This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 01/05/2017.
Croydon Central set for General Election rematch as Labour candidate announced
The contest for Croydon Central in the 2017 General Election will be a rematch of the battle between the same Labour and Conservative candidates as two years ago, it has been confirmed.
Labour has announced Sarah Jones – who came just 165 votes short of unseating incumbent Conservative Gavin Barwell in 2015 – as its prospective candidate for the fourth tightest seat in the country.
Her campaign was formally launched on Monday (May 1) at Ruskin House with Heidi Alexander MP, with her focus immediately placed on education with a pledge to fight the impending shakeup in school funding.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) says the proposed funding formula will cut Croydon Central school funding by £6.5million by 2020, with that figure reaching £20m for Croydon as a whole.
In a statement, Mrs Jones said: “I am proud to say that I have lived in Croydon Central my entire life and am delighted to have the chance to represent my community in Parliament.
“The Conservatives have betrayed our young people – they claim to be increasing the overall pot of schools funding but in reality, funding will not keep pace with rising pupil numbers or inflation.
“Schools will need to make eight per cent cuts to budgets, meaning larger classes, greater pressure on teaching staff and ultimately a poorer education for our children.”
Mrs Jones also attacked Mr Barwell over his 2015 pledge to deliver “an even larger share of the [funding] cake for Croydon schools”.
Mrs Jones herself pledged to fight cuts to healthcare and other “vital local services” if she is elected on June 8.
She said: “Barwell says one thing to Croydon voters and another in Westminster. Gavin Barwell promised to stand up for Croydon’s schools, the NHS and other local services. In reality, he has gone to Westminster and voted to slash millions of pounds of local funding.”
Labour says the NUT data shows that nearly £200,000 will be cut from each Croydon Central Schools, on average, by 2020, with the largest cut due to be seen at Oasis Academy Shirley Park – of more than £569,000. The party also says Applegarth Academy in New Addington will be worst hit per pupil – with an estimated cut of £811 per head.
But the Department for Education has said the NUT’s figures were “fundamentally misleading” due to not taking into account a guarantee that per pupil funding will be protected, while the Conservatives have said school funding is at the “highest level on record”, and that the funding changes will make the system “fairer”.
It would appear that the bookies think Mrs Jones has a tougher task ahead than in 2015. She was the narrow favourite going into the 2015 contest, but most bookmakers have her at 4/1, with Mr Barwell the strong favourite at 1/ 6 on.
However, Mrs Jones increased Labour’s vote share in the seat last time round by nine per cent, totalling 22,558 votes – just shy of Mr Barwell’s 22,753.
Mr Barwell was rubber-stamped as the Conservatives’ candidate last Wednesday. He told the Advertiser last week that he does not feel intimidated by Labour’s efforts to take his seat – with Jeremy Corbyn officially launching his party’s campaign in the town centre.
He said: “I think the more Jeremy Corbyn is seen in Croydon, the happier I’ll be. I think most people don’t think he is suitable to be Prime Minister so the more the Labour Party wants to put Jeremy Corbyn at the front of their campaign in Croydon the better I think I’ll do out of it.”