The Croydon Economic Development Company may not be among the most sympathetic of victims of the Conservative-led Council’s swingeing cuts, all being discussed at a Town Hall meeting tonight.
But with all the CEDC‘s 60 employees at A M P House to be put out of work from September, it means that there’ll be 60 families wondering how to meet the next month’s mortgage or rent bill, and who probably won’t be spending any spare cash that they have in Centrale or at the Colonnades.
It also means that plans for apprenticeship schemes for the local unemployed and wide-ranging loans to help along Croydon businesses, which the same Tory Councillors were advocating strongly just six months ago, may now come to an end.
Online forums involving Croydon business people have described the plan to close the CEDC as “a very shortsighted decision” and “not a good idea”.
“I would suggest they think again about closing Croydon EDC as it is a valuable forum for local businesses and it helps the growth of business in Croydon,” said one local businessman.
“The council wants people to run businesses and employ people in Croydon, but how are they going to do that without these resources?” asked another.
The Croydon Guardian cited another unnamed businessman as saying, “It’s a bloody disaster. It’s essential the council replaces these services, even if it’s through an in-house body, because these things are vital to businesses in Croydon.”
In the past two years, with the retail banks effectively withdrawing from making any lending to small and medium-sized businesses, CEDC has invested nearly £1 million among 80 Croydon businesses, either to help them keep their firm afloat, or to help launch and attract new business to the borough.
The loss of the support from CEDC’s work and its loans to small businesses could be the second hammer blow of an economic “double whammy” that Croydon’s largely retail-based economy is dreading, with the 20 per cent VAT rate likely to deter shoppers from spending when it is introduced in January.
Croydon Council’s CEDC decision follows the Government’s stopping of the £8.5 million local economic growth initiative grant last month. Councillors believe they will save £6 million from the borough’s budget by closing CEDC, which has only been under Croydon’s control since November.
“In light of the reductions in funding for economic growth, we simply cannot continue to fund some of these projects, or to support the CEDC at its present level,” Simon Hoar, cabinet member for non-regeneration and economic non-development, told the local rag.
“Taxpayers want a leaner, more efficient local government that focuses on value for money, and we are determined to deliver it.”
This is the same Simon Hoar whose Conservative colleagues have just voted themselves massive hikes in their own allowances.
As recently as this January, Hoar’s Tory predecessor in the Cabinet with responsibility for non-regeneration, the incredibly busy Steve O’Connell, was talking bullishly of the importance of the CEDC’s work.
O’Connell outlined how CEDC was running vital conferences for local businesses, setting up new trade opportunities in Scandinavia (and not just for Ikea), and of a three-year project in collaboration with Croydon College to “create a significant number of apprenticeships offering key skills and opportunity for those who have found themselves out of work during the recession”.
O’Connell, of course, is worth every penny of the £118,000 in publicly-funded allowances he receives annually as Britain’s top-paid local councillor. It is understood that none of the apprenticeships which CEDC was to help establish will have been offering a similar level of pay.