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I invite all Croydonians to have a say in shaping our future

I invite all Croydonians to have a say in shaping our future
Nov 18, 2016 Shaking Hands 0 comments
This article was first published on The Croydon Citizen on 18/11/2016

I invite all Croydonians to have a say in shaping our future

How about a citizens’ alternative to the Develop Croydon private property club?

Annoyed by the £430 cost of attending the Develop Croydon Forum Conference for developers and investors on Tuesday 22nd November (a price which will ensure that only corporate delegates attend), local environmental activist Charles Barber has proposed the setting up of a Sustainable Croydon Forum. Here we could put forward our own ideas of how we’d like to see Croydon develop. Charles Barber has also suggested holding a citizens’ event in St George’s Walk, on the same day as Develop Croydon next meets.

The continued refusal of Develop Croydon Forum to make free or cheap seats available to community organisations is something I have raised before in the Citizen. The continued lack of cheap tickets for community representatives is also a sign of the failure of Croydon Council and the Mayor of London to require this as a condition of participation. My UNITE trade union’s retired members’ group is calling on Mayor Sadiq Khan to withdraw any speakers from his office from the event unless fifty free or affordable seats are made available to community and other organisations.

No political party is listening and people feel powerless

Charles’s ideas are excellent ones. In particular, the suggestion of an outdoor meeting is a reminder of the meetings held during the campaigns to win the vote during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But unfortunately, there is not enough time to ensure a large enough attendance (especially as the proposed meeting would be held in working hours).

But the following Saturday 26th November, the Croydon Assembly will meet to discuss preparing a People’s Plan for Croydon. The event begins with registration at 10:00am at Ruskin House on Park Lane.

A central issue for the Assembly is the democratic crisis both in Croydon and nationally.

Many people feel powerless to influence what is happening and that their views are not being listened to. Funding cuts by central government to local government, and the apparent power of developers over local decision-making, play a role in this. The Brexit vote of June 2016 is partly a reflection of this anger with central authority.

Democracy in Croydon is noticeable by its absence

Powerlessness is also partly due to the undemocratic cabinet system operated within our council. This gives all power to the leader, elected for four years and totally in control of who becomes a cabinet member, and sidelines backbenchers.

The aim of the Assembly meeting is to develop a People’s Plan for Croydon to put communities in charge of making the decisions that affect their lives.

We’ll be looking at how to put local people in control

The morning starts with some entertainment from poet and musician Attila the Stockbroker and a setting of the scene by Philippa Harvey, former president of the National Union of Teachers and local activist. There will then be discussion groups on how to put people in control and create a proper democracy in Croydon and beyond.

We will look at the problems and weaknesses in the present set-up, as far as democracy is concerned, at both a local and a national level, and consider Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals that Citizens’ Assemblies could bring people closer to power. We will consider what would happen if local communities in Croydon and beyond were to have control over resources and decision-making in a more direct way and ask how they would balance out the different demands and interests across Croydon’s diverse communities.

Discussion groups will then focus on housing, health, education, welfare and the economy, social care, transport, local employment and council services to develop proposals to go into the People’s Plan. Recommendations will be brought together in a session of the whole Assembly, preparing a practical programme for campaigning at local level.

Everyone is invited to take part.

It would be most helpful if you booked in advance. If you can’t, just turn up on the day.