue, and every other, will be to find out how voters feel and then act accordingly."

    Steve Turner, of South Norwood, and Ryan Earle, from Thornton Heath, both asked: "What actions would you take to address high youth unemployment in Croydon North?"
    SL: "I have real experience of creating jobs in London. I was the first to introduce cycle rickshaws, sometimes known as pedicabs, into the West End. I started doing this because I really enjoyed working as a pedicab rider myself, being self-employed, meeting people, keeping fit and having fun. At times there have been as many as one thousand pedicabs in London and I feel honoured to have been able to play my part in making this happen.
    "That said, my main contribution to this and many other issues will most likely be to voice the concerns of many people I have met here who would rather avoid all the expensive military action we seem to so readily engage in abroad, freeing resources to spend at home. Billions have been spent, millions killed and little achieved. All these resources, both financial and human, could have been better deployed in this country, creating work and prosperity for all, especially young people.

    Jonathan Cope, from South Norwood, asked: "What approach would you take to reducing crime in Croydon North?"
    SL: "I see the answer to this question linking directly to the previous one. If we could reduce spending on things like foreign wars there would be a great deal more resources to help create wealth so people would be far less likely to engage in crime. Also, by encouraging people to engage in the community, taking part in the decision-making process, we would be able reduce the sense of disaffection which so often goes along with getting involved in criminal activity.

    Liam Fretwell, from South Norwood asked: "What have you done, prior to this election, to help Croydon North and the people who live there?"
    SL: "I recently moved to this constituency and have spent all my time here engaged in this election. That said I have already helped to create around one thousand jobs for people living all over London when I introduced the pedicabs to the West End in 1998."

    Carole Horstead, of South Norwood, asked: "What will you do to address the shortage of school places in the north of the borough?
    SL: "At the hustings event Carole Horstead explained that her main concern was a shortage of school places for disabled children. Clearly we all want to see more of our attention, financially and in general, ensuring that everyone gets the education they need, especially the disabled. By electing me the people of Croydon North will be able to ensure that we set our priorities as the people want, spending money improving people's lives rather than destroying them in senseless wars."

    A number of audience members asked: "If you had control of the £23 million pledged to Croydon following last summer's riots, how would you spend the money?"
     SL: "The real experts are the people who form the community itself. So let them put forward suggestions then let everyone in the constituency vote for which they want to see funded. It's the way I'll do everything - let the people decide."

    Vipul Dudhaiy, of Norbury, asked: "What would the candidates do to improve Croydon's negative image problem?"
    SL: "By opting for the kind of radical system of direct democracy I am proposing, Croydon North would be setting the trend, showing a way to do things better for the benefit of everyone in the constituency. This would give us the image of being cutting-edge; when everyone else decides to take this approach the whole world will know Croydon North was where it all started."

    Anne Viney, of Norbury, asked: "If elected, what would you do to ensure young people growing up had a decent chance of owning a home in the area?
    SL: "There is so much damaged, derelict and sub-standard accommodation that could be improved to provide affordable housing for all those who need it. If the people had been making the decisions I am quite sure that we would have avoided getting involved in these senseless foreign wars. As your MP I will make sure that Parliament understands the priorities of the people who live in Croydon North, and it seems clear to me that these would include improving the homes of people here instead of bombing the homes of people abroad."

    For coverage of the debate itself click here.

    Croydon North: Nine Eleven was an Inside Job's Simon Lane on

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    MEET the six-week-old kitten who was found dumped on a bridge – and the Hello Kitty bag in which he was found.

    The young tabby was trying to get out of the bag when he was spotted by two young women walking past.

    Barbara Allen, of Croydon Animal Samaritans (CAS), said one of the women called her shortly before 4pm on Saturday.

    She said: "A young girl said they were walking and found the kitten on top of a road bridge in Coulsdon.

    "The bag has a Velcro top and the kitten was trying to get out.

    "It looks like a new children's Hello Kitty bag. It was rather strange.

    "They said they phoned everyone and no one was available so they brought him straight over. He seems fine and he is a lovely cat."

    The kitten – whose is in generally good health – will be ready to be rehoused in a few weeks' time when he is stronger.

    Barbara said: "He is too young at the moment and he is going to need at least two weeks of TLC.

    "He is with a foster mother at the moment and she plays with him all the time.

    "He is lively and friendly and sweet. He was a bit nervous to start with but that is only to be expected."

    The cat was not wearing any identification and his name is not known.

    Barbara said: "Somebody did actually call him Bagpuss, but I don't really like that.

    "We regularly find cats left in bags on doorsteps, but this one seemed particularly cruel.

    "It was somewhere where he could have come to great harm had he not been found."

    Barbara added that more and more cats are being abandoned as owners are seeking easy ways to get rid of them.

    She said CAS is overwhelmed with abandoned cats, and will hold a homing day on Sunday, December 9 for anyone interested in adopting.

    The event will run from noon to 3pm.

    For more information or to adopt the kitten, either call 020 8644 8829 or send an e-mail to enquiries@croydonanimalsamaritans.co.uk.

    Croydon Animal Samaritans is located at 236 Pampisford Road, South Croydon, CR2 6DB.

    Tiny kitten abandoned in Hello Kitty bag in Coulsdon

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    A SELF-PROCLAIMED "son of God" says he died at Norwood Junction and was resurrected after police shot him with a Taser.

    Justice Livingstone was zapped after witnesses reported seeing a man with a gun at Norwood Junction last November.

    The 35-year-old, of Portland Road, South Norwood, claimed it was a 99p toy gun, and the court case against him was dropped earlier this month.

    As he was being stunned with a Taser gun by police, the dad-of-two told officers he was their "saviour", and was arrested and initially detained under the Mental Health Act.

    He was later charged with possession of an imitation firearm in a public place and assaulting two officers by beating, both of which he denied.

    Speaking from his home, Mr Livingstone said: "All of them who took part in this atrocity, I think it's necessary to bring them to justice."

    Mr Livingstone explained he bought the toy gun as a birthday present for his son Rylee, who was turning six.

    He purchased it in the High Street, South Norwood, but dropped it on his way to Norwood Junction as he removed the packaging. When he arrived at the station he tried to fix it with some chewing gum.

    Police attended the scene on the morning of November 15, following reports that a man was waving a pistol around and shouting.

    Denying this, and describing what he claimed he was doing on the platform, Mr Livingstone said: "I saw doves flying about my head, so I began to recite Psalm 23, The Lord is My Shepherd.

    "It was surprising when I sat down, I saw these birds all flying around on top of my head.

    "I'm a Christian, I made my prayers, I wasn't shouting, I was just calm."

    Eventually, when his train turned up, Mr Livingstone – who says he was "dressed like an English prince" – got into the carriage.

    He explained: "I just grabbed my briefcase and I walked into the train, naive. Someone crossed my attention who looked like Rupert Murdoch on the train.

    "I asked for his Financial Times which he gave to me. I placed the toy gun on the seat and put my briefcase on top of it so it could hold the chewing gum together.

    "I saw these police officers get on to the train pointing guns."

    Police had alleged Mr Livingstone had assaulted a male and female officer in a fracas which ensued, while he claimed unnecessary force had been used against him.

    He added: "I died eventually when they shot me. When I died I saw myself in heaven and all around me was white light and I was before God.

    "And I saw God was laughing at them [the police], of what they were doing to me. He asked me to relax, I'm in his care. God sent me back, God spoke to me and says go back to be a witness of the resurrection of Christ."

    Mr Livingstone had been due to stand trial on November 19, but the crown offered no evidence.

    'Son of God' says he was resurrected after police Tasered him at Norwood Junction station

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    DISAFFECTED Muslims are preparing to launch a petition to topple the high-flying businessman leading the bid for a Purley mosque if the site in question is refused on appeal.

    A decision on whether to grant permission for an Islamic centre in Russell Hill Place is due in the next few weeks after charity Purley Islamic Community Centre (PICC) lodged an appeal with the planning inspectorate.

    But the bid has been thrown into disarray with some of PICC's own members contacting the inspectorate demanding it be refused, the Advertiser has learned.

    This, they say, is because the planning application for the mosque has been inaccurate from the outset.

    After discovering the dissent, Monir Mohammed, trustee of PICC, circulated the names of the objectors in an e-mail to members of the Muslim community.

    However, one of the recipients, who forwarded the e-mail to the Advertiser, said about "95 per cent" of those who donated money towards PICC's almost £200,000 pot are against the Russell Hill Place site.

    "The site is not suitable because it is not big enough," they said.

    "There are about 300 Muslim families in Purley, which make up about 1,000 people, and it only stated it would need to serve about 150 in the planning proposal.

    "If the appeal is refused, we are planning to launch a petition and have PICC dissolved because we're not happy with the way it has been handled."

    As a result, people who have made donations to the project have lost faith in Mr Mohammed.

    The Advertiser contacted the PICC trustee but he insisted all was well with the ongoing plan.

    However, the Advertiser understands another PICC member submitted a £1.5 million bid for an old church in Haling Road, South Croydon, in an attempt to overthrow the Russell Hill Place plan.

    A contract for the old Venture Photography building, for which the sum of £312,000 has been agreed, has been signed and a deposit paid.

    However, PICC will receive the 5 per cent deposit back if the appeal – launched after Croydon Council turned down the initial application in March – is refused.

    Croydon Council Purley councillor Badsha Quadir said: "There was a reason why this application was refused by the council's planning committee and I hope the problems are resolved soon."

    A spokesman for the Planning Inspectorate said a decision will be reached on the Purley site within the next few weeks.

    Group preparing to topple leader of Purley mosque bid if appeal refused

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    OUR Toys For Joy appeal is gaining momentum after only a week with a host of calls and e-mails from people wanting to donate to ill children this Christmas.

    As we ask our readers to donate new and nearly new toys, one person who knows how much the appeal cheers children up is nurse Vicky Hill, who has worked on the children's ward at Croydon University Hospital for 17 years.

    The 64-year-old said: "The response to last year's appeal was amazing. I couldn't get over how generous people were.

    "I really hope this year we get a similar response. Christmas really cheers the children up.

    "I love my job, it's a lot of fun. You really bond with the kids and the families, especially the ones who are quite ill and here for a while.

    "One girl last year was very poorly but when Father Christmas came and everyone was opening the gifts she perked up."

    The Toys for Joy appeal encourages Croydon residents to donate toys to the children's ward at Croydon University Hospital, where they will then be delivered in the run-up to the big day.

    Last year there was a mound of presents waiting to be opened, but this year the hospital hopes there will be even more.

    Vicky said: "We try and get as many children home for Christmas as possible but there are still nine or ten here on the day.

    "Christmas is a fantastic medicine for the children.

    "As soon as we put up the Christmas tree the whole atmosphere in the ward changes and you can't overestimate how the toy appeal can really make a child happy.

    "A lot of parents or people remember when their child or even they were in hospital, and I think that's why people donate, to give something back.

    At Christmas we try and make the ward a home from home and I think we just about manage it.

    "I hope we get as good a response this year as we did last."

    Donate your new and nearly new toys to the appeal to brighten up the festive season for children who will be in hospital over the holiday period. Toys can be for babies, toddlers or older children up to 17 years old, but if you are wrapping your gifts please make sure you label who they are for, an approximate age and whether it is a boy or a girl. Bring the presents to 12-18 Lennard Road, Croydon. The main reception will take the presents and store them safely until Santa delivers them to the hospital at Christmas. Just think of the joy you will be bringing to the children.

    'You can't overestimate how happy the Toys for Joy appeal makes children,' says Croydon nurse

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    PURLEY John Fisher secured another five-point haul at the weekend as they returned four tries to two amid victory over Old Wellingtonians.

    With their opponents hovering nearby in the league table, it was a pleasing result which secured fifth spot for PJF.

    It was a slow and insipid start though as OWs flew out of the blocks and notched the first score when their centre intercepted a pass and ran unopposed from halfway.

    But fly-half Johan Malcolm hit back with a penalty for 7-3.

    PJF's scrum began to impose themselves at this point, securing solid possession going forward and making it awkward for OWs to get any momentum as they constantly took the ball on the back foot.

    Taking advantage of some sparse defence around a maul, Grundman broke free and gained considerable yardage before releasing his captain Dan Leidecker to run it under the posts.

    This was followed in a matter of minutes by another Leidecker try – this time he took the ball at pace himself and jinked to the posts again.

    Malcolm added both conversions and with a penalty from OWs' fly-half, the first 40 minutes concluded at 17-10 to PJF.

    The home team flew out of the traps in the second half, securing good ball and running intelligently. The second row pairing of brothers Tom and Neil Leather secured good lineout ball and from one such phase, Malcolm drifted a cross field kick which bounced nicely for winger Tom Price to score.

    From the restart the impressive man of the match Phil Jones thundered his way back to OWs' half; followed by a tremendous display of offloading as the ball passed though most of 15 pairs of hands and Malcolm meandered to score and then convert, securing PJF the bonus point.

    OW's managed a consolation try from a line-out pick and drive, and Malcolm added another penalty as the game finished 32-17.

    Purley John Fisher travel to Old Blues on Saturday (tomorrow).

    Purley John Fisher secure five-point haul

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    Following the Advertiser's public debate ahead of the Croydon North by-election we invited those candidates who were not involved to answer the questions put to our readers by the panel. Here church pastor and voluntary worker Stephen Hammond, of the Christian Peoples Alliance gives his responses.

    Richard Atkins, of South Norwood, asked: "What would you do to continue Malcolm Wicks' legacy?"

    Stephen Hammond said: "Malcolm Wicks clearly was a much loved and respected MP and dedicated himself the Croydon North Constituency. In terms of legacy it is well known about his accepted contribution to the advancement of social and welfare reform. I believe that everyone has a part to play in ensuring the rights of the under privileged and disabled are fully respected and upheld at all levels. This is something Jesus would do. I would aim to equally see to it that residents' views and concerns locally are heard and acted upon at Parliament if I were elected. Malcolm Wicks' achievement in getting his Private Members' Bill to be adopted by the Conservatives into legislation regarding the Carer Act 1995, and also his commitment for both higher education and also lifelong learning skills, are also things I can directly relate to, not only because I work in health care myself, but also because I teach vocational lifelong learning skills qualifications as well."

    Eileen Gale, of Thornton Heath, and a number of other people asked: "What are your views on the proposed incinerator on the Croydon/Sutton border?" 
    SH: "Incinerators are very controversial by their very nature, not only because of charges of unsustainability but also because of the CO2 emissions they release into the atmosphere. With brown fill sites already getting filled up the options to tackle this with such a fast growing population do seem quite limited despite the best efforts in the area of recycling. The development of new technology for modern incineration does need to be encouraged to make them more efficient in terms of the environment as well as energy efficiency. However, whilst we may not be able to avoid them entirely, it is right that local authorities should not only take special care where they allow them to be built but are sensitive to the needs of residents to ensure the risk to human health is avoided at all costs. It is right that we should be called to account to be wise stewards of God's earth."

    Steve Turner, of South Norwood, and Ryan Earle, from Thornton Heath, both asked: "What actions would you take to address high youth unemployment in Croydon North?"
    SH: "High youth unemployment is a well known problem in Croydon North. As a practising Apprenticeship NVQ Assessor, I can tell you that many young people see these apprenticeships as irritating, but often it may be the only way for them to get real work experience. Employers love prospective employees who have got previous work experience, and that is the reality. However, there are a great many small businesses that do not realise the tax saving advantages to having apprentices work for them, which is a shame. Also, not all Apprenticeships are dreadful wage payers. So young people really need to be encouraged to hunt around for the best ones on offer."

    Jonathan Cope, from South Norwood, asked: "What approach would you take to reducing crime in Croydon North?
    SH: "I would like to see a strategy being developed by the churches in Croydon North where they can employ an army of youth workers to go into the communities and really get involved with dealing with youth problems and also to facilitate the healing of many broken families and homes in the area, as well as the cycle of gang culture ended. This I firmly believe is a very sound solution and I am already working with one of the church leaders in the area to see how exactly that can be implemented."

    Liam Fretwell, from South Norwood, asked: "What have you done, prior to this election, to help Croydon North and the people who live there?"
    SH: "Well, I am relatively new to the area. The healthcare company I work for is based in Croydon, and I already do voluntary work for a youth charity in Croydon. I will shortly be moving into to the Croydon North area regardless of the outcome of this election. So do watch this space."

    Carole Horstead, of South Norwood, asked: "What will you do to address the shortage of school places in the north of the borough?
    SH: "This is a big issue that all London boroughs are having to deal with, and is as a direct result of a baby boom. Communities such as local groups and churches in Croydon may need take this on board to start new schools with the assistance of local and national funding and business partnerships. There are churches in Croydon North such as Divine Sanctuary under the leadership of Pastor Mary McCauley who are already advancing work with the challenges of overcoming child exclusion for a number of years now. I know that she is expanding her work all the time, and the local community need to back such schemes including starting new church schools to contribute to substantially resolving this issue. Schools began with churches, and that is who we have to look to again assisted with government funding."

    A number of audience members asked: "If you had control of the £23 million pledged to Croydon following last summer's riots, how would you spend the money?"
    SH: "I guess there should be no surprise that Croydon North has been overlooked. This is ironic when the vast majority of the poverty, social inequalities and teenage pregnancies in the borough is in the North of it. Whilst most of the employment for the borough is concentrated centrally it is not unreasonable to seek that at least 25% of it should have been ear marked for improving Croydon North to aid employment prospects and business start ups for young people in the area. I believe this is the right and just thing to do.

    Vipul Dudhaiy, of Norbury, asked: "What would you do to improve Croydon's negative image problem?"
    SH: "I would encourage the Croydon Half Marathon to be moved to a more central and north location. At the moment running around residential areas surrounding Lloyd and Shirley parks is not exactly 'high profile' and is just going to be off the radar of media that matter in London. Rethink the parking charges to make it more attractive for families outside the borough to visit for shopping, dining and leisure facilities. I would strongly advocate the creation of a university. Not much point in talking about turning Croydon into a city without one."

    Anne Viney, of Norbury, asked: "If elected, what would you do to ensure young people growing up had a decent chance of owning a home in the area?"

    SH: "There is no getting away from the fact that Croydon is an expensive place to live. At the moment the policy of the council is to negotiate for up to 50% of new development in favour of affordable housing when the development is sufficiently big enough to support it. In the interim, the shared ownership scheme offers potentially only a limited route for young people to buy their first home together, and therefore should be promoted much more. Jesus came for the poor and homeless, and it is right that we should come up with radical solutions to difficult problems. That is what Jesus did to turn water into wine and also to feed the five thousand. Therefore, affordable housing in terms of provision for homeless families could potentially be immediately realised by converting the huge amount of unused office space in Croydon into homes right now."

    Croydon North: Christian Peoples' Stephen Hammond answers your questions

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    Croydon North goes to the polls on Thursday with Labour the strong favourite. In an in-depth feature, reporter Gareth Davies speaks to the party's candidate Steve Reed and discovers that some people in Lambeth will not be sad to see him go.

    "I AM doing things Blair never did," said Steve Reed amid a flurry of reasons why he is nothing like Labour's former Prime Minister. The comparison has come up during our interview and he is clearly not fond of it.
    "If people want to put me in a box then put me in a box that's linked to my own record. I don't need to be judged on other people's records," he bristled.
    "I was in Labour before Blair or (Gordon) Brown were ever heard of and I'm in Labour now, running a council with a very different agenda to what New Labour was doing.
    "I'm happy to be called a 'Reedite' but I don't need to be put in a box that other people define."
    What would constitute being a 'Reedite'? For that matter, who is Steve Reed, Labour's candidate for the Croydon North by-election and what is the record of the man who, barring a political reversal to eclipse Bradford West, will be elected when voters go to the polls on Thursday?
    Before he beat former Croydon Council leader Val Shawcross by three votes at the party's selection meeting, Reed would have been unknown to most of his potential constituents, even though he has been leader of Lambeth Council, just over the border, since 2006.
    Neither his blog nor his curiously well managed Wikipedia page give anything away about the background of the man most likely to succeed Malcolm Wicks. It has been suggested the 48-year-old tends to avoid questions about his past, but today he has been forthcoming.
    Reed, it seems, has the perfect Labour background. He grew up in St Albans, Hertfordshire, and his family worked in Odhams a printing factory in Watford until it closed down in 1983. "Under a Thatcher government," he pointed out.
    "It had a devastating impact on our family. We were part of a very strong, hard-working community. It felt very stable. So to have that factory close down as a major local employer, it ruined an awful lot of people's lives.
    "That was one of the things that got me into politics. I felt other people shouldn't have to suffer that kind of experience just because the government wasn't prepared to stand up and defend jobs."
    It was around that time he joined the Labour Party before he went to Sheffield University to study English. He skips his story to 1990, when he started work in educational publishing. He remained in the industry until 2008, when the responsibilities that come with being a council leader led him to give up his job and become a full-time politician.
    Questions about his life outside politics stem from the suggestion that the slick, confident and clearly very ambitious Reed is a career politician.
    "Given I worked for 18 years in something that had nothing to do with politics that would seem an odd thing to claim," he said.
    "I think it's important that politicians have had some experience outside politics and 18 years in a different job has given me an insight into how ordinary people live their lives, because that's how I was living my life."
    So what about this record he speaks so proudly of? He first stood for election and won in Town Hall ward (now Brixton Hill) in 1998. "I thought the council was abysmal and I wanted to help turn it around," he explained.
    In 2002 Labour lost control of Lambeth to a Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition. In response Reed, who had been gradually building up allies within the group, was elected leader of the opposition. He set about a root and branch analysis of the party's failings and tried to recruit more councillors from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. In 2006 Labour won Lambeth back by a landslide.
    Reed hopes the legacy of a six-year stint as council leader will be his attempt to turn Lambeth into the country's first 'co-operative' council, where residents run services. His plan saw the media dub Lambeth a "John Lewis council" and Labour spoke of offering council tax rebates to those who took part.
    If asking residents to take more responsibility for services traditionally provided by local authorities sounds familiar, it is with good reason. Reed announced the co-operative model in The Guardian in February 2010 and, two months later, David Cameron gave his first speech on the The Big Society.
    I read a section of that speech, where the Prime Minister talks of "giving people more power and control to improve their lives and their communities". The rhetoric is remarkably similar to Reed's vision for his co-operative council. "By empowering people, we can give them back the power to change their lives," he wrote in the New Statesman. I asked him why the two ideas sound so similar.
    "Cameron uses a lot of language that sounds quite like Labour but what he is doing is the absolute reverse of it," he replied.
    "I've noticed before there's a lot of similarity. It's very bizarre. Why would he use language which was progressive? Of course it's because he's trying to pitch to the centre ground of politics.
    "I think they are stealing our language and we must not let them do that. It made me more determined to show this was a Labour agenda. The fact that Labour councils are delivering it and the Tories in local and central government are not, proves my point."
    This is not entirely true. Nearly three years after it was first launched, the majority of Reed's co-operative council remains on the drawing board. He cites the "hugely regenerative" impact of the Weir Link, a disused launderette asset-transferred to the community and now used as a resource centre, and the Youth Services Trust, which will see areas with the highest levels of youth crime receive a share of £3 million of funding. The project goes live in April, which doesn't really prove his point. In the end, Reed grudgingly admits most people in Lambeth will not yet have noticed they are living under a co-operative council.
    There are other concerns. The public consultation for the co-op explains how a 'citizens' commission' would be set up to consult local people on the changes. A closer look revealed the commission was actually made up of Reed and two Labour colleagues, as Lambeth blogger Jason Cobb points out in his critique of the re-branding.
    Lambeth Council has also been criticised for its protracted attempts to evict families living in housing co-operatives.
    The first of these groups were set up in Lambeth during the late 1970s and saw tenants move into poor quality accommodation, known as 'short-life' housing, in exchange for low rents. Over the last thirty years the cooperatives have worked together to improve the homes, and what began as a way of arranging repairs and setting rent, has become a number of well-established communities. As a result of their work the value of the houses has increased significantly. Now the council wants them back.
    The cooperatives face the threat of eviction and recall. Members accuse the council of "intimidation and coercion" as well as threatening unreasonably high unauthorised occupation charges, removal of the offer to rehouse and imposition of full legal costs.
    Reed's heavy-handed approach provoked criticism from Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey but the sell-off continued. This month protesters looked on helplessly as the first property on Rectory Gardens Housing Community was sold for £500,000. How does that sit with Reed's belief in handing power back to the people?
    "We're trying to bring in investment to upgrade 15,000 substandard homes and build high quality new accommodation," he replied. "We need to find capital to fund that work.
    "The co-operative council isn't about giving people free homes. There are something like 20,000 people on the housing waiting list. The government has cut funding for upgrading homes and building new ones in half. What you are faced with as the leader of a council is a choice.
    "You can either let a small number of people who always knew they were on short-term tenancies, and who would not necessarily have been at the top of the waiting list, keep their properties or you can get the money out of those homes and create many more for the people already on the list.
    "Kate Hoey will, on the one hand, tell you these people have to stay where they are, and on the other, that we have to house people on the waiting list. She tries to play it both ways, I'm afraid."
    Such reasoning has done little to placate short-life residents, however. Within minutes of his selection in Croydon North, Lambeth United Housing Co-op contacted the Advertiser to express concerns about the constituency's prospective new MP.
    Reed's critics also highlight his record on cuts. Park rangers, school crossing patrols, library budgets, discretionary freedom passes and adult social care were either scaled back or cut completely. His campaign literature is plastered with anti-Tory vitriol but the list bears more than a passing resemblance to the services cut by Croydon's Tory led council.
    Reed's response is the same as the answer he gives when asked whether Lambeth's position at the top of London's unemployment table damages his claim to be a "jobs champion". He is doing the best he can with the hand the coalition government has dealt him.
    It is this willingness, and ability, to take the fight to the Conservatives that led Reed to pip strong favourite Shawcross at Labour's selection meeting. Members were won over by talk of defending constituents from what he described as the "worst excesses of the Tories" and his pledge to help win back the council for Labour in 2015. They were convinced by an impressive CV which includes roles on Local Government Labour and co-chair of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea regeneration board.
    They were not put off, as some had grumbled, by his lobbying for votes before Malcolm Wicks' memorial service. A few years ago Reed faced similar accusations over his integrity amid suggestions he was trying to undermine Kate Hoey in the hope she would be de-selected and he could take her Vauxhall seat.
    It's a claim the Streatham-based politician dismisses offhand, though he has publicly described his Labour colleague on Twitter as a "Tory sympathiser" and described her voting record as "anti-gay" (Reed, as it happens, is openly gay).
    Reed plays down talk of his fervent ambition ("I never aimed to become council leader"). Running in Croydon North is not about becoming an MP, he insists, before citing his narrow loss to Chuka Umunna for selection in his home area of Streatham in 2008 as the only other time he has put his name forward for Parliament.
    But there is a ruthlessness to the way he furthers his own, and Labour's, objectives. As those who have crossed him have discovered.
    In 2010, Reed became convinced that one of his councillors, Kingsley Abrams, was leaking information to the Liberal Democrats, which was in turn making its way into the press. To prove his point, Reed concocted a 'sting' in which he sent Abrams an email telling him the leader of Lambeth Living, the organisation which runs the borough's housing department, had resigned. Instead of leaking the news, Abrams sent the email to Kate Hoey.
    Reed claimed the information reached the South London Press and Abrams was suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. During the investigation his council emails were accessed without his consent. Abrams claims Reed personally led the hearing, a job usually taken by the chief whip, because he "takes things personally". Reed denies any involvement, but does not regret trying to set up his Labour colleague.
    "If you're living in a house, and there's a leak in the pipe, you test the pipe to see where the leak is," he said.
    "There was a whole string of leaks coming out of the Labour group and I suspected it was Kingsley. I passed him a piece of information to see if it would get leaked and it was. Did it get personal? Not at all."
    A year later, however, Reed faced similar questions about his professionalism after he was censured by Lambeth's standards committee for publishing private information on his blog and Twitter about Betty Evans-Jacas, a Labour councillor who defected to the Tories.
    In one blog, titled "Turncoat councillor betrays local people", Reed revealed that Evans-Jacas had been barred from voting on financial matters because she was in council tax arrears.
    The standards committee decided the disclosure of confidential information broke the code of conduct because it was not in the public interest, made in good faith and "not in compliance with the reasonable requirements of the authority". Reed, who sent Evans-Jacas a written apology, escaped punishment, although councillors were reminded about their "tweeting and blogging responsibilities".
    He rejects suggestion that his behaviour in either episode gives the impression that he is unprofessional.
    "Firstly, I acted to stop someone from damaging the interests of Labour and in the second case it was someone who was breaking the law to such an extent that she was no longer able to represent the people who voted for her," he replied.
    "As leader of a council do you let anyone get away with whatever behaviour no matter how dreadful, or do you challenge it?"
    Such spats may make voters think there be something more than mischief-making behind George Galloway's claim that Reed's name is "mud" in Lambeth.
    One person to have personally felt his wrath put it in less flattering terms: "Steve Reed is appalling. Lambeth is glad to get rid of him. We feel sorry for the people of Croydon North. You can have him."
    Politicians, Reed said, are bound to make enemies and he dismissed Galloway as a "busted flush" , brushing off suggestion that Labour is concerned about a potential upset. "This is a two horse race between us and the Tories," he added.
    "I've knocked on thousands of doors during this campaign and not one person has mentioned Respect to me."
    Labour remain odds-on to hold on to a seat in which they enjoy a 16,000 majority, which is why Reed's decision to remain as council leader (and continue to claim his allowance) was interpreted by some as betraying a surprising lack of confidence.
    The suggestion clearly riles him: "Why would you leave one job before you got the next? I'll resign as leader if and when I am elected as MP. I think it would be a bit arrogant to take the election result for granted.
    "I'm council leader and I am currently being paid as the council leader. I've saved up some annual leave for Christmas and I'm taking it now."
    When it was suggested he could waive the money as a gesture, he replied: "But why? I'm entitled to annual leave."
    Whether or not Croydon North's likely MP is "more Blairite than Blair" or just a "Reedite", there is one comparison he cannot escape. Which is why the words of a member of the audience at the Advertiser's public debate last week may be ringing in his ears.
    "Steve Reed," the undecided voter wrote, "is no Malcolm Wicks".

    Steve Reed: A favourite in Croydon North but not in Lambeth?

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    TRAINS in both directions between East Croydon and Gatwick Airport are disrupted due to a train stuck on the line near Coulsdon station.
    Passengers are warned to expect delays of up to 30 minutes, short notice changes and diversions.
    A spokesman for Southern rail said Southeastern, South West Trains, Gatwick Express and First Capital Connect are accepting Southern tickets on "reasonable routes".
    He added that passengers travelling between Redhill and Croydon are able to use London Buses route 405. 
    He said it appeared the train had got stuck after hitting a raised conductor rail.
    Engineers are on site and hope to have the train cleared within an hour (as of 11am). 

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    UKIP'S candidate for the Croydon North by-election says gay people should not be allowed to adopt.
    Winston McKenzie said placing children with gay or lesbian couples was "unhealthy" after retweeting an article written by a National Front supporter who claimed there was "no such thing as homophobia".
    His remarks come after Rotherham Council were criticised for removing three children from a foster couple because they belong to UKIP.
    Mr McKenzie, who believes the publicity surrounding the case will benefit him when Croydon North goes to polls on Thursday, saw no irony in his views on gay adoption or marriage.
    He asked the Advertiser's reporter: "If you couldn't look after your child and you had to put them up for adoption would you honestly want your child to be adopted by a gay couple?
    "Would you seriously want that or a heterosexual family? Which would be more healthy for the child?
    "A caring loving home is a heterosexual or single family. I don't believe (a gay couple) is healthy for a child."
    When asked why, Mr McKenzie, UKIP's spokesman for culture, media and sport, said that couples might raise the child to be gay.
    "There are people out there who bring up their kids encouraging them to believe they are gay themselves," he said.
    "If the child is properly heterosexual and they are put in foster homes without any thought or consideration of who they are or what their identity is, that's not right.  
    "A child might be vehemently against being housed with a gay couple but you wouldn't know until they were older. Placing them with that couple deceives the child.
    "If there's no alternative then maybe. If it's a case of being adopted by a gay couple or deportation then what can do you? But if you ask me, I'm not for heterosexual children being adopted by gay couples."
    When asked how he would know if a child was gay or heterosexual, Mr McKenzie replied: "I don't want to get into that. It's a touchy subject."
    The Advertiser contacted Mr McKenzie after he retweeted a link to an article written by a National Front supporter.
    The post relates to a video supporting gay marriage featuring television star and author Stephen Fry.
    The author wrote that a "number of his claims are utter nonsense" and that "genuine fear" about homosexuality meant there is "no such thing as homophobia".
    "As a National Front type, I fly the Union Flag outside my house and will fly it at half mast, or not at all, if homosexual marriage becomes law," he added.
    The message re-tweeted by Mr McKenzie included a link to the article and attacked Labour's Steve Reed and Respect's Lee Jasper for supporting gay marriage. It ended with the message "Vote NF".
    There has never been a law saying gay, lesbian or bisexual people cannot adopt or foster children. Prime Minister David Cameron is considering a Commons vote on gay marriage which could happen in January.
    Mr McKenzie, who controls is own Twitter account, could not recall the Tweet but stated his opposition to the issue.
    He said: "Gay marriage shouldn't be in a place of worship. It's not even something gays are particularly keen on.
    "I've nothing against gays. I wouldn't attack a man or a woman because of their sexuality. They have fought very hard for the rights I have seen come to the fore and that says a lot for some of them.
    "But personally, as a deeply religious person, I don't advocate gay marriage. For thousands of years we have had marriage between a man and a woman.
    "To suddenly introduce gay marriage would be an insult to some gay people. I know a few gay people and they are really not bothered. They aren't concerned. For most of the general public it's not a big issue."
    Asked about what he would say to his constituents who supported gay marriage, Mr McKenzie replied: "They are the minority. (Gay couples) who would like to get married are the minority.
    "I don't believe that it's right to educate children into believing that gay marriage is a normal situation. As far as I am concerned it's not.
    "People can't help their sexuality or how they were born. I can only sympathise with anyone who is gay but to push the boat out and get married doesn't wash with me."
    Mr McKenzie then launched into a bizarre rant about people who "pretend" to be gay.
    "Some people take on being gay as a sort of fashion," he said.
    "Celebrities come out to become more well known, it gets attention. It's a fact of life that some people actually are gay. They are what they are.
    "They can't help it but the other bunch take on being gay as a fashion and push it because they have nothing better to do with their lives. They let the side down."
    According to Ladbrokes, UKIP sit third, behind Labour and Respect, going into Thursday's election.
    Mr McKenzie believes the party's cause will be helped by Rotherham council's decision to remove three children – who are European migrants – from a UKIP supporting foster couple because the party is "racist".
    Education Secretary Michael Gove branded the decision as "indefensible" and made "in the wrong way for the wrong reasons". UKIP leader Nigel Farage condemned the move as "prejudiced".
    Mr McKenzie said: "It will help tremendously. Whoever has gone out today to make UKIP look really terrible is wrong and it has back fired. There has been a tremendous sympathy from people on the streets.
    "It shows the political elite don't understand what's going on in the outside world and they are a law unto themselves."
    Gay rights charity Stonewall described his views as "outdated".
    Richard Lane, external affairs officer, said: "It is ironic that Mr McKenzie has expressed these outdated views in the same week his own party colleagues have complained about blinkered attitudes towards UKIP members.
    "In all adoption cases the needs of children must be paramount - not the views of a political obsessive.
    "We're sure the voters of Croydon North will pass their judgement on Mr McKenzie's ability to represent all constituents living in 21st Century Britain."

    Exclusive: UKIP candidate for Croydon North says gay people should not be allowed to adopt

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    STUART HAZELL - the man accused of murdering schoolgirl Tia Sharp - will not be tried until May 2013.

    A judge at the Old Bailey today ruled the boyfriend of Tia's grandmother, from New Addington, cannot answer to the charge until next year.

    The 37-year-old, of The Lindens, is expected to enter a plea on March 8, with Mr Justice Fulford fixing a trial date of May 7. 

    Hazell, who was charged with the 12-year-old schoolgirl's murder in August after her body was found in the loft of the home he shared with Tia's grandmother, Christine, did not attend the hearing.

    News of the trial date comes just days after Christine was re-bailed for a third time after being arrested on suspicion of murder in August. She has been re-bailed along with neighbour Paul Meehan, who was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.

    Their bail has been extended until December.

    TIA SHARP: Stuart Hazell to be tried over schoolgirl's murder in May

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    TAXPAYERS face a £6,500 compensation bill after Croydon Council failed to find two teenagers a school place during a critical stage of their education.

    A damning report by the Local Government Ombudsman has revealed the youngsters missed half a year of education when they should have been studying for their GCSEs, because the council failed to place them in a school within the agreed period of 20 days.

    Dr Jane Martin, the Local Government Ombudsman, said in her report: "The council did not allocate places for either child for more than six months after the complainant made her in-year application. While there were reasons this was not possible, the council should have offered alternative educational provision. It did not do so."

    A mother, referred to in the report as Miss Rose, moved to Croydon last year and made an application for school places for her son and her sister, for whom she had parental responsibility after the death of her mother.

    However, the council failed to find the year 10 students school places for six months, meaning they missed much of their GCSE studying and according to the report "created unnecessary anxiety for the family".

    The report goes on to say: "My investigator interviewed Miss Rose. She said her sister had had to spend three hours each evening copying up GCSE work she had missed during the six months she was without education when she started her new school.

    "She said this included science experiments she had not done and was additional to the other homework set by the school.

    "She said this was likely to depress her final GCSE grades. She also said the additional pressure would deprive her of chances to mix socially as she would have to work harder in order to achieve good passes."

    Miss Rose told the Ombudsman the council's failure had meant the grades of her sister and her son, who had special needs, would suffer.

    The report said: "She said that his chances of achieving the grades he needed to follow his chosen career had been reduced.

    "She said he had not been able to continue with the same subjects he previously studied because they were not offered at the tuition centre he was attending."

    The council's executive director for children, families and learning Paul Greenhalgh said: "We successfully process tens of thousands of school applications every year, but clearly in this case we were at fault.

    "I'd like to say unreservedly how sorry we are to this family who were caused unnecessary anxiety and pressure.

    "And I'd like to assure parents that lessons have been learned and that we have since tightened up our procedures to ensure that such a situation does not happen again."

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    RELIGIOUS leaders and churchgoers in the South of the borough are laments the Church of England's decision to veto the right for women to become bishops.

    "Disappointment", "anger", "despair" and "shooting ourselves in the foot" – all expressions used by churchgoers and their leaders following Tuesday night's rebuttal as they raised fears of irreparable damage among the South's healthy religious following.

    So strong were the emotions of the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Rev Jonathan Clark, took to his blog moments following the decision to condemn the ruling, also expressing fear women "will never get the chance" to climb the hierarchy.

    He posted: "The sun has gone down, and I am still angry. Not angry with those who voted against the legislation (how can I be angry with someone else's conscience?), but angry that there are women called to episcopal ministry who will never get the chance.

    "Angry at the damage that will be done to the church and its mission, both because of the absence of those gifts, and also because of our inability to welcome the gift God offers to us."

    The diocese of Southwark, representing Church of England parishes across the borough, was one of 42 from 44 dioceses across the country which lent its backing to women bishops.

    Its leader, Rev Christopher Chessun, said he has already written to all clergy within the diocese expressing he is "deeply saddened" by the result.

    Bishops and clergy which make up the General Synod voted in favour of the move, but laity members failed to reach a two-thirds majority, meaning the proposal was rejected.

    Votes of approval from two-thirds of members for all three groups was needed in order for suffrage to be extended.

    Carol Walsh, of St Barnabas church, Purley, said: "We are shooting ourselves in the foot really, if you want to recruit good people and then you say to them 'you can't', it's disappointing.

    " The Anglican Church couldn't cope without women. They do everything. We have had women priests here who clearly had their minds set on higher things and why shouldn't they?

    "We had one woman who wanted to be the first female Archbishop of Canterbury. There shouldn't be a distinction between the two [men and women]."

    However, Rev Charles Trefusis, of Christ Church in Purley, took a slightly different view. Although "disappointed" at the outcome and in support of women bishops, he felt the legislation drawn up did not accommodate those who cannot accept female bishops for "theological reasons."

    He said: "the vote was going to fail whichever way it went. The division has been caused by those creating the legislation. There should have been alternative provision for those that had an issue with women bishops for theological reasons. But this wasn't provided on this occasion."

    Women bishops issue stirs up debate in south Croydon churches

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    THE site of a shuttered old people's home in Old Coulsdon is to open as a care home for adults with mental problems.

    The building formerly occupied by The Shaw care home, in Tollers Lane, is to open next month as a 20-bed home run by Community Housing and Therapy, a private care provider.

    The home will add to the London company's eighth and will aim to help mental health sufferers recover and regain their independence.

    John Gale, head of the 20-year-old company, told the Advertiser residents could have a range of serious mental health problems, including psychosis, anxiety and severe depression.

    He added that his homes typically served NHS patients – 43 NHS trusts refer patients, according to its last annual report – although it works with a minority of private patients.

    Mr Gale said: "If you have a mental illness in the UK and you are hard up you get treated by the NHS probably solely with drugs.

    "If you are a well-off person you will pay for psychotherapy, and all the research shows when you ask people what kind of treatment they want, they say they want someone to talk to.

    "We are trying to make available to people without lots of money the treatment that someone with lots of money would have."

    The new home does not require change of use planning permission, because its use falls into the same category as adult residential care. Mr Gale said it should be open in early December, after refurbishments are finished.

    He added that neighbours in the surrounding village would also be invited into the home, and the company hopes to build good relations with them. He said: "What we usually do is to make a friends' committee and involve people.

    He said the home accepted people aged 18 to 65 but they tended to be in their 30s, and they tended to stay for around 14 months.

    He said: "We are trying to find out what is the optimal period because we know if people stay too long they become institutionalised, but if it is too short then the treatment does not work for them.

    "We have reviews every three months and set targets and try and get them to achieve certain goals. On average it is about 14 months, but it depends."

    He explained the company had chosen the site in order to increase its presence in south London, and via a long-standing relationship with the owners of the outgoing old people's home, Central and Cecil Housing Trust.

    The Shaw care home closed at the end of March after Central and Cecil said the building at 169 Tollers Lane was not fit for purpose and it could not afford refurbishment.

    Old Coulsdon elderly care home to become mental health unit

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    MILLIONS of teenage girls will be envious of Ryan Souter after the New Addington teenager appeared in a One Direction music video.

    The 17-year-old, of Homestead Way, was living the dream of female fans when he met the five boys who have achieved worldwide fame – Harry, Liam, Zayn, Louis and Niall.

    And he was even given a kebab by Niall while filming Live While We're Young.

    Ryan has spoken for the first time this week about taking part in the video in Kent.

    It has now received more than 102 million hits on YouTube since it was released in September.

    Describing the lads from One Direction, he explained: "We shared food and played games.

    "They never ran out of energy and kept going unless they were told to stop.

    "It was quite weird realising it's me in the video. It's kind of unreal."

    Despite not winning the X Factor when they appeared in 2010, One Direction have gone on to huge success.

    This week the band are number one in the UK single and album charts.

    Ryan said: "I've been told how lucky I am and asked questions about how it happened. My auntie knows a casting director and I went to the interview and spoke to camera. They wanted to know about my personality.

    "My cousin was asking if I got to meet them.

    "She asked if I got their phone numbers and I said 'nah'. I don't know them that well!"

    Looking to the future, Ryan says he would like to be an actor and appear in West End shows.

    But for now he is simply enjoying his little bit of fame.

    Proud mum Lorraine said: "I love seeing him in the video clip, and on YouTube, and just feel like I want to tell random people that don't even know us.

    "He enjoyed it so much. He's such a well-liked lad and now even more popular than before."

    One Direction music video stars New Addington teen

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    PROFESSIONAL footballers are often portrayed as having luxurious and glamorous lifestyles, filled with fast cars, mansions, swimming pools and pockets lined with £50 notes.

    Well, that's the case for some, but what happens when matters in your personal life play a huge part towards hitting rock bottom – and potentially death?

    Having made more than 400 appearances in an 18-year professional career, with 98 of those at Crystal Palace in the 1990s and scoring more than 115 goals for several clubs, striker Leon McKenzie can say he had a good career at the top level.

    But towards the end of his playing days, off-the-field problems had taken their toll on the Croydon-born man and he was on the brink of leaving it all behind in 2009 with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a load of tablets.

    In an exclusive interview with Advertiser Sport, McKenzie says all will be revealed in his new book 'My Fight With Life', to be launched next Friday, November 29.

    "The book is very deep where I go with certain things and I don't think it will just appeal to football people," he said.

    "It goes back to my childhood and I speak a lot in depth about what I went through as a child, my parents and my family background.

    "It's just so important to share my life, because footballers get this stereotype of living a fantasy lifestyle, and I think sometimes it's not always a fairytale case as much as it's a fantastic career.

    "The book is a little bit different to others as I start it off with my most personal challenges I've had.

    "I went through a very difficult period in the back end of my career, so the choice to be able to start it off that way, I just felt it would grip people more.

    "I hammer a couple of managers, and I think two managers out of an 18-year career is not too bad, but the book is not really about controversy, it's just a deep and real insight into my life.

    "I think there will be a big percentage of people who will understand where I was in my life at that particular time."

    McKenzie admits that even though he didn't want to leave Palace permanently in 2000, he found his form at Peterborough United, where he went on to score 49 goals in 103 appearances.

    And two years previously, he had also enjoyed a brief loan spell at London Road, scoring nine goals in 15 games.

    "Anyone will tell you I still look out for Crystal Palace – that's where I'm from," he said. "But I would say Peterborough was where I found myself as a goalscorer," he said. "I was still very much learning at Palace and never really found my goalscoring boots there.

    "If I had my way, I would have still been at Palace. I didn't actually want to leave – I was kind of forced out. I was born in Croydon, I went to Winterbourne School in Thornton Heath.

    "I did my YTS and made my debut at 17 against Southend United in the old Coca Cola Cup and I scored the second goal from a volley. I got promoted with Palace as well in 1997 at Wembley, and I got a couple of goals leading up to that, so I did play a part. I was only a baby, though."

    In Palace's recent 2-1 victory away at Peterborough, McKenzie was inducted to the club's Hall of Fame on the pitch at half-time, but he recalls the incredible away support from the Eagles which stuck out in his head the most on the day.

    "I collected my award at half-time when they played Palace recently, but I was so amazed by the amount of Palace fans there on the day – I couldn't believe it," he said.

    "I couldn't hear myself because they were so loud, and for me, that is where I'm from, but I think a lot of them know it hasn't been easy for me."

    The 34-year-old is now looking to the future and admits he would love to return to SE25 to see a few old faces on the back of Palace's fantastic recent run.

    "I would love to come out on the pitch at Palace to say 'thank you' to the club and the fans," he said. "Norwich are inviting me down to do something similar when I do a book signing on a matchday. I've not been back to Selhurst Park this season but I spoke to someone at the club recently about getting a book signing arranged.

    "It would be great to do it at Selhurst because I've not been back really since I retired, so it would be great to see the fans and I really do appreciate where I come from. I would just love to show my appreciation to the club that gave me the opportunity to play professional football.

    "I was taken in by the Palace fans because they know I'm from there. Even though I didn't kick on to be the next Ian Wright, I always gave 100 per cent and I would have loved to have scored more."

    Leon will be signing copies of his book on December 7 at Waterstones, Croydon.

    Former Crystal Palace striker Leon McKenzie writes book challenging footballer stereotypes

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    POLICE are investigating after a caravan was destroyed by fire.
    Firefighters and police were called to Mill Lane, Waddon, at 2.30am on Monday to reports of the camper van on fire.  
    There was no-one inside the vehicle and no injuries were reported.
    Neighbours said the caravan has been parked on the street, which leads from Purley Way to the Mill Lane Trading Estate, on and off for more than five years.
    One neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "I woke up in the middle of the night to a huge bang and then saw police and firefighters all over the place.
    "The van has been there for years; the man who owns it drives it away sometimes but comes back."
    The fire did not spread to any surrounding cars.
    The cause of the fire is not yet known; police and the fire brigade are investigating.

    Mill Lane, Waddon: Police investigating after caravan gutted by fire


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