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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- Westfield swoops in early with planning application for Croydon (insidecroydon.com)
- Hammerson steps up Croydon battle with Westfield (telegraph.co.uk)
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You and your Labour Party colleagues had a lengthy period in power in Croydon, during which you did little for the borough’s economy, despite having access to millions of pounds of LEGI grants. At least you now have the good grace to admit that much of that money was misspent.
I readily agree that the Tories have done no better, albeit that the doctrine-ridden approach of their central government colleagues has made life more difficult for them.
As a concerned borough resident who made a conscious decision to move here 30 years ago, my question is: why should I trust the Croydon Conservative or Labour parties to deliver anything of consequence for the borough?
During his time as the capital’s Mayor, Ken Livingstone frequently asked: “If New York runs on five boroughs, why does London need 33?”
Has the time come, once again, for a fundamental reorganisation of Greater London government?
A sub-regional council would be cheaper to administer. It would have the breadth of vision and the expertise to manage the redevelopment of Croydon town centre properly, rather than squabbling, dithering and generally doing more economic damage than the Luftwaffe.