Steve Reed MP: Mayday signals another failure of local Tories

In his exclusive column for Inside Croydon, local MP STEVE REED questions the self-interested motives behind the council and Conservative MPs choosing to do nothing to defend NHS services or police numbers in Croydon

NHS LOGOOne of the interesting things about Croydon is the way that cross-party politics doesn’t work very well here.

All political parties need to differentiate themselves from each other by showing how they take different approaches on the big issues. That’s what you’d expect since the parties have different sets of values and different priorities they are trying to achieve. But, from time to time, politicians in most places will come together around big issues that they feel transcend party politics and require a single, unified voice speaking clearly on behalf of local people.

I’ve been astonished how, on two very significant issues, that cross-party approach has not happened in Croydon. On police cuts, Croydon has come out very badly compared to other comparable outer-London boroughs. In Croydon North, the constituency I represent, the Mayor of London is closing down every single police station, and yet instead of the extra police we were promised from the savings, we will be left with fewer police than the inadequate number we had immediately after the riots.

A case for a cross-party coming-together on behalf of Croydon you’d think. But no, our Conservative-run council and Croydon Central’s Tory MP both refused my offer to work together and chose instead to toe the party line and back proposals that, in my view, are seriously damaging to our community.

Now it’s happened again. The latest NHS proposals on hospital services list Croydon’s Accident and Emergency and maternity services as options for closure or downgrading. At the request of medical practitioners in our borough, I have launched a campaign to save our services from the threat that now hangs over them.

It’s true that, in the pre-consultation proposals, Croydon’s services were the “least preferred” option for closure after those at Epsom and St Helier. But closure in Croydon is still an option, and with the proposals now under review yet again before the delayed consultation launches later this year, that prioritisation could change.

With vocal campaigns already active around Epsom and St Helier, we need a campaign in defence of Croydon’s health services, too, in case Croydon comes to be seen as the easy option for closure because of the silence in our area.

Surely, you’d think, another opportunity to put aside party political differences to come together in defence of Croydon? But no. Once again our Tory councillors and Conservative MPs have refused to join the campaign.

Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell, who clings on to his seat with a slender majority over Labour, makes a number of highly questionable claims to justify his complacency on an issue of such importance to his constituents.

Steve Reed: He's been campaigning to safeguard the future of Mayday Hospital. But why hasn't Gavin Barwell joined the campaign?

Steve Reed: He’s been campaigning to safeguard the future of Mayday Hospital. But why hasn’t Gavin Barwell joined the campaign?

Barwell claims that the consultation has nothing to do with the Tory-led government. So whose botched top-down reorganisation of the NHS and whose refusal to provide adequate funding does he believe lies behind the proposed changes?

He implies that with Croydon being the “least preferred” option for closure or downgrading means there’s nothing to worry about. But he doesn’t explain why, if our services are not under threat, they are listed as an option at all.

Barwell demands that I should join him in calling for St Helier to lose their services, but I’ve replied that I was elected to stand up for my constituents in Croydon and defend the services they rely on, not to join him in attacking other people’s services in a divide-and-rule approach.

It looks to me like Croydon’s Tories have taken a decision that their party’s self-interest is best served by going along with damaging proposals on policing and the NHS rather than opposing them. They seem to fear that, by raising the profile of what their own party is up to, they will lose out electorally.

I think they are wrong. I think people in Croydon would judge local Tories more kindly if they felt they were prepared to stand up to their own party and stand up for Croydon instead.

Previous columns by Steve Reed

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This entry was posted in Croydon Central, Croydon Council, Croydon North, Croydon South, Gavin Barwell, Health, Mayday Hospital, Richard Ottaway MP, St Helier Hospital, Steve Reed MP and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Steve Reed MP: Mayday signals another failure of local Tories

  1. Steve,
    You’re doing an impressive job for the people of Croydon North. I’m sorry I don’t live in the constituency. But you are a comparative newcomer to the borough and your surprise at the action – or inaction – of local Tories is a direct result of that.

    Basically, you’re on your own.

    Croydon Tories have long since given up on the north of the borough: for them, it’s as foreign as north London, or even North Korea.

    Tory councillors and Croydon’s two Tory MPs mostly live south of the town centre – apart from Richard Ottaway, who doesn’t live in the borough at all (are you moving in soon Steve?).

    Croydon Tories fervently wish north Croydon and its inner-city problems would just go away.

    Many of them have trouble coming to terms with the idea that Croydon is part of Greater London, as it has been for almost 50 years.

    They yearn for city status in the misguided belief that such public acknowledgment of their status will mark the start of a move towards borough independence (sorry, that should read south of the borough independence).

    As for the hospital issue, many residents of southern Croydon look to Redhill for A&E support (as they do for their local newspaper). Their less serious medical problems can now be dealt with at the recently refurbished Purley Hospital.

    Croydon University Hospital (or what most of us still call Mayday) is too far north, in their view, to be a real Croydon institution.

    That attitude suits Tory MPs and councillors because defending the hospital would put them in conflict with their central government colleagues and for Gavin Barwell and many of his greasy-pole-climbing chums that might be a bad career move.

    Again, Steve, you’re on your own.

    But that could be a good thing if you agree that half-hearted support is worse than none at all.

    Gather around you a group of people who believe, as you evidently do, that a fully functioning A&E and Maternity is essential for a densely populated constituency such as yours.

    Then bang the drum as loudly as possible.

    More power to your elbow.

  2. Steve, thanks for the good work so far. Of course the issue doesn’t stop at Mayday – I know you are also strongly campaigning hard to help young people get into work and your efforts to clean up North Croydon’s streets are admirable (but dog fouling in Norbury continues to be a blight on the streets behind London Road as well as rubbish and fly-tipping – Roche Road this morning had a sofa on it! The other week it was a spilled bottle of vegetable oil! Before that a mattress! And people continue to use it to dump their take- away containers and bones after they’ve finished eating in their cars! Disgusting). I will end my rant about the roads there, because I know you share my concerns.

    The point that really concerns me today is the story in today’s press about over capacity in schools. Croydon is second in the country in terms of over-capacity – (see There is an approved free school coming to Norbury (although there is still no news on the location of the free school) – I know that the Labour Councillors have opposed the free school, but I have yet to see a viable alternative coming from Labour. Our nearest school, Norbury Manor Primary has struggled in recent years. I am really concerned about the options that I will have when my sons go to school (in 2015 and 2016). We want to stay in North Croydon, we like the area, fantastic housing stock at affordable prices, and the connections to central London, Croydon, Gatwick and the South Coast are great, but I am increasingly concerned that the school places issue is not being properly addressed and that we will have to seriously consider moving away from the area.

    I would like to know what is being done to address this issue – the fact is we are increasingly turning towards Lambeth for local services (including for the birth of our sons at Kings’ rather than Mayday) and can see ourselves having to do the same for schools.

  3. Keep on blaming the Tories as that’s all labour can do. What did labour do with the NHS (Except when Lord Darcy was a minister)? Remember the computer system?

  4. The NHS is a hugely complex issue. When it was set-up after WW2 the civil service was exhausted from the War and rolled over a lot of the old Poor Law systems. It was not audited properly until the 1980’s, but unfortunately computerisation came in before any systems were properly redesigned: so old systems were set in stone with computerisation.
    When the NHS was set-up no-one envisaged demand increasing in the way it has; it was assumed that healthy, clean, properly fed people would have fewer health problems – not rising expectations combined with people ceasing to take responsibility for their own health in terms of binge drinking, obesity, smoking, and so on.
    We need to reshape the NHS to make it more effective; to make more people take more responsibility for their own health; to ensure that it responds to need and is innovative; not riddled with a secretive blame culture – to do that takes real skill. I am not sure that anyone has such a strategic vision.

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