After a dreadful week of more appalling jobs losses for Croydon, with Allders going into administration followed by Bank of America’s announcement that it is to vacate its building on Cherry Orchard Road – a total of nearly 2,000 jobs lost in a matter of days – Inside Croydon brings a positive, upbeat employment story for the town.
On Thursday, a crowded South London Jobs Fair at Fairfield Halls marked an innovative approach to job creation and prosperity, by using the power of public procurement.
No one could doubt the desire of Croydon people to find good work in austere times, with long queues out of the door.
In all, 12 housing associations, with sponsorship from 31 organisations, led by the Co-operative and Ikea, all organised by local event management firm 3DChange, looked to see how their cumulative spending power could be used to boost job opportunities.
The fair sought to help Croydon small businesses bid for public procurement contracts with appropriate advice. Moira Skinner, the managing director of 3DChange, speaking from their Airport House office, told Inside Croydon, the fair was “about local jobs for local people”.
“This is not just about volunteering or placements particularly. This is about real jobs,” she said.
Some housing associations were looking to see if they could provide jobs and training for their own tenants. Suppliers to the housing associations were also present.
The scale of demand for work compared to the jobs available is daunting. One Thornton Heath firm, Chequers Contract Services, received more than 500 applications.
For despite attempts by the “Croydon Glee Club” to put a positive spin on the situation, matters have reached crisis point in the borough. Yet this week, of all weeks, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation wrote that the “medium-term prospects are actually very bright”.
Bright? If it is “very bright” in a week when nearly 2,000 jobs are lost in post-riots Croydon, we’d hate to see what it would take for Croydon’s delusional tendency to describe times as “tough”.
Gavin Barwell also recently grabbed at a straw on employment figures, heralding a 1.5 per cent fall in the number of people in Croydon claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance reported in May, compared to April 2012.
Barwell said: “Any fall in unemployment is very welcome but it’s important that the Government and Croydon Council remain cautious over the next few months given the continuing economic challenges we face.” As famous former Norwood resident Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never said: No Shit Sherlock.
Somehow, Barwell failed to mention the figures for youth and long-term unemployment in Croydon, the latter stat seeing a 110 per cent increase since May 2011.
Official figures show that by May 2012, the number of long-term unemployed across Croydon – those without a job for 12 months or more – had risen to 2,665, up from 1,265 in 2011.
And as youth unemployment across London has increased 2.6 per cent over the past year, and 7.9 per cent nationally, in Croydon the picture is much worse:
- up 10 per cent in Croydon Central
- up 20.4 per cent in Croydon North
- up 34.5 per cent in Croydon South
None of these figures stand comparison against what is happening in youth employment in Sutton, where in two neighbouring constituencies, the number of youngsters out of work has risen by less than 5 per cent.
Croydon cheerleader Barwell seems to have forgotten to mention any of this.
He preferred to concentrate on the small glimmer of hope of a single month’s up-turn, in the midst of a double dip recession that economists say has been created in Downing Street.
Only looking at all the available figures, over the past year, can offer proper perspective and something like the whole, true picture.
Compare unemployment in Croydon from May 2011 to last month, and the number of jobless is up by 7.7 per cent, with 10,723 out of work in the borough (compared to 9,957 after just a year of the ConDem government in charge).
Split between the three parliamentary constituencies (which is how the government figures are compiled), unemployment in Croydon North is up 8.2 per cent (5,328 from 4,922 in 2011); Croydon Central is up 4 per cent (3,263 from 3,139 in 2011); and unemployment in Croydon South is up a staggering 12.5 per cent over the year (2,132 out of work in May 2012 compared to 1,896 in 2011).
The Croydon figures reflect part of the national picture. But yet again, when the performance of other, neighbouring south London constituencies are compared, Croydon comes out second best, and by a considerable margin.
In Sutton and Cheam unemployment is up by 1.1 per cent. In Carshalton and Wallington, it is up by 2.7 per cent. These localised differences can only be attributable to the disastrously dogmatic policies and management of the borough under Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher and chief executive Jon Rouse.
They have wedded themselves to the national government’s policy of axing public service jobs so that the private sector would magically create jobs to replace them, something which has been proved to be to sound economics what King Herod was to child care.
Of course, there are public service jobs which could be brought to Croydon, transferred from Whitehall. Not all of these may be positions filled by people from Croydon, but the presence of hundreds of waged civil servants in local offices would create additional, albeit usually low-paid, ancilliary jobs, while also offering some economic stimulus to existing, hard-pressed local businesses.
It might at least redress the balance of other job losses. The impact on the local service sector – including pubs, restaurants, sandwich shops, dry cleaners, newsagents – when Nestle and Bank of America exit the borough in 2013, taking almost 2,000 employees with them, will be nothing short of catastrophic.
Despite all the empty and relatively cheap office space available in Croydon, after more than two years as the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, Barwell’s self-publicised efforts to bring a government department to the borough from Whitehall has so far delivered… zilch.
But let’s look on the bright side, like the Whitgift Foundation’s MP and his cheerleaders would have us do. There is one growth business in Croydon in 2012: staging job fairs.
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon. Not from Redhill.
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