It’s almost two years now since the riots hit Croydon. Businesses were burned to the ground, shops looted, homes destroyed. The Prime Minister and the Mayor of London walked along the devastated London Road and promised people they would not be forgotten, that while the state had failed to protect them during the riots, it would stand by them now as they rebuilt their lives.
Since becoming the Member of Parliament for Croydon North last November I’ve met with business owners and residents whose lives were damaged by the riots. They feel completely abandoned by a government that promised to help them when the TV cameras were on, but walked away when the media glare died down.
These are people like Charlene Munro, whose home was burnt down in the riots and who lost all her possessions. She was forced to move with her young son into emergency accommodation but had to rely on borrowed money to get by. She applied to the Metropolitan Police for £6,000 in compensation from the Riot Damages Act to cover part of what she’d lost. The Met only agreed to pay out £2,345, not enough to cover the debts that Charlene built up after the riots. Charlene has now filed for bankruptcy.
Mumtaz Hassan, who owned and ran a dry-cleaning business on the London Road saw his whole business destroyed by a mob, submitted a claim to the Metropolitan Police, but 18 months later has received nothing. He now faces losing his family home since he has no income to pay the mortgage.
The Met rejected half of all claims made under the Riots Damages Act. Further figures I obtained via a Freedom of Information request show that the Met has paid out only a tiny percentage of all the claims submitted, far short of the level of help expected back in 2011.
Home Office ministers claim that the vast majority of cases have been resolved, but as with Charlene, the case being closed does not mean that the victims have been properly recompensed. It just means that the government has given up on them.
The riots are still creating victims today, and it’s time those victims got justice. I’ve called a special debate in Parliament this week when I intend to demand that government ministers accept their responsibility and provide the help they told people to expect.
Every promise made to Croydon after the riots must be met in full.
The Prime Minister himself told the House of Commons in August 2011 that “any individual, home owner or business that has suffered damage to or loss of their buildings or property as a result of rioting can seek compensation”.
People in Croydon, across London, and in all affected areas looked to the Prime Minister and believed that the failure of the police to protect them, their homes and their livelihoods during the riots would be made good.
This has not happened and it must be put right.
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