After five years saying that they would not intervene in the local economy, the Conservatives who run Croydon Council are about to launch an economic plan. For TONY NEWMAN, the leader of the Labour opposition group, this is an admission of error
So next Monday, Croydon’s Conservative council publishes its economic strategy for Croydon. It is a rather thin document which contains precious little new information, and is at least five years too late.
In 2006, the Tories inherited from the previous Labour-run council a local economy that was growing and approximately £85 million of funding from the then Labour government known as the “local enterprise growth initiative”.
This money was specifically allocated to support the creation of business start-ups, with a focus on creating local jobs. Sadly, this was never utilised properly, and the majority of the money was spent on other projects before being cut by the current government.
Just six years later and Croydon’s local economy is in a vicious spiral of decline. Nestle has moved its HQ to Crawley, the Bank of America has moved out, our famous department store Allders has closed down, youth unemployment is approaching record levels and our town is still recovering from the awful riots of 2011.
So the belated publication of the council’s plan for the economy is at best too little, too late, and more likely an admission of incompetence and neglect. After all, why did Croydon’s Tories not have a plan in place earlier, and put it into action when it just might have made a difference?
During this entire period of this decline, our Tory council has only ever repeated the same tired slogan, saying that they would not intervene in the local economy, it was “up to the market” to decide who was successful and there was no role for the council in securing jobs for Croydon.
This is, of course, utter rubbish. Many Councils across London and beyond actively fight for their communities and work in close partnership with their local business sectors to fight for new jobs and secure existing ones for the people they represent. It is this approach that an incoming Labour council will adopt if we win the 2014 local elections.
However, because 2014 might be too late for many local businesses, left to struggle with little support, we have in recent weeks held meetings with the NatWest Bank’s business support unit, representatives of some of Croydon’s smaller traders, and we have met with both the potential major developers for our town centre, Hammerson and Westfield.
We have acted now because we believe somebody had to speak up for Croydon and talk directly to those who wish to invest in our town and create much-needed jobs here.
That the current Tory council has failed to do this is a serious charge, but one we can no longer spend any more time debating. Croydon is at a cross roads, those of us who live here know what a wonderful place it is. Our job now is to sell this message to everybody else.
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