CROYDON COMMENTARY: Noticed any leaflets pushed through your letterbox lately that are offering you much, much more that free delivery on pizza? There must be an election coming, writes DAVID CALLAM
They say truth is the first casualty of war. It is among the earliest to be injured in election campaigns, too.
Sensible politicians don’t tell lies; the opprobrium, if they’re caught, makes it a mug’s game. Instead, they practice sleight of fact – weasel words calculated to leave the electorate with the most favourable impression if they’re in power, or the least favourable if they’re in opposition.
Take the latest Conservative party Croham Ward propaganda to fall through the letterbox at Callam Acres: it tells me that South End is due for a £3 million makeover that involves widening pavements, improving shop fronts, moving the public toilet from its present island site, and realigning the junction of South End and Selsdon Road (by which I think it means the roads around the Swan and Sugarloaf).
This glossy leaflet is careful not to suggest that cash-strapped Croydon Council is spending such a considerable sum itself. The road works – because some re-modelling has already taken place, to no great effect – have likely been paid for through Transport for London and from the Mayor of London, part of the riot recovery money that was promised more than two years ago. The figure of £3 million is arrived at by a process of optimistic accounting.
By that I mean Tory spinners have counted the number of retail premises between Croydon Flyover and the Selsdon Road end of Ye Market and assumed that all the owners or tenants will apply for improvement grants and will spend substantial sums of their own money on each shop front.
Wishing to arrive at the most impressive figure, with a view to touting for votes in the forthcoming council election, they have almost certainly included in their £3 million the total assumed expenditure on shop fronts – using public and private sector money alike – as well as the cost of the road works.
The reality, I suspect, will be somewhat different. The public toilet will be moved, mainly to facilitate the realignment of the road junction, needed to deal safely with the extra traffic trying to park outside the front of the Tesco Express at the Swan.
The council will find a few bob to re-lay the pavement, but I doubt it will dig out and replace the foundations, meaning the new surface will soon be as dangerously uneven as the present one.
Some of the shops have been empty for decades; I can’t see owners – often the Whitgift Foundation – improving the premises on a speculative basis. Many tenants will resist – particularly those running lifestyle businesses, who fear that improvements will lead to rent increases.
The net result will be very much less impressive than the propaganda would have you believe. But that won’t matter to the spinners or the councillors, because by the time you realise you’ve been conned, Croydon will have elected its next council.
The Tories are not alone in this pre-election shenanigans: I expect to receive equally exaggerated communications from other parties as polling day draws closer.
Beware: the snake-oil salesmen are alive and well.
Previous commentaries by David Callam:
- Gatwick plan should have Croydon ready for take-off
- Mayday Hospital’s care record warrants closer inspections
- £1.5bn Hammersfield scheme hits a planning road block
- Cultivating culture is year-round project, not just three weeks
Coming to Croydon
- Green Heritage Fair at Heathfield House: Sep 21-22
- Three plays in a pub: The Ship, Sep 24
- Have a cup of coffee and help fight cancer: Sep 27
- Help break the chains of human trafficking: Sep 28
- Tea at Five at the Spread Eagle: Oct 2-4
- Minister’s musical celebration for Silver Sunday: Oct 6
- Rent at the Secombe Theatre: Oct 9-12
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