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
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.
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
- Cameron must honour promises to riot victims
- Jobs summit to help get Croydon back to work
- “I’m taking police cuts issue to the very top”
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