CROYDON COMMENTARY: Former local MP ANDREW PELLING says that errors and underestimates on Croydon’s rapidly growing population means that the government needs to increase its grant to the borough, urgently
Ever feel the tram or the buses are getting a bit crowded in Croydon? Have you had trouble finding a school place for a child? Maybe you’ve been told by your GP’s surgery that you cannot get an appointment to see a doctor for more than week, they’re just so busy?
Well, the 2011 census figures are certainly creating a stir in the right-of-centre media. Half of the record rate of population growth in the last decade is due to immigration.
It turns out that there are 500,000 more people living an England and Wales than the government thought there were. But the unexpected figures are much, much worse in their inaccuracy regarding Croydon. More than five times worse.
This gross error in population estimates comes as no surprise to me.
I was roundly condemned during the 2005 General Election for raising unlimited immigration as an issue. Later, Labour’s national politicians relented and accepted that the issue was worthy of being mentioned in political debate after all.
As regards Croydon, I raised my concerns about what I regarded as an obvious inaccuracy in Croydon’s population estimates during the last Parliament. I ventured that the Croydon population was probably 363,000, maybe even higher bearing in mind that Croydon doctors had 375,500 patients on their books in July 2007.
Amazingly, at one point, the Office of National Statistics even revised Croydon’s population estimate down to 336,000.
I could tell from just how many people who were not on the electoral register but were turning up at my MP’s advice surgeries that the ONS Croydon population figures were badly wrong.
The desperate shortage of school places also showed that something was up.
Croydon’s population was put at 346,960 by the ONS for calculation of Croydon’s need for services by the government for 2011. The census now reveals that figure is awry by 4.7 per cent.
No wonder Croydon’s NHS got into a recurring annual deficit.
363,400 people called Croydon home in 2011. That’s 16,440 Croydon people for whom the government has not provided money for a whole panoply of public services, like schools, NHS surgeries and police numbers. Forgotten, ignored and unaccounted for: 16,440 is more than a thousand people more that Crystal Palace’s average attendance.
Croydon Council is already struggling to cope with one of the worst reductions in government grant in the region: 19.5 per cent cut in government grant over just two years for our local authority. That’s like taking an immediate pay cut of £1 in every £5 that you earn, budget for and depend upon.
Croydon Council and Gavin Barwell MP, who is in the government department that decides grants for local government, must seek an urgent upgrade in money for Croydon’s public services.
Croydon’s population numbers growth far outstrips the national trend, so Croydon deserves a better share of the national budget.
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