Unanimity broke out in the council chamber at Croydon Town Hall on Wednesday night: none of our councillors, red or blue, think the riots were A Good Thing.
But were the local Conservatives all singing from the same hymn sheet?
Senior figures in the local Conservative party had previously opposed Labour’s calls for a Croydon public enquiry. Yet this week they agreed to at least establish “an independent panel” (first question: how independent?).
This panel will not seek to investigate what led to Croydon’s outbreak of violence and disorder, and the breakdown of policing, on 8/8, however. Instead it will gather and “contribute local evidence to the national inquiry”.
The panel will be made up of “members from both political groups”, the council’s press release states. This somewhat confirms that there really is no plurality beyond the Town Hall; while they might be propping up the Tories’ destruction of the NHS at Westminster, it appears there will not be even a token Croydon LibDem on this panel, nor will the Greens be given a seat. The panel, according to council leader Mike Fisher, will include “lay members”.
“The panel will seek to understand what happened in Croydon on 8 August, and why. It will collate its findings and submit them to the inquiry announced by Prime Minister David Cameron last month,” Croydon Council’s press release states.
The council was claiming yesterday, as London Road was finally re-opened exactly a month after the riots, that “almost £100,000″ [our italics] “had now been given to small businesses in interest-free loans to help them reopen their doors”.
The press office then states: “It also follows more than 200 emergency payments of £1,000, which were made to businesses by the council to fund immediate work to shopfronts and other essential repairs.”
The council is claiming to have found long-term accommodation for 70 of the 98 households that were made homeless on August 8. By our calculation, that is nearly 30 per cent of homeless families still without a roof over their head after a whole month. Is that really good enough?
“Our aim is to ensure no such incident ever happens again in Croydon – so we have decided to set up an independent panel to input into Mr Cameron’s inquiry, ensuring we know as much as possible about what happened and why,” Fisher said in the council statement.
This is in marked contrast to his deputy, Tim Pollard, who only a week earlier had told Inside Croydon there was no need for any inquiry. “We know what happened on the night,” Pollard said. Ah, ignorance is such sweet bliss.
Somewhat typically, the council has failed to set a timescale for when it plans to announce the membership of the panel, nor name the independent chairman or woman.
Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour group on the council, seized upon the apparent divergence between Fisher and Pollard’s positions. “I am particularly happy that commonsense triumphed. Councillor Fisher overruled his deputy, Councillor Pollard, and ignored Gavin Barwell MP. Both Barwell and Pollard were opposed to an independent public inquiry for Croydon.”
Except what Fisher has agreed to appears to be something of a halfway house; the enquiry panel may not even meet in public.
Newman renewed earlier calls for the maintenance of police numbers in Croydon, and for the cost-cutting axing of six sergeants from the Safer Neighbourhood Teams to be reversed.
He also wants an urgent review of the cuts to Croydon’s youth services, and for the 66 per cent cuts in funding to the borough’s voluntary sector to be undone.
Newman has also called for the council to raid its £65 million reserves to use £10 million of it for investment in those communities hardest hit by the riots. We might be waiting a very long time before we see the Tories using millions of council funding to improve traditionally Labour-voting areas of West Croydon, London Road and Broad Green, though.
- Martin Luther King, Croydon and putting riot victims first (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon’s Tories look £50m gift horse in the mouth over EZ (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon 8/8: Police admit only 100 officers in thin blue line (insidecroydon.com)
- MP Wicks renews demand for urgent inquiry into Croydon riots (insidecroydon.com)