For once, and unlike Nero, council leaders were not fiddling while Croydon burned. They were holding a meeting.
Tuesday night, mercifully, was comparatively quiet in Croydon, although there were some minor disturbances reported around Norwood. With all police leave in the capital cancelled, there were 16,000 officers on London’s streets last night. Reports suggest a significant number of riot-trained police were on hold outside Croydon centre, and late in the evening half a dozen of the Met’s new heavy-duty Ford Jankle vehicles were seen motoring south down Streatham High Road towards Croydon, looking like something from a Mad Max movie.
Earlier, a special emergency meeting of Croydon community leaders was called. At the Town Hall at 4pm, council leader Mike Fisher was absent, apparently busy briefing London Mayor Boris Johnson who had belatedly returned from his holiday after three days of rioting in his city.
In his absence, Simon Hoar, Steve O’Connell (who boasted he had been in touch with Boris “all day and night”, apparently while the Mayor was flying back from Calgary) and Sara Bashford were there, with Vidhi Mohan chairing the meeting attended by many concerned after seeing businesses along London Road gutted by arsonists on Monday night.
Also absent were Fisher’s two deputies, Dudley Mead or sidekick Tim Pollard.
Jon Rouse, the Croydon CEO, was there, however. According to a source at the meeting, Rouse admitted “mistakes” had been made and they had not got it all right.
The community leaders were particularly concerned for some shopkeepers, who had lost their homes as well as their businesses, but who did not have any or adequate insurance. Unanswered by this meeting was whether Croydon Council, apart from making sympathetic noises, would step in from its multi-million pound contingency fund.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the community leaders expressed their disappointment at the lack of police officers in Croydon on Monday. With the council’s emergency plans demonstrably flawed, the council leaders said that they had appealed to Met Commissioner, but the response was poor.
Only an arch cynic would suggest that Rouse’s buddies in the construction industry might get to benefit from ordinary Croydon people’s misfortunes. But Croydon’s £200,000 pa man was quick to move to praise publicly council contractors Mansell and Mead for “rallying round” to help with the clear-up and with re-building.
“Mansell immediately called and offered up its support and help. Mears and the others on our framework too. The industry has really rallied round to support us, it’s a credit to our contractors,” Rouse said, taking time out from dealing with the biggest crisis in Croydon since the Blitz to do a bit of PR for the construction industry by chatting to Building magazine. Rouse failed to state whether the civic-minded contractors would do such work for no charge.
According to Building, Rouse told them that “police had successfully protected major commercial and municipal property in the city centre”. So was this part of the emergency “plan”: to protect the banks and the Town Hall, while the little guys, the shopkeepers and private businesses, such as Reeves furniture store, were left to burn?
- Police on standby for copycat “riots” in Croydon tonight (insidecroydon.com)
- Rouse resigned as director of Fairfield after council’s £1.5m grant (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon burns as looters storm the Whitgift Centre (insidecroydon.com)
- “Clean Up Croydon” will need more than a dustpan and brush (insidecroydon.com)