Ever felt you’re being taken for granted? Welcome to Croydon

charlotte DaviesCROYDON COMMENTARY: Don’t be taken-in by promises of “new” money bringing a “new dawn” for our borough, says CHARLOTTE DAVIES

So what if the Tories have missed out including en entire ward, West Thornton, from their election advert? It’s a slip. Does it signify anything?

When you first get involved in Croydon community activities you think not. But then something as reported about the blunder over the Conservative advertisement then happens again, and again. It is a sort of death by a thousand cuts that results in the kind of urban decay and division that has built up in Croydon over decades.

If Croydon did not have an incredible level of connections between all the dominant economic players in the town, it would not matter so much. If those in Croydon who hold power formally through positions on the council, or directorships of companies, or trusteeships of charities, or “shadow directorships”, did not all reinforce each other’s biases, the situation would not become so exaggerated.

But there is an absence of proper checks and balances. Inequality is constantly reasserted and reinforced.

The French economist Thomas Piketty, in his recent book Capital, concludes that inequality will widen to the point where it becomes unsustainable – both politically and economically.

We have already seen riots in Croydon in 2011. Did we learn anything? I think not: the developers are in town and throwing out baubles. I understand £35,000 is going to South Croydon for its street food festival, while London Road, the scene of the worst of the riots, is getting just £2,000.

I started understanding this Croydon version of the North-South divide in 2010 when taking part in the parking campaign. When we pushed, the council abandoned its plans for excessive restrictions in most of the central parking zones, all except for 19 streets round Mayday Hospital. These 19 streets contain an incredible diversity of communities and faith. It took us another six months of campaigning to ensure basic equality for those communities.

Have the people running Croydon learned anything from the 2011 riots? Charlotte Davies thinks not

Have the people running Croydon learned anything from the 2011 riots? Charlotte Davies thinks not

Following the riots, there has been a real need to build leadership and empower communities. Funding to rebuild attracts a swarm of consultants all ready to grab the cash and to take it out of the area. The West Croydon Community Forum was awkward. Its members asked hard questions about transparency of funding between Croydon Council and the PR agency, White Label. Those in power found the WCCF difficult to work with; within a year of its being set-up, it was completely undermined and closed down. That’s how Croydon works.

Piketty, in his vast economic analysis, notes that inward investment does not benefit the local community. Profits are repatriated and the power of the investors destabilises the local politics.

If the communities of Croydon are to move on from where we are now, we need to heed Piketty’s advice:

(a) “The best way to increase wages and reduce wage inequalities in the long-run is to invest in education and skills….. education and technology are the decisive forces.”

(b) if you want to really change your community’s wealth you have to do it yourself, do not wait for some big inward investor.

So in the coming local elections, ignore any candidates for Croydon Council that try to suggest that all this “new” money is a “new dawn” for the people of Croydon – it is not. Instead, seek out candidates who will create a robust environment where increasing the skills of our population is a priority, where investment in new products, services and technology is promoted, not just with superficial tacky soundbytes, but with a long-term strategy which we can all share in.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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1 Response to Ever felt you’re being taken for granted? Welcome to Croydon

  1. Some decades ago, when I worked for Croydon Council, it was accepted that important decisions were made by the leader and the chief executive: later, the leader would tell the rest of his party what its policy was, based on his earlier conversation.

    It was said that Croydon, for all its city aspirations, was run like a village.

    The individuals have changed a number of times since and I have no idea whether the same practice applies. But I am particularly concerned to note Charlotte’s example of delays in reducing parking restrictions in roads in Thornton Heath; it chimes with experiences related by Patrick Ratnaraja elsewhere on this website.

    The standard of local government would be better if Croydon was rolled into a larger and much more professionally run south London authority, but given the in-built conservatism of the British, my children’s children will be lucky to see such a change.

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