Compare and contrast.
While local authorities, and not just Blairite-run Croydon, wring their hands piously over the “housing crisis” as they sell off more council homes than they build, on the streets of London every night, the homelessness crisis gets worse, with ever-increasing numbers of people forced to sleep rough.
This week, Croydon Council announced it was to have “a campaign” on street begging in the town centre. Using special powers, a privatised police force acting on council orders has been moving in on anyone caught with a begging pot in the town centre.
It’s nothing more than a form of social cleansing using powers under a Public Spaces Protection Order, or PSPO, something which was first proposed by the borough’s Tories.
As Inside Croydon has warned before: “If – or when – it is implemented, it could make a swathe of public space in Croydon a good deal less public, while the only thing it will really be protecting will be commercial interests.”
The Tories have always supported business interests in the town centre and found the homeless and beggars something to be stepped over, or laughed at. Remember when councillors Mario Creatura and Steve O’Connell couldn’t suppress their laughter at a beggar in a Croydon subway when leading a guided tour for some Westfield-related visit for the then London Mayor Boris Johnson?
Thing is, it has taken a Labour-run council administration to implement the measures that the Tories never got round to taking.
Meanwhile, in Haringey, under a more Corbyn-friendly Labour administration, the new council leader was announcing measures to help those forced on to the streets and reduced to begging.
Haringey’s Joseph Ejiofor said this week, “We know there’s been a substantial increase in street homelessness around Finsbury Park over the last few years. It’s in our manifesto that we’re looking to eradicate homelessness by 2022.
“If that means putting additional money in, raising money from elsewhere, or working with the voluntary sector, then we’ll do it.” Additional money. Raising money from elsewhere. Ejiofor even mentioned raising Council Tax if necessary.
In Croydon, Wednesday was, according to a council press release, “the start of a two-week campaign to help stop street begging in Croydon town centre.”
Two whole weeks, eh? Such commitment.
“The campaign will focus on begging hotspots…”
“Begging hotspots”? Seriously?
“… around East Croydon Station, George Street, Church Street, Surrey Street, North End, The Queen’s Gardens and the Whitgift Subway.”
It is notable that this crackdown on beggars is backed by Croydon BID, the organisation funded by and representing the interests of the richest businesses in the borough.
The Croydon press release went on to say, “The Safer Croydon Partnership will … help improve town centre safety by offering support to the vulnerable.
“The first week will focus on engagement, signposting people to support, such as access to drug misuse treatment services and medical referrals.” This includes Croydon Reach and Evolve Housing providing “shelter and support for the homeless”.
Croydon BID will be dipping into their cash reserves, meanwhile, to pay for… posters to encourage the public not to give money to beggars but to donate to certain, selected charities.
And after the first week of this “campaign”?
According to Hamida Ali, a close aide of council leader Tony Newman in Croydon’s Blairite council cabinet, “If people continue to beg, and refuse to engage, or accept support, the next stage will be to take enforcement steps to stop this offence.”
Doesn’t that sound just a bit ominous?
Of course, if Croydon’s two-week “campaign” works, and a dozen or more vulnerable people are put in touch with support services, and found secure and safe places to live, then such scepticism will be found to be misplaced. But the suspicion remains that, after the first week’s softly softly approach, what follows will be a long-term, aggressive use of fines and arrests to assist no one other than the borough’s bigger businesses.
Just as Croydon’s Tories always wanted.
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