Is it mandatory to take large quantities of hallucinogenic drugs on assuming a senior position at Croydon Council or taking political office at the Town Hall?
We only ask because it seems Tony Newman, the council leader, has been on the wacky baccie. He’s now telling anyone who’ll listen that he has a cunning plan to deliver 23,600 new jobs in the town centre over the next 20 years.
Until last May, Newman had spent eight years in opposition at Croydon Town Hall berating the Tories at every opportunity for their pie-in-the-sky schemes and fanciful promises, few of which were ever delivered.
It hasn’t taken Newman and his Labour mates long to “go native” and to start spouting the same load of old tosh churned out from the chief executive’s office, just as Mike #WadGate Fisher and his Tory chums used to do when Jon Rouse was running the show. Many of the policies appear very similar. The only difference now is that Newman has the “entrepreneurial” Nathan Elvery pulling his strings.
The name tags on the office doors in Fisher’s Folly may have changed in colour from blue to red, but the smell emanating from the rooms remains the same: unmitigated bullshit.
Newman’s latest comments come on the day that Develop Croydon, the well-resourced ginger group of developers and businesses determined to get their own way, stages its conference at Fairfield Halls. If one of the messages Develop Croydon wants to put out there is that Croydon offers good value for business, then the 420 quid entry fee will demolish that notion straight away.
For the day-long event has a particularly lacklustre list of guest speakers. John Burton and Peter Cole are there; they’ve sort of got to turn up, on behalf of Westfield and Hammerson, and after all, it’s not as if they’re building anything yet. Then there’s someone from Schroders. And that’s about it.
Things can’t be terminally desperate, though; they have not had to resort to inviting the ubiquitous self-publicist Jonny Rose.
Instead, making the ludicrously overblown claims today is Labour’s Newman.
He’s allowed the council’s PR spinners to issue quotes on his behalf which claim, “Croydon is on the cusp of an unprecedented period of regeneration, a £5.25 billion investment programme, which will deliver 8,300 new homes and over 23,600 new jobs in the metropolitan centre over the next 20 years.”
The calculation made in making such comments is that no one will bother checking.
We flagged up elements of the deluded “Our Time Is Now” proposals last week, in which Croydon Council is going to ask the Tory Chancellor and Conservative Mayor of London to let the Labour-run borough keep some more of the tax and business rates revenue that it raises. It is a plan of Baldrick-like cunning.
Similar proposals are being considered elsewhere in the country, but with one important condition attached which would be hugely unpalatable to Newman, and impracticable for a London borough: the need for a policy-setting elected mayor. Such a move would emasculate Newman, and in any case, Croydon, as a borough in London, already has an elected Mayor (albeit a part-time lead-swinger).
But let’s just examine some of Newman’s latest figures…
£5.25 billion investment programme: How much? As recently as September, in a glossy brochure entitled The Croydon Promise, Newman was quoting an investment figure of nearly twice as much, at £9 billion.
It ought to be rather worrying that Croydon’s investment levels have shrunk by half in just eight weeks. Either that, or this proves that the figures in The Croydon Promise were utter bullshit.
Where is the £5.25 billion investment coming from? We all know about the promised £1 billion from Hammersfield, though that remains jam tomorrow. And for which there is no Plan B.
But what of the balance of Newman’s claimed £5.25 billion investment? If Newman is betting the house on the son-of-CCURV RIF scheme delivering, we had better not get our hopes up. After all, we will all be paying for the Tories’ CCURV misadventure for decades to come.
8,300 homes: This number has remained fairly stable under both Tory and Labour borough administrations. Unmentioned is that it includes zero new council houses, and that at best, it will include fewer than 2,500 “affordable” homes, were the rent will be a far from affordable £800 or so per month.
With genuine Londoners priced out of Croydon, the rest of Newman’s new homes will create a form of social cleansing or “Apartment Apartheid”, sold at massive profits for the developers as Yuppie apartments or to buy-to-let “investors” from overseas, complete with poor doors and concierge services. Just what London’s homeless needs.
23,600 jobs: This appears to be a massive porkie, but completely untestable since Newman has chosen two decades as his time frame for delivery.
Croydon Council has little, if any, influence over job creation, in any case. This just seems to be a whopper based on the first two principles of Goebbels-style PR: If you’re gonna lie, lie big; and if you repeat the lie often enough, people will eventually believe it is the truth (so Newman and his PR spinners need to make sure that they don’t change the numbers on this, as they did with the unsustainable £9 billion investment fib).
We can only compare the claim against the promise of 5,000 (mainly low-skilled, low-paid) jobs made by Westfield and Hammerson. That has always seemed exaggerated towards the top-end of best-case-scenarios, and comes from £1 billion of investment.
But Newman is now promising five times as many jobs. How? There’s only so many Tesco Expresses that can be built along the Purley Way…
If Newman really did write his own quotes, or at least read them before they were put out as the latest press release from Croydon’s Ministry of Truth, then he really does need to check his medication: “Our Time is Now, our proposal to help fund this ambitious programme, asks government to pilot the devolution of locally generated tax revenues to enable further Growth [sic] in Croydon.”
Which is something which either ain’t going to happen, or if it does, will do so on terms which will render Newman as council leader an irrelevance. Though maybe he’s doing that himself.
Because making repeatedly altered and unsustainable boasts do nothing but damage Croydon’s credibility, especially when the borough has failed to deliver on so many previous, dreamy schemes for renewal in the past two decades.
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema, Wakolda, Nov 27
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- St Peter’s Primary School Christmas Fair, Nov 29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- St Andrew’s churchyard gardening session, 10am, Dec 6
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Croydon Philharmonic Handel’s Messiah, Fairfield Halls, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- Mayor of Croydon’s charity Christmas dinner, Dec 12
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- Concert of Christmas music, St Luke’s, Woodside, Dec 13
- Friends of the Earth Green Beanfeast, Dec 15 (book by Dec 1)
- Croydon Philharmonic Christmas concert, St Matthew’s, Dec 16
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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