ELECTION COUNTDOWN: Croydon’s LibDems, after a meeting in an Old Coulsdon telephone box, have just produced their manifesto. On policing matters, though, they haven’t missed the bus, as WALTER CRONXITE reports
The local Liberal Democrats are leaving it late to win over the voters ahead of the local elections on May 3.
Without an elected councillor in the borough since 2006, the LibDems may have missed the bus in terms of reaching out to the electorate this time round, as they have only produced a manifesto (albeit online) today, barely a week before the election. Their website is an admission that they are ignoring 26 of the borough’s 28 wards, as they are targeting just Upper Norwood and Crystal Palace, and Old Coulsdon, where perennial (and perennially failed) parliamentary candidate Gill Hickson is based.
In ex-serviceman Richard Howard, Hickson’s running mate in Old Coulsdon ward, the LibDems may have unearthed a more able campaigner.
That’s if the petition which the party has launched in the ward is anything to go by, which highlights soaring crime rates and the fact that, “Without any dedicated transport the Safer Neighbourhood Team are often required to take a bus from Addington for ‘non-emergency’ incidents, greatly increasing response times.”
The Coulsdon LibDems appear to have hit the nail on the head when they highlight how their area is no a police-free zone after dark.
The police “… are now unable to patrol after 8pm, allowing criminals to operate freely at night,” they say.
Howard and the LibDems’ concern is that with the forthcoming merger of borough commands in Bromley, Sutton and Croydon, already stretched police resources will be focused on town centres, while out-lying residential areas will become easy targets for burglars and car thieves.
The cause is obvious: the cuts in police funding. What Croydon LibDems don’t identify is that these cuts were begun when their party was in coalition government with the Tories.
“Government cuts of over £600million to the Met Police budget have devastated community policing in Coulsdon,” they write. “Due to police station closures championed by Kenley councillor and Tory London Assembly Member Steve O’Connell, the Safer Neighbourhood Team is now based in Addington, vastly reducing the amount of time are able to spend within the ward.
“Reported crime in Old Coulsdon has increased 25 per cent since 2015, including a 82 per cent increase in vehicle crime. With many of these reported crimes now not investigated due to lack of resources, criminals are now beginning to see our community as a ‘soft target’.”
The petition has so far attracted 480 signatures – not enough, even if all converted to votes, to dislodge the Tories from their council seats. But a strong signal, if any more were needed, that the days when the Conservatives could claim to be the “party of law and order” have long gone.
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