This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 05/04/2018.
The Croydon Manifesto 2018
Croydon goes to the polls with the rest of London and much of metropolitan England on Thursday 3rd May. Against a backdrop of renewed two-party politics in the UK, the Citizen reached out to the two men vying to be leader of Croydon Council on 4th May: the incumbent, Labour’s Tony Newman, and the leader of the opposition, Conservative Tim Pollard. They’ve been asked to explain their parties’ plans for the following topics.
Newman: “We see the challenges in the borough; specifically, serious youth violence and knife crime. We are so proud of our Choose Your Future campaign that has hundreds of messages and initiatives behind it. We are committed to working with our strategic partners across sectors and have agreed to a 2/3-year commitment to our Children & Young People’s Plan, which is being put together from the feedback we received at Croydon’s first Youth Congress. This is a top priority for us and was one of the top three priorities identified by young people in the borough. We will continue to engage with young people in the borough, to look at the issues and solutions.”
Pollard: “Whilst large parts of our town are pretty safe places to be, many in society feel at risk and for too many that fear is justified. In particular we have a real problem with youth-on-youth violence and knife crime. We will create a Knife Crime Commission to emulate best practice from around the world in combatting knife crime. As well as local agencies/charities, it will include experts from places with proven expertise, such as Glasgow: between 2006 and 2011, fifteen children and teenagers were killed with knives there; between April 2011 and April 2016, none were. We need to learn from this.”
Newman: “We are very excited about the role of our Young Mayor and his deputy in working with our administration to address the issues facing young people. Our Young Mayor has just started and we look forward to our important relationship with him, his deputy and their views as a new voice for London’s largest youth population. As already mentioned, we are in the middle of a very positive Choose Your Future campaign, which aims to raise aspirations and potential in young people, through positive role models and a ‘no glass ceiling’ attitude. We also had a Croydon’s Youth Takeover Challenge, which saw 68 young people taking over roles within Croydon Council and Croydon Police.”
Pollard: “As well as crime issues, young people tell us that they are worried about future jobs, getting housing of their own, the night-time economy and the environment. These issues came out clearly in the ‘Young Mayor’ campaigns and we are committed to retaining this. We need our schools and colleges to equip young people to get access to fulfilling careers. We need housing to be genuinely affordable, rather than producing endless highly expensive commuter flats. We also need the night-time economy to cater for the needs of young people, in particular through some reinvigoration of the club scene. Croydon has lost its edge.”
The night-time economy
Newman: “We are committed to seeing Croydon develop a vibrant, varied and safe night-time economy across the borough. There are ambitious programmes of work that are working towards that aim in some parts of the borough, namely central Croydon, but we do see the need to develop the borough-wide night-time economy that is tailored and right for the areas concerned. We should see a further significant boost with the opening of Fairfield Halls early next year following the £30-million regeneration.”
Pollard: “The night-time economy of Croydon is buoyant in parts but is too limited to particular types of entertainment. Parents of young children often tell us that they do not feel comfortable bringing them into Croydon any more and young people tell us that the club scene has died. We will soon have a lot more people living in the town centre and this should create a market for a wider range of restaurants. Boxpark started brightly and is a great concept, but has looked vulnerable recently and in any case has a limited tenure on its plot. We need to work on ‘son of Boxpark’.”
Jobs and the local economy
Newman: “Croydon celebrated the inaugural Croydon Year for Business, which aimed to highlight Croydon as an excellent place to grow a business and inspired further innovation among the business community. Croydon Means Business follows on from the work of the Small Business Commission – a business-led group set up by Croydon Council in January 2017 to explore the barriers to and opportunities for growth of Croydon’s SMEs.
Croydon Works has been set up as a free job-brokerage service offering support for residents and businesses. Croydon Council, Croydon College and Jobcentre Plus work together to match employers in the borough with local talent and to source training opportunities for people who need extra skills or qualifications to get back into work. Since the launch in 2016, more than 250 residents have been placed in work. The Croydon Good Employer Charter aims to boost the local economy through support to the local supply chain, creation of job opportunities and ensuring that employees are paid a fair wage. I am proud that the London Borough of Croydon is now a London Living Wage (LLW) council. Our ambition is to see Croydon as a LLW town sooner rather than later.”
Pollard: “Croydon still has massive potential to bring office-based businesses into the town centre, provided that it can sort out its office stock. Westfield will clearly bring huge opportunities for retail and service jobs, assuming that the council can get it over the line. Without it, the future would look much bleaker. The infrastructure deal, the ‘Growth Zone’ brokered by the Conservative government, will greatly improve the transport infrastructure, with knock-on effects on business growth and employment.
There’s not a lot of political difference between the two main parties’ priorities here: the key thing is to ensure that local people benefit from the extra jobs. This means continuing to work to ensure that our young people have the right qualifications and skills to get the jobs when they come. District centres are also vital for employment. Croydon has a surprising amount of manufacturing industry left in small businesses outside the town centre, and we need to create a climate where these can flourish. We believe in Business Improvement Districts, first introduced under a Conservative administration. We want to grow these, as business leaders lead business better than the council ever can.”
The Croydon Partnership
Newman: “The scheme for the £1.4 billion Whitgift redevelopment has now received approval from the London Mayor. We are really pleased to see a significant step forward, which will be the catalyst in the town centre’s regeneration. Not only will this exciting development see a transformation of central Croydon and position Croydon as a leading retail, leisure and dining destination, it will also generate 7,000 new jobs and 1,000 new homes.”
Pollard: “The Westfield/Hammerson deal was brokered by Mayor Boris and the then-Conservative council. It also granted the first planning consent and agreed to back the compulsory purchase to enable the scheme. We really, really want it to go ahead. The last four years, whilst the council has been under Labour control, have been frustrating. Progress has been agonisingly slow. Finally, the logjam was broken at a series of meetings organised by the Conservative Minister for London, where the parties came to an agreement about the final terms of the deal, with financial help from the government. So let’s get going!”
Newman: “Our work on the £30 million refurbishment of Fairfield Halls is progressing well. It will be a first-class cultural venue that will offer a wide-ranging cultural offering and will complement the wider transformation of central Croydon. We are also investing in Surrey Street and introducing a community culture fund to support groups across the borough.”
Pollard: “Over the last four years there has been much argument about how the Fairfield Halls should be redeveloped. Both sides agreed that it was needed and had pledged to invest approximately £30 million in it. What we disagreed about was whether to close it to do the works or to keep it partially operating throughout. The council chose closure and the project is now over a year late. That’s frustrating, but what we ultimately get will be good. But Fairfield is only a part of the cultural offering. We need a dynamic range of events throughout our district centres which reflects Croydon’s diversity and we are committed to providing that.”
Newman: “We are thrilled that our primary and secondary-age students are now attending outstanding schools. Croydon Council received a letter from Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for Schools, congratulating it for being one of the ten most-improved local authorities. Recent Ofsted inspections in our primary schools have also been positive, improving Croydon’s position nationally. We are very optimistic about these results. Every child deserves an excellent education, but we seek to continuously improve schools across the borough and work with our strategic partners to ensure that high-quality education, training and skills benefit our learners. Work is about to begin on Legacy, Croydon’s new £6.5 million state-of-the art youth zone offering young people a fantastic range of world-class facilities and activities.”
Pollard: “Our education system is very good in parts but still too patchy in others. The academies created under Conservative administration have generally been very successful and the work, initiated under the Conservatives and continued under Labour, to provide for our rapidly expanding youth population has worked well. But too many groups are still being left behind and there are worrying signs that we are dropping behind the London average. The council no longer directly controls schools, but must use its influence to drive up standards. Our school report would say ‘B-, could do better’!”
Litter and fly-tipping
Newman: “We are working to ensure that the new waste contract delivers improved services for the borough and its residents. The contract is aimed at improving waste collection and street cleaning. The new deal saves £5 million per year in costs to taxpayers while boosting recycling levels. It will also provide an enhanced garden waste-collection service that will operate all year round. Our Don’t Mess With Croydon campaign has seen prosecutions hit the near-200 mark since the launch in 2014. As well as prosecuting people in court, the council has seized more than thirty vehicles that have been used or suspected of being involved in fly-tipping. In addition, 345 community champions are in place who lead litter picks.”
Pollard: “Our borough is a mess. No matter what the council’s statistics ‘prove’, people believe the evidence of their eyes. If residents report fly-tipping to the council, it clears it. But residents shouldn’t need to do that. The council should be more proactive in getting out and finding it. So we will introduce ‘Fly-Tip Buster’ patrols, which will tour the hot spots and operate a zero-tolerance regime by getting litter, fly-tipping and other problems cleared fast. We will also keep the bin-emptying frequency at fortnightly or better and will introduce a free bulky waste removal service to help people to ‘do the right thing’.”
Polls are open from 7am to 10pm on 3rd May 2018. You must register to vote before 17th April. A full list of candidates standing in your ward can be found by searching Croydon Council’s website.