Time to fight back against council’s arrogance and neglect

Tony Newman, left, campaigning with Croydon North's new MP, Steve Reed

Tony Newman, left, campaigning with Croydon North‘s new MP, Steve Reed

TONY NEWMAN, the leader of Croydon’s Labour group on the council, says local people demand change at the Town Hall

Croydon has been shaken to its core by recent events, from the riots of August 2011, the unprecedented economic downturn and then the loss of local flagship businesses such as Allders and Nestle.

Yet despite this, as a community we are fighting back.

Our town’s population is almost twice the size of neighbouring boroughs such as Merton; Croydon’s 364,800 is closer to the size of northern cities such as Manchester and Liverpool. Potentially, we have one of the most powerful local economies in the South East.

So what has gone wrong? And what is to be done?

The message I heard out on the doorsteps of Croydon North last week in the parliamentary by-election was that residents want their streets cleaned properly and their rubbish collected weekly, and they want a borough council and MPs who are prepared to fight for our town and demand investment and jobs for Croydon residents.

Of course, I was delighted to see Labour’s candidate Steve Reed put these issues at the heart of his successful campaign to become MP. But I was then appalled to witness at the meeting of the full council this week Croydon’s self-titled “rulers”, the current Tory council, show unparalleled arrogance and complacency as they dismissed all of these issues as being either irrelevant or not their responsibility.

This is utterly unacceptable and something has to change. The signs are that it will.

In that Croydon parliamentary by-election last week, only 4.45 per cent of those eligible to vote backed the Tories. In May this year, more than 16,000 people who had previously backed the Conservatives’ Steve O’Connell to be our London Assembly Member this time voted for Labour.

If they and others had known then what we know now, of O’Connell’s part in Mayor Boris Johnson’s great Tram extension betrayal, maybe he would have been thrown from office.

Croydon is often seen as a place to gauge the national political mood. It is clear that, like the country, having given the Conservatives a chance, the people of Croydon have had enough.

We’ve had enough of dirty streets, enough of our local taxes being spent on a new luxury council offices, enough of a council that seeks to impose an incinerator upon us, and enough of a local council that stands by and does precious little or nothing as crisis after crisis has engulfed our town.

People are right to be suspicious of politicians who come bearing promises. But as the leader of the opposition I can say that an incoming Labour council in 2014 will act immediately to launch Croydon’s fight back.

We will ensure all our streets are cleaned to the highest standards, seek the highest possible penalties for those who fly tip, we will increase doorstep recycling, embrace and work with our wonderful voluntary sector, we will support the arts and local libraries, and in partnership with our business community and schools, we will launch a jobs revolution to put in place a coherent economic plan to encourage investment for local people.

A Labour council will be on people’s side. It is time to end the years of neglect, end the years of ignoring the views of local people, and come together as a community to put Croydon first.

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1 Response to Time to fight back against council’s arrogance and neglect

  1. You’re right, Mr Newman. It’s definitely time for a change. The question is: to what?
    Personally, I’m in favour of local government reorganisation across Greater London, with fewer, larger, more cost-effective and hopefully better run councils.
    Accepting that won’t happen anytime soon; what do I do with my vote?
    If the demise of Allders and the departure of Nestle are partly the fault of the present Tory administration – and I agree, they are – then you and your Labour colleagues must take some of the blame for the wasteland that is central Croydon.
    I’m hoping the election of Steve Reed in Croydon North will prove catalytic for that most neglected part of the borough: an inner-city politician for what is essentially an inner-city constituency. Certainly, Selhurst or Thornton Heath has more in common with Lambeth or Southwark than with Sutton or Tandridge.
    But what of the rest of Croydon? Prior to 1965, Purley and Coulsdon had its own urban district council within the county of Surrey. For many of our more conservative residents, that distinction still exists.
    I suspect there are some – particularly in the south of the borough – who wish we had followed Epsom’s lead and stayed out of Greater London. I thought the idea was silly at the time: it has become increasingly daft with the passing years.
    But I don’t see Croydon Labour Party embracing metropolitan reality. For example: where is your policy to increase housing density in the south as a way to alleviate the borough’s chronic shortage of affordable homes?
    Would you perhaps sacrifice a golf course or two? I can already hear screams of indignation from our friends on the tee.
    But if we are truly one borough and not urban and suburban communities divided by a failing town centre we must at least consider such radical ideas – and they’re not going to come from Croydon’s Conservatives.
    Mr Newman: since you played a leading role in the last Labour administration – you were there at the scene of the crime, so to speak – do you think the Labour Party should start its campaign for better Croydon governance with a new leader?

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