How the Tories have failed Croydon for five wasted years

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Even by the economic criteria laid out by the Tories in Croydon, led by Gavin Barwell, the past five years have been a failure, writes ANDREW FISHER

“We inherited an economy reliant on banking, immigration and debt,” declared Croydon Conservatives during the Croydon North by-election in 2012. Three years on, and after five years in power, let’s take their claim at face value and evaluate how the Tories have they done in changing that.

Banking

George Osborne, the Tory Chancellor, heralded his 2012 Budget as “the march of the makers”, saying it would rebalance the economy away from financial services and the service sector more generally.

Fisher graphEconomists divide the economy into four sectors: manufacturing, production, construction and services. All four sectors of the economy were sent into recession by the banking crash in 2008.

But while the services sector has recovered that ground, manufacturing, production and construction sectors all remain smaller than in 2008. The manufacturing sector is around 5 per cent smaller than in 2008 – so much for ” the march of the makers”.

The financial services sector recorded its fastest quarter of growth since 1996 in the last three months of 2014, with business volumes and profits increasing, according to the CBI.

House of Commons Library data shows the financial services sector making a larger contribution to the UK economy in 2014 than in 2008. The UK finance sector remains larger than that in the United States, Germany or Japan (all with larger overall economies than the UK).

So there’s been no shift away from the banking sector, and “the march of the makers” has been more of a retreat.

In the words of the Financial Times, “progress towards reinventing Britain as a productive, exporting powerhouse has been scant”.

Meanwhile, the banking scandals – from Libor to currency rigging to mis-selling insurance to small businesses – have continued unabated, alongside the institutionalised tax avoidance, unwarranted bonuses and gratuitous salary hikes.

Immigration

Croydon Central’s Gavin Barwell – who played a key role in that Croydon North by-election campaign – asserted during that campaign in 2012 that more people in Croydon North would have jobs if it wasn’t for immigration policy under the last Labour government.

Croydon Tory Gavin Barwell with the Conservatives' Home Secretary Theresa May: Barwell is desperate to try to outflank UKIP, says Andrew Fisher

Croydon Tory Gavin Barwell with the Conservatives’ Home Secretary Theresa May: they failed on immigration, but Barwell is desperate to try to outflank UKIP, says Andrew Fisher

How have the Conservatives done on immigration? They pledged to reduce net migration (the number of people immigrating, minus the number emigrating) to tens of thousands. In the year to September 2014, net migration to the UK was 298,000, which represents an increase of more than 50,000 from the last year that Labour was in office.

So if Labour’s economy with 244,000 net migrants was “reliant on immigration”, then surely the Conservative economy with 298,000 must be even more so?

Personally, I was relaxed about the level of immigration under the last Labour government and am likewise about the higher level under this government – but then I don’t need or want to outflank UKIP like the Conservative Party or their Croydon Central representative.

Debt

In 2010, the Conservative-led government inherited a debt bloated by the banking crash, but still lower than the G7 average.

Recognising that the debt wouldn’t be dealt with overnight, Chancellor George Osborne promised in his 2010 Budget to reduce the debt to 67.4 per cent of GDP by 2015.

Last month, Osborne’s 2015 Budget revealed that the UK debt today is 80.2 per cent of GDP.

Tory Chancellor Gideon Osborne: a failure by his own criteria

Tory Chancellor Gideon Osborne: a failure by his own criteria

Consumer debt is rising again, with unsecured borrowing increasing by £20 billion, a 9 per cent  increase on the year before.

The Office for Budget Responsibility, which is independent of government, forecasts that under the ConDem coalition government’s plans, personal debt will be higher by 2018-2019 than it was at the time of the crash.

And according to debt management firm Payplan, Croydon is the “debt-worry capital of the UK”.

So by their own self-identified criteria, the Conservative-led government’s economy has become more, not less, reliant on banking, immigration and debt.

But if all that seems a bit abstract, just look how the economy is failing people – and starkly so in Croydon. We have the eighth highest level of possession order rate (when landlords are granted right to evict tenants) of all English local authorities (and the second highest by number).

Across the UK, homelessness is up 62 per cent. In London, it’s even worse.

Nearly 3,000 people in Croydon were initially affected by the Bedroom Tax, and hundreds of families fell foul of the benefit cap. Around 1 in 20 of all Croydon residents are on the council housing waiting list. Last year it was found that Croydon had among the highest number of children living in temporary B&B accommodation.

Unemployment in Croydon remains higher than in most other London boroughs, and Croydon is also the borough with the lowest pay in south London. The cost of living crisis endures.

The Conservatives, in Croydon and across the country, have done something worse than fail against their own criteria. They have failed millions of people.

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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
This entry was posted in 2015 General Election, Andrew Fisher, Business, Chris Philp MP, Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South, Gavin Barwell and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How the Tories have failed Croydon for five wasted years

  1. How Labour have carried on following Tory policies should have been the headline or have I missed the point again Mr.Editor?

    Oh yes I have missed the point that we didn’t have any money when Labour left the government in 2010.

    • You haven’t missed the point, Patrick. More that you’re reading from the wrong chapter – this article is about national economic policy of the ConDem Government of the last five years, and not about the conduct of Croydon Town Hall.

      There’s an election on, haven’t you heard?

  2. Rod Davies says:

    The Conservative Party is what it has always been and that is the party that represents the short-term interests of the propertied elites. Its power base is centred in the Home Counties, and since WW1 it has been highly effective at promoting the interests of the Home Counties at the expense of the rest of the UK.
    However, the problems that Croydon faces are not rooted in the last 5 years, but are the product of a failure to respond effectively to the events of the last 25 years. While the period from 1945 to 1989 might have been halcyon days for Croydon, it lulled Croydon into a false sense of security and removed the foundations of the capacity to respond to change. Until the early ’90’s recession, the low skilled in Croydon could find reasonable work to provide them with an income sufficient to support themselves. But that recession and the economic and technological changes that occurred removed from the labour market a vast range of employment opportunities, particularly those that low skilled men had pursued.
    Rather than responding to this crisis situation, Croydon pursued ill-thought out ideas of changing the school terms and seeking city status. This led to a succession of lost opportunities to turn around an ailing economy.
    As the property market in London heated up and the cost of property rose, Croydon failed to seek and implement a long term plan to create sufficient quantity of housing to meet market demand, and to agree upon a strategy in which all communities in Croydon bore an equal share of burden of responding to the market and creating a sustainable environment.
    Instead Croydon’s administration set out to protect the established communities, and concentrate all future development (commercial and residential) into a handful of small areas, most notably the town centre. Into these limited areas, Croydon planned to place the wealthy and the most needy. The majority of people were invited to comment and approve a plan which provided them with benefits without having to compromise on their quality of life. Croydon deliberately created a framework in the 16 “Places” where the town centre periphery communities, most severely impacted by the decline of the centre and its redevelopment, were marginalised and made subordinate to the communities of the leafy suburbs that had no interest in sharing the burden.
    None of the above is especially out of line with long standing Conservative Party policy and practice. However, the Labour Party has also failed to provide a meaningful and achievable alternative.
    Ultimately the only way to resolve the crises we face is to have a debate about the nature of the society we want. There is no purpose complaining that the poor and the young cannot afford homes, and then doing nothing about it. If we are not prepared to compromise and accept that while we as property owners can no longer continue to benefit from escalation property values if it means our children and the people who clean our streets and serve us in shops cannot afford reasonable homes. If on the other hand we don’t care about them, and all that matters is how much we can make from the property market and the extent we can use false claims to pull upon popular sympathy to ensure that we obtain an unfair share of the public purse, let’s be honest about.
    And if it all goes wrong again, the London Mayor has purchased 3 water canon that the Met can use to seize back the streets.
    The problem is not the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the LibDems, Greens, or UKIP, the problem is us (you & me). The political parties respond to our demands, and act in a manner to get themselves elected and then re-elected.
    As for the Finance Sector, how many people in Croydon have profited from the loans to nations, administrations and individuals that were never credit worthy? The Greeks, Spanish, Portuguese etc borrowed that money from someone & somewhere, and as London is the capital for finance, it is likely that it came from here. Is our wealthy comfortable suburban life built upon the misery of millions of others across the EU and the world, who now want to come here to find a modest life?

  3. Rod Davies says:

    As this article is about the General Election, I’d like to comment what a blooming odd scenario we have.
    There are ostensibly 4 National Parties, Conservatives, Greens, Labour & LibDems
    And 3 or more Nationalist Parties, Plaid Cymru, SNP and UKIP, plus some Northern Irish ones that have their own specific interests.

    The Conservatives are close to being one of the Nationalist Parties as they barely get any votes outside of England. They will get voted in on the LibDems performance as left to themselves over the last 5 years they would have lurched even further to the right as they chased UKIP’s advances into their heartland. As always they are for getting Johnny Foreigner Out, Keeping the Pound Strong and Punishing the Undeserving Poor.

    The Labour Party allegedly a “workers” party funded by the trades unions seems to be populated on its front bench with a bunch of upwardly mobile chaps who haven’t ever been near a factory, mine or construction site in their lives – how things have changed since the ’70’s. Policies seem to be watered down Tory ones, and the sense of the dynamic leadership and vision of yore is long gone. But I like Ed, nevertheless, any man who is characterised as Wallace gets my vote! But which one’s Grommet?

    UKIP seems an awful lot like the central European “peasants parties” of the 1920’s & 30’s, endlessly dreaming of the past even though it didn’t serve them terribly well and wanting their feudal overlords to make all the decisions for them. Led by the human equivalent of “Mr Toad” from Tales of the Riverbank, it seems to escape them that leaving the EU will inevitable drive forward the break up of the United Kingdom as neither Scotland, N Ireland nor Wales want to leave the EU. Perhaps in the Anglo-Angevin Feudal Fantasy World (characterised by cricket on the village green, tea at four, and the Home Service and the Light Programme on the BBC listened to on a black Bakelite Bush valve radio), the brutish and barborous Celts don’t appear on the horizon. If the UK does break up, it might come as a shock to UKIP if the Welsh turn off Birmingham’s water supply!

    The LibDems (bless their cotton socks) have been crucified for enabling a stable government to be formed and not being able to implement one of their manifesto commitments, but have acted as a brake on Tory excesses. Given the hi’s & lo’s over the years, perhaps they should be renamed the Pheonix Party repeatedly rising from the ashes! Clegg’s too wishy-washy and public school. What they need is a modern day Lloyd George to drive them forward with some chapel-inspired determination!

    SNP appears intoxicated by the prospect of being able to hold the balance of power in parliament ( a parliament they wish to leave, representing a state whose existance they oppose – at least Sinn Fein honestly refuses to turn up!). So insensible are they that they haven’t considered that to blackmail the English to hand over even more cash to Scotland could result in bringing all the English parties together against them! The sheer arrogance doesn’t bode well for any alliance between SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens!

    Plaid Cymru has yet to mature into a potential party of government in a future independent Cymru / Wales. It is fantasising that an alliance with SNP and Greens will further the interests of the indigenous people of Britain – missing the fact that SNP represents simply another Anglo-centric imperialist, colonial, settler body. (Anyone noticed just how many “Scottish” place names are in Welsh? Aberdeen , Dunedin, etc I wonder why – answers on a postcard) It hasn’t secured a commitment from SNP to review funding allocations so that Cymru / Wales receives funds on an equal basis as Scotland, and its odd that PD haven’t worked out that more money for Scotland means less money for Cymru / Wales.

    The Greens remain nobly left wing, idealistic and environmentally aware, and home for the eccentric. Poor lambs are likely to be shoved aside by SNP and ignored by the Big Two. But we need them to remind us of a better way, a purer way…

    Regardless of all the manifesto commitments, I rather suspect that we can look forward to a lot of squabbling at Westminster and some pretty appalling behaviour.

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