Gavin Barwell is the housing minister in the Conservative government who keeps saying how important it is to provide thousands of new homes.
But it turns out that Barwell is utterly opposed to providing somewhere to live for gypsies and travellers – and he certainly doesn’t want any sites in Croydon.
Gaffe-prone Gav has issued another one of his cheery letters to the people of his constituency in Croydon Central. His letter is basically part of a Tory recruitment drive.
In his letter, Barwell is critical of several aspects of the Labour-run local council. Barwell writes that “the Council’s planning policies – building on Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land and providing more sites for travellers – will change our town for the worse”.
There is a strong undertone of discrimination in Barwell’s letter, which reflects the anti-gypsy sentiments which have been aired publicly in the past by other leading Croydon Conservatives.
Barwell has been called out on social media to explain quite what he means by “change our town for the worse” in relation to the travellers sites.
“This is not what one expects from any MP, even less so from one who is also the minister for housing,” said Sean Fitzsimons, a Labour councillor for Addiscombe, in Barwell’s constituency.
Fitzsimons challenged Barwell to “provide a justification why providing housing for travellers will make Croydon worse”.
Barwell, of course, has failed to respond to justify his comments.
Barwell’s latest letter is hypocritical and deliberately deceitful, and a clear attempt at scaremongering through prejudice and division.
For example, in his letter Barwell writes about the council providing “more sites”, plural. He knows – or at least, he ought to know, because he is the planning minister, after all – that Croydon Council at present is proposing to create just one permanent site for travellers, at Purley Oaks. All other options were rejected by Barwell’s Conservative colleagues at Croydon Council.
In his roles within the Department for Communities and Local Government, Barwell will also know very well that Croydon Council has a legal responsibility to provide a set number of permanent pitches for travellers and gypsies within the borough. The council is simply fulfilling the requirements which Barwell’s own department has set for it.
Indeed, if Barwell was so opposed to Croydon Council fulfilling its obligations under the law to provide travellers’ sites, then it would be planning minister Barwell who could change the law. And that’s not going to happen.
Instead, he prefers to plant the seeds of prejudice as a cheap way of recruiting a few more volunteers to deliver leaflets for him and the Croydon Tories.
As well as having a nasty side, Barwell’s deceits are also cheap.
Elsewhere in his missive, Barwell attacks the Labour council for the lack of progress on the £1.4billion redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre – when he knows very well that all the delays have been caused by the developers, Westfield, as the greedily changed their plans to double the number of homes in the development.
Westfield are the developers who Barwell himself has claimed that he introduced to the scheme through his erstwhile position with the landowners, the Whitgift Foundation.
Indeed, had Barwell not intervened, then the developers appointed by the leaseholders, Hammerson, might have started on the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre in 2013 and work will have been close to complete by now.
So really, the whole of Croydon has the Tory housing minister, Gavin Barwell, to blame for what will be at least a decade of development blight in the town centre. But that’s unlikely to help Croydon Tories – down to fewer than 1,000 members across the whole of Croydon – with their latest drive to recruit people through playing to their prejudices.
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