This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 17/11/2017.
As elections loom, what kind of Croydon do you want?
After the snap election this year, you could be forgiven for being pretty fed up with politics and elections. In 2018, for the fourth straight year, Croydon will be returning to the polls – this time, for the local elections.
Whilst we’ve probably all had enough of voting for a while, these local elections really do matter. Croydon is in the middle of great change and who is elected to serve in the council chambers in 2018 will be able to influence what borough we are living in many years to come.
The challenges facing our part of south London are multiple and diverse.
- Central Croydon and the area around many of our railway stations are rapidly becoming high-rise dormitories for central London workers
- The central Croydon economy is doing well, less well are the prospects across the rest of the borough
- House prices are rising fast and with it the unaffordability of a home in Croydon
- Major construction projects like Westfield, Fairfield and new council housing are going nowhere
- In the next 5 years we need to provision a huge number of new secondary school places
- Knife crime and fly-tipping and a scourge across the town
- A key council service has been judged inadequate
All the parties are lining up candidates and forming policies for next May’s elections. I believe the real overriding question to answer next May is simple: what kind of Croydon do you want?
Right now, the Labour council and Conservative government aren’t offering a Croydon for the people of Croydon.
Put simply, both support increasing our population. Their preferred method happens to be immigration, but frankly it wouldn’t matter if it was from cloning or tax incentives for storks. Without providing enough new houses for people, which hasn’t happened for decades, this simply pushes up the price of housing. The limited homes that are built are skyscraper apartments which don’t serve our local families.
The Conservatives took steps to reduced stop and search in 2010, and are cutting police numbers. Labour supports reduced stop and search. Neither propose any action beyond soft words to stop knife crime.
Despite the paralysis of Westfield’s non-development and the loss of Fairfield, central Croydon is doing well. The local centres of the borough are doing less well. Many local high streets and areas of Croydon are struggling. The council’s response has largely been a mixture of restricting parking and making the roads so slow few businesses want to travel them.
Both the Conservatives and Labour support green taxes on landfill. They have slowly reduced and made more complex our dustbin collections. Now you need permits to enter the council tips, and yet they all feign surprise we have rampant fly tipping across the borough.
We have a golden opportunity to radically change and improve the secondary schools that serve the children of Croydon. Both main parties hide their true beliefs (Tories in grammar schools, Labour in bog standard comprehensives) in favour of a do-nothing middle ground.
I have worked with the council’s education department on matters relating to a school which is sadly heading towards providing an inadequate service. The local government officers I have worked with have been highly professional and dedicated to helping improve the service. When the council’s central children’s service was recently judged inadequate by Ofsted, all we have seen is political point scoring and attempts to hide.
What kind of Croydon could we have?
I’d like to see the council do the following.
- Focus on planning for and approving small houses most likely to appeal to local families. Actually build some council houses
- Divert a small amount of council funds to help reduce Crime in Croydon town centre and campaign for increased use of stop and search
- Move council jobs from the highly rentable (to fund this) Bernard Wetherill house to local high streets. Helping to boost the local areas of Croydon and moving those who provide the service closer to the people they provide it too
- Stop this folly of green taxes reducing the quality or people’s lives. Locally asking for new refuse collection contracts to simplify the service
- Focus on new schools or new provisions at schools that provide an area of focus such as academic, technical or creative skills to provide real choice for the right education for each and every child
- Start with a council that remembers they work for us. Quickly publish the ‘project plan’ to turn around the inadequate Children’s Service. Appoint an independent role or agency to oversee the changes needed and task them with fully, excluding any of personal data, updating the public on progress being made
If you want a council that works for the people of Croydon, vote for it. I believe my party, UKIP, provides those ideas and a true change from what we have today. No matter how you vote – and I understand we are all fed up of elections – May 2018 really will matter for our town directly for the next four years. And if we get children’s policies right, it will matter for the next generation.