Eighteen months after the Croydon riots, and a senior councillor has been forced to admit that a £1.1 million scheme that was to attract 2,000 jobs to the worst affected areas of the borough has yet to get underway, mired in bureaucracy between the Town Hall and Boris Johnson’s Greater London Authority.
Vidhi Mohan, the Conservative councillor in charge of policy for economic development in the borough, announced the business rate relief scheme at a special event staged at Jury’s Inn last September. Yet last week, Mohan conceded that no progress has yet been made.
“Given the formal contract has not yet been received from GLA, we are limited to the amount of marketing and publicity we can deliver at this stage,” said Mohan, somewhat lamely, in a formal answer at Town Hall questions.
A grand total of just four expressions of “strong interest” have been received from businesses to take part in the proposed scheme. “However,” Mohan said, apparently looking on the bright side, “once we receive successful applications we will use the local media to celebrate the success.” The Redhill Sadvertiser must be breathless in the anticipation.
The obvious flaw with the scheme is that it does next to nothing for those businesses along London Road which were attacked or looted on that infamous night of 8/8. Indeed, the business rate relief would simply hand a significant financial advantage to these in-comers, potentially to the detriment of established Croydon businesses already struggling with the after-effects of the riots and broader economic downturn.
The slow, almost non-existent take-up ought to be a matter of grave concern to Mohan, Mayor Johnson and their Tory colleagues, as so few businesses appear to find the proposition attractive enough to move into Croydon.
The cash for the rate relief is part of the £23 million post-riot funding provided by Mayor Johnson which so far appears to have been spent mainly on expensive PR consultants and some traffic lights and pedestrian crossings near the £140 million new council HQ.
This is all in an area of the borough that was left almost untouched by the rioting – though much of which happens to be in Fairfield ward, which is represented by Mohan and two Conservative colleagues.
“As a result of the activity to date we have had a number of expressions of interest from companies who do not meet the eligibility criteria but are still interested in moving into Croydon borough,” Mohan said. So: it is a scheme that doesn’t help those affected by the riots, and which excludes other businesses which want to move to the borough. A masterstroke.
Even as recently as last week, the council £850,000 a year Ministry of Truth was still, somewhat forlornly, trying to push the rates-saving incentive.
We might have a long wait to discover whether this will be enough to provide Mohan with the “success” he apparently craves so fervently.
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon – 142,300 unique page views, Nov 2012-Jan 2013
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