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Bishop of Croydon says council's fairness commission will make a 'real difference'

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CROYDON'S £200,000 fairness commission will provide "value for money" and make a "real difference", its newly appointed chairman has said.

The council has asked Bishop of Croydon Jonathan Clark to head the inquiry into whether public services could be fairer.

The Right Reverend Clark said he had agreed to fulfil the voluntary role because the commission was a "great opportunity to start to tell a different story about Croydon".

Council leader Tony Newman said the Bishop was a widely respected figure whose appointment would reassure people the process would be independent.

A panel including members of the public, private and voluntary organisations - dubbed 'Ambassadors for Fairness' - will carry out a year-long "listening exercise" before a final report is produced in January 2016.

The process has been dubbed a waste of money by the Conservative opposition but Cllr Newman says £200,000 is a small amount to pay for a "once in a lifetime opportunity to ensure fairness underpins council decisions".

The Bishop told the Advertiser he would not have become involved if he thought the commission would be ignored.

"I was honoured to be asked because it's going to be an important piece of work," he said.

"If it does what it is supposed to it will focus the energies, not just of the council but a whole range of partners, around what our needs and opportunities are.

"Some fairness commissions have made a real difference and others have been left on the shelf. I wouldn't be involved if I didn't think it could make a real difference."

He added that spending £200,000 on the commission was "the council's decision".

"It's not for me to refuse to be part of it for that reason," he explained.

"I think there's an opportunity to get value for money. That's why I am involved.

"Now the decision has been made it's all the more important the investment does reap a reward for the people of Croydon and that's what I am going to try and help it to do."

The Bishop will now help select the panel of ambassadors before the process begins early next year.

He believes his position in the Church could help the commission reach out to the borough's diverse communities.

"I am equally committed to all the different parts of the community that make up Croydon," he said.

"I don't have an axe to grind for any one particular area or group.

"I hope I can represent the common interest we're trying to find for all of us."

Cllr Newman said: "I'm thrilled [the Bishop] has agreed to do it. It's clear he commands a lot of respect across the community, including people who wouldn't normally describe themselves as particularly religious.

"He seems to have the background and the personality that reaches out to many people. It's quite clear he would be his own person and be able to bring others into the process."

Hamida Ali, a Labour councillor for Woodside, has been appointed vice chairman of the commission. 

It will involve a series of public meetings across the borough where the panel will hear evidence from expert witnesses, residents and community groups.

The commission will not have any legal powers but will "strongly guide and influence" council policy, Cllr Newman has previously told the Advertiser.

Bishop of Croydon says council's fairness commission will make a 'real difference'


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