Play your part in the second Croydon Assembly, June 6

ANDREW FISHER on an important discussion coming to Ruskin House

Last November, more than 100 attended the first Croydon Assembly – a community initiative that brought together trade unionists, community campaigners and other residents to discuss how we can influence the policies that affect our lives.

South Croydon teacher Philipa Harvey is one of the speakers at the Croydon Assembly

South Croydon teacher Philipa Harvey is one of the speakers at the Croydon Assembly

The Assembly is not intended to be a one-off talking shop, but aimed to develop into an activist hub in the borough. Since the November launch, working groups on issues such as welfare, housing, the environment, anti-racism, austerity and the local economy have been meeting regularly to develop some of the ideas raised on the day and to ensure that these issues are raised in the current election campaign.

The Croydon Assembly is being recalled on Saturday June 6 to assess the results of the General Election and to organise against any further austerity, which has so ravaged people’s living standards and our local services in Croydon.

The meeting is being structured to maximise discussion and debate, but in addition there will be four headline speakers:

Local trade union activist Philipa Harvey, who was recently elected president of the National Union of Teachers, will be talking about education (a hot topic at a recent hustings)

Mark Serwotka: represents many of Croydon's trade unionists

Mark Serwotka: represents many of Croydon’s trade unionists

John McDonnell, who as an MP for the last 18 years has been a leading organiser of the parliamentary left, will no doubt have some insight into the newly formed government – and how activists can influence MPs.

Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the PCS civil service union, represents thousands of members in Croydon (many working in large government offices along Wellesley Road). He is a local resident and vocal critic of austerity.

Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union has led several firefighters’ strikes against the coalition government’s operationally absurd plans to force firefighters to work till 60 and against the closure of 10 fire stations in London under Tory Mayor Boris Johnson.

Most of the time though will be allocated for debate and discussion in workshops – and no doubt housing will be a big issue again. Homelessness, rough sleeping and evictions are also rising problems – while thousands more struggle to pay the rent or ever get a mortgage

The indifference to the issue by the coalition government – which has overseen the lowest level of housebuilding of any post-war government – is criminal in itself. But the indifference has been coupled with the cruelty of the Bedroom Tax and the benefit cap which have deported some families from their Croydon homes, in some cases forcibly.

House prices in the borough have risen by 8.1 per cent in the last year alone, while wages have only risen by 1.8 per cent. Over the last five years house prices rose in Croydon Central by 29.3 per cent, in Croydon North by 39.5 per cent and in the already mostly unaffordable Croydon South by 20.8 per cent. Average earners are being priced out of London in an act of social cleansing that will only destabilise London’s communities and, ultimately, the economy again.

The question of housing policy goes to the heart of our community. It asks, “who is our community?” and even “are we a community?”. Alternatively, are we just the people who can maintain a grip on a small patch of this borough, increasingly subject to the whims of speculative investors and developers?

The Croydon Assembly is an opportunity to discuss the issues that matter in your community and organise with others to influence our council and newly elected MPs to listen and act.

Come along to Ruskin House on June 6 and play your part.

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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
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