8/8 One Year On: TONY NEWMAN is the leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council. A year ago, he cancelled a family holiday to return home for the emergency, but now is angry that promises to the victims of rioting by Croydon Council have been broken
On the night of August 8 last year, I was on holiday in Europe when I received a phone call telling me to turn on the nearest TV immediately. What I then saw still shocks me today.
Images of Croydon burning transmitted globally, Reeves Corner ablaze and families and small shop owners fleeing as the rioters ran wild.
I decided immediately to break my holiday and return to Croydon. Passing through the airport, every European newspaper appeared to carry an image of a desecrated Croydon on its front page.
Yet these images could not prepare me for the shock of a late night walk down the London Road with its still smouldering buildings and the stench of burnt out homes and shops. That night and in the days that followed, I spoke to hundreds of people whose lives had been changed forever. They all asked why were they not protected from the mob and whether anyone would compensate them for what they had lost.
I am proud that it was Malcolm Wicks MP and my fellow Labour councillors who led the calls for an independent enquiry. I am proud that we joined with the local community to demand that the London Mayor and Croydon Council offer some financial support.
But a year on, I and many local people are still angry that in areas such as West Croydon and the London Road, despite much talk and many promises there has been precious little done to change and improve the physical infrastructure of the area. Some householders and businesses still await their riot compensation.
The people and the community have played their part and their spirits are remarkably high, as the magnificent local response to the Olympic Torch Relay showed, as has the setting up of groups such as the West Croydon Forum.
However, it is now time for the politicians to make good on their promises and ensure that the money promised is delivered to those areas that need it most.
If this can be achieved along with, for example, a new school for the London Road and real investment in both jobs and training opportunities for young people, then it is still possible that the dreadful events of 8/8 will see something positive emerge for the future.
But if this does not happen, then those at the Town Hall and at City Hall who have let down thousands of people in Croydon will, rightly, be accused of causing as much damage to parts of the borough as those who rioted a year ago.
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