CROYDON COMMENTARY: Being “Ambitious” for something is one thing, says ARNO RABINOWITZ. Actually delivering on those election promises is proving a different matter
Just for fun – but then I am a closet masochist – I looked through the Labour manifesto for the 2014 Croydon Council election, all 30 pages of it, yesterday afternoon. What a depressing thing to do. It is difficult to see what, if anything, the party has done to carry out its manifesto promises.
It is full of lofty “Ambitions”, such as to minimise the spread of betting shops (tell that to the residents of South Norwood or Thornton Heath) and to bring all sorts of services to Croydon and to improve local environment (though there was no mention of building a dual carriageway through a local park) but, as has been highlighted by Susan Oliver over the Family Justice Centre, absolutely nothing has changed from when Mike Fisher’s Tories were in charge.
The “Ambitious for Croydon” manifesto is a curious mixture of vague wishes and direct, if ultimately unachievable, goals.
A few examples will give you the flavour.
“We will make sure that Croydon takes advantage of Gatwick Airport’s close proximity and ensure Croydon profits from any future airport expansion.” Just how do you make sure that Croydon takes advantage and how do you ensure it profits from whatever others decide to do with Gatwick? It is really a nonsense and clearly just stuck in there because someone in a focus group or pre-election think tank said, “Oi, don’t forget to mention Gatwick somewhere.”
They also say: “We will promote lifelong learning.”
Again a vague and uplifting promise, but there’s no sign of any change in council policy to do with adult learning classes and provision. Have you seen the fees charged by CALAT? For many people they are unaffordable, even at the concessionary rate. The number of locations were classes are offered has shrunk and there are more citizenship classes than any other sort of provision.
“As a long-term aspiration we are ambitious for a university in Croydon.”
Stuff and nonsense, electoral puffing and piffle: it means nothing unless there are clear plans to support, expand, enhance existing provision. I could equally validly say that I have a long-term ambition for there to be a Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit at the old Croydon Airport site. Looks good, means nothing.
“We will ensure that every major new development has a fair share of homes that local people can afford to rent or buy.”
Another bit of undefined and unachievable electioneering: just how much is a “fair share” and what can local people afford? It means nothing and, in practice, there seems to be fewer “affordable” homes in new developments than ever.
Then, as a relief, along comes one clear and achievable aim: “We will make spitting and urinating in public places punishable with on-the-spot fixed penalty notices.”
Straightforward enough, but so far, apart from yet more consultation about public order nothing seems to have happened. And in reality, could it? On the spot fixed penalties? Who would give and administer these? The police? A uniformed local government officer? Can you just see someone like a traffic warden, badge on a lanyard, going up to someone in the street and saying: “Zip up. You’ve just broken a council by-law. Give me £50.” It is just not going to happen.
“Labour believes in transparency and as a matter of principle we will publish our proposals before decisions are taken.” This may well be happening but, within this, there is no way whatsoever that the public can influence the proposals before decisions are taken. Many actions are taken at the behest of Messrs Elvery and Belvir, the council’s CEO and Borough Solicitor, without there being any chance for the public to have a say.
If the Labour-run council could publish an end-of-term report called, “This is what we promised and this is what we have delivered thus far”, it may regain a smidgeon of respect. Otherwise, there will be many who just cannot see how this administration differs from its predecessors.
There have been plenty of actions but most, like the so-called “ambitious” reorganisation of household waste and recycling collections, they have just been a disaster which have often led to worse services than before. Can’t we get Jeremy Corbyn to stand in Croydon next time round? He, at least, looks like he has principles by which he stands. That would be nice to have in local Labour… and I talk as a somewhat depressed lifelong Labour supporter.
Someone ought to tell them that it’s not all just about getting elected.
You also have to do something when you are there.
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