Labour councillors accused of high street ‘social cleansing’

Criminalised: new powers could see police issuing on-the-spot fines for street drinking

A community action group has responded angrily to Labour councillors in South Norwood signing up to a police scheme intended to clear the area of street drinkers

Volunteers at the South Norwood Community Kitchen have characterised the plans as “social cleansing”, and warned of the “disastrous impact” that the scheme might have.

The proposals for “no drinking zones”, with on-the-spot penalty notices for offenders, on some of the borough’s high streets are part of a scheme announced earlier this month by Tory Mayor Jason Perry.

“There is no room for anti-social behaviour in Croydon and I am pleased we can help our high streets thrive by supporting the police to deter this behaviour,” Croydon’s part-time Mayor said.

Trouble in store: Cllr Carserides has prompted a backlash after this social media post

“I am working closely with the police and all our local partners to make sure our communities feel safe in their local area, and restore pride in our high streets, by starting with the visible effects of crime – tackling anti-social behaviour, removing graffiti and cleaning up our streets.”

At the weekend, Louis Carserides, the new-ish councillor and stooge of MP Steve Reed, posted an “update” on social media which outraged many volunteers and helpers at the South Norwood Community Kitchen.

Founded five years ago, to much public acclaim including from local politicians, SNCK last week opened its first permanent premises, in the Socco Cheta community building on Portland Road.

There, they offer a pay-what-you-can-afford caff, where the payments of some customers helps to meet the cost of meals provided to the homeless, working poor – and anyone who needs a decent meal.

Today, in an open letter sent to South Norwood’s three Labour councillors – Carserides, Stella Nabukeera and Christopher Herman – SNCK says that the police initiative will target the kitchen’s vulnerable clients, including some of those who rallied round to help build Socco Cheta.

Open for business: with the help of homeless people and street drinkers

“Without their help the project you all speak so highly of never would have happened,” SNCK say in their letter.

“We have worked tirelessly over the years to challenge local misconceptions about these people… It is deeply concerning that our own Labour councillors hold the very same views we work hard to combat.”

The volunteers in the kitchen collective have issued demands that the Labour councillors withdraw their support for a “no drinking zone” on South Norwood High Street “and immediately cease your ‘engagement’ and collection of ‘intel’ from vulnerable members of our community”.

One prominent SNCK supporter said over the weekend in reaction to the Carserides announcement: “South Norwood Labour up to a bit of social cleansing. More like the Tories than the sodding Tories.

“Bring it on Louis – you attack our community and you’ll see how strong we are when we mobilise together.”

Inside Croydon here publishes the SNCK open letter in full:

Dear Stella, Chris and Louis,

We are writing to you in direct response to your Casework Update on Facebook regarding the proposed criminalisation of ‘street drinkers’ in South Norwood. We urge you to consider the disastrous impact your suggested proposals would have on the community we all serve.

As you all know well, for the last five years South Norwood Community Kitchen has used the power of food to fight poverty and inequality, as well as bring our community together. You all know this as you have each visited the project on busy Saturdays, chatted to our volunteers and listened to our guests talk about the challenges they experience.

Your support to criminalise those who are homeless and have addictions through the issuing of CPNs to ‘street drinkers’ and a future ‘no drinking’ zone for South Norwood High Street sadly tells us that you listened to very little of what you heard in the company of our friends from the local community.

Many of them help local businesses and business owners, many volunteer with us at SNCK, many provide essential support to those that need it- sometimes financial, sometimes emotional, sometimes practical.

Many of them built Socco Cheta, and without their help the project you all speak so highly of never would have happened.

We have worked tirelessly over the years to challenge local misconceptions about these people, and the response to your Facebook post on the topic speaks volumes to the success we have had in doing so. It is deeply concerning that our own Labour councillors hold the very same views we work hard to combat.

We know that South Norwood is not a paradise. We understand that there are actions and behaviours that need to be addressed.

Criminalising those who need our support, or forcing them into another area without addressing the root causes of the issue is not a solution. Providing easier access to drug and alcohol services is. Addressing Croydon’s housing crisis is.

If you were really concerned by these issues, you would know that no other local authority in London is promoting a one-track, policing approach such as the one you are promoting. You would also know about the mountain of evidence proving this to be a public health issue, a social and a welfare issue that requires a whole-community, multi-agency framework approach locally.

You would have looked into best practice and evidence-based approaches first. There are already mechanisms in place to address criminal behaviour, without introducing Draconian measures designed not to help people but to sanitise local areas of those that new communities find distasteful, or that do not fit into their vision of where they want to live.

It is called social cleansing. Is this what you support?

In your casework update you refer to the Craft Beer Cabin, without a hint of irony. Do you welcome street drinking when it’s carried out by those who can afford £6 for a pint of beer?

This decision would show a complete lack of empathy for those in our community who are at the sharp end of life, the very people who expect you to speak up for them. Today London will hit record temperatures, that will result in a risk of life to those who are vulnerable, like those ‘street drinkers’ you refer to in your post. We would expect you to be handing out bottles of water instead of gathering ‘intel’ in order to remove them from their communities.

The ‘street drinkers’ you refer to are human beings. Your response lacks all compassion and empathy.

We demand that you:

  • Rescind your support for a “no drinking zone” on South Norwood High Street and immediately cease your ‘engagement’ and collection of ‘intel’ from vulnerable members of our community
  • Propose a multi-agency framework approach that is in line with latest, best practice approaches nationally

Yours,

South Norwood Community Kitchen

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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
This entry was posted in Business, Charity, Christopher Herman, Community associations, Crime, Croydon Council, London-wide issues, Louis Carserides, Mayor Jason Perry, Policing, Socca Cheta Community Hub, South Norwood, South Norwood Community Kitchen, Stella Nabukeera and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Labour councillors accused of high street ‘social cleansing’

  1. Leslie Parry says:

    I can understand the view of the Community Kitchen and the social injustice that these people have suffered who have become part of this group of street drinkers in our ward. But i do not think these councilors are raising the issue unilaterally. It is being raised due to complaints to them from the wider public who feel intimidated by the ASB perpetrated when they have had one to many. I personally have witnessed spitting at people, shouting with foul language and on one occasion one of these characters kicking a buggy with a child in. So what is the immediate answer to quell the behavior? how can the wider public feel safe.

    Also Norwood High Street and Thornton Heath High Street where such zones with enforcement, it was during COVID that the signage and enforcement was removed. So these councilors are only asking for the reinstatement of what was in our ward before as a result of wider public concerns.

    • South Norwood Community Kitchen says:

      We are not condoning any behaviour that causes harm to other people – we get this ‘ASB’ is an issue but this is coming from a very small minority and has led to many others being tarred with the same brush and criminalised. This approach will not help the issue at all and there is no evidence that shows it is effective

  2. Peter Underwood says:

    Full support to South Norwood Community Kitchen on this, and solidarity with the people being singled out for punishment by local Councillors.
    You don’t help people who have been left homeless, or those who are dealing with addictions, or people suffering with poor mental health, by deciding that they should be treated as criminals. We should be providing more support to people who need it, not trying to move them out of our sight. If seeing someone in this situation makes you uncomfortable then you should be fighting to deal with the problems in our society that leave people in a bad way, not asking the police to lock up people who are already suffering.
    Someone sat on a bench drinking out of a can is as much part of our community as someone stood a outside a bar drinking out of glass.

  3. Ian Kierans says:

    SNCK and the Councillors all have points as does Mr Perry and tackling Anti Social behavior.
    Leslie also has some good points. But after 12 years of data with video and photo’s and other people witnessing events and sharing that with me also I have to wonder what is actually going on here.

    Perhaps the three Labour Councillors are representing their residents and have been asked to re-introduce the old ”Zones” ?

    We also had a Zone on the London Road. We also still have those who drink and congregate in areas from Broad Green to West Croydon, and what about the gangs that occupy public areas like the area in front of Georges walk or Windmill park and the London Road both sides.

    They sometimes spit, push, tussle,fight, obstruct, use bad Language in a variety of Languages but generally socialise with each other. iOkay, not very hygenic. When inebriated they can be quite jolly and pleasant and when completely of their faces unconscious, engender a genuine worry are they alive. But perhaps a not in my area attitude prevails – nothing wrong there?

    Perhaps overall a nuisance and a hazard but not really much more so than those who are not alcoholics and behave ignorantly as a usual course of behavior. So why pick on the drunk?

    Lets look at comparators. –

    Parking by a dropped kerb offence code 27 and coupled with Disabled access. Violent and abusive behavior by same people for years. No action by Police or Council

    HMO used Brothel – Violent and abusive behavior for years by same customers for years. No action by Police or Council

    Some Neighbors repeatedly being not so neighborly and being abusive when asked to desist politely some being quite violent with threats to home person and family. No action by Police or Council

    Distributing and selling controlled substances – sometimes to minors – sometimes by minors. but hey need to fund that new Mercedes as all the mates have one. No action by Police or Council but a watching brief may have been in place who knows?
    .
    Street intimidation – electric scooters breaking the speed limit coming straight at you – sometimes with abuse to get out of the f**king way. No action by Police or Council even when in front of 5 officers at the TFC shop being 10 foot away.

    Cars driving over zebra crossing hourly near Windmill road. Serious dangerous driving in front of Officers in a van on their way to whatever and not able to deal with the incidents.

    People being daily intimidated and assaulted who witness or question actions taking place and have the temerity to report it and sadly had their details released by the Council as reported by the culprit when abusing person and calling them a grass and other things. Action from Council to Complaint? No response to date from Ms Cheesebrough’s department or herself. How long was it before her complaint about Mr Pelling was acted on?

    The list goes on and many are actual crimes the Police are theoretically there to prevent but have no resource to do this.

    I am sure all the Councillors have these reports along with the Council and Police responses. Many residents have either reported them or given up bothering anymore considering it as a waste of ”airspace”, (pardon the pun folks in blue.)
    They have no time or resource to attend an actual crime and close the case in minutes without ever giving it to anyone to investigate. in 24 hours you get the message thank you for reporting etc please contact victim support on xxxxxxx etc Have a nice day. Welcome to Law and Justice in Britain today under Boris or just ‘#EnforcementCroydonStylie. Look at our examples at Fishers Folly!

    I am sure that both the Council enforcement and Police officers are at their wits end with the level of daily shit they shovel. Honestly it is more than Veolia does on a good day. but what they do is the tip of what is happening, and they know it as do the Councillors – anyone looking at the stats for May In Broad green will see that it is not only higher than Croydon average but higher than all London as well.
    New Powers? the Government reclassified many crimes circa 2004 to civil offenses along with the enforcement powers for a quite reasonable rationale. Mainly to decriminalise quite a few minor offenses and also to free up court and Police resources. However over the years Councils have had inconsistent approaches to enforcement and repurposed resource purportedly for Capital funding cuts to funding. One could be forgiven for having a recurring dream of having to swallow some real lame excuses for being copulated with cannine fashion unknowingly and without our consent by those at the upper echelon of Fishers Folly.

    In Croydon we lost the car pound and the tow truck. Result massive explosion of illegal parking in out areas with the knowledge that Croydon could not catch them if they held a rave for a thousand and gave them an hours notice in writing that St James road would be double parked out of their working hours.

    Fly tipping – well we all know the miscreants example for that. I wonder when those that got fined will lodge their appeal?

    Litter on streets? – so remove 7 bins and have a big belly – sound logic. So hows that working? Fine actually. After all Mr Isles is going to get his £13 million by hook or by dodgy crook so look at re-introduction of litter wardens in those fave areas around the town hall and outside senior schools with wardens from that old firm jumping on under 17 year old children and issuing fines to minors despite the process not allowing them. So -Wash the streets and actually sweep them along with adequate bins? Or fine the shit out of anyone who wont punch the lights out of you and cannot get any money from as homeless/with Balaclava and machete down trousers/ more than 1 who looks a bit fit!/ a beggar/ tough looking person who tells them to f**k off and walks on. (all this previously witnessed)

    Safety ANPR Camera to protect school children at Zebra crossings and no right turns reducing serious accidents? Or 20mph with no 10% +2 discretion on the London road? Probably did not think of the PR impact? Did not mind looking like the thought of sod the kids lets go for the cash being more than a close relative in the decision makers head?! Maybe the ANPR on St James road would not cover its cost in fines- who knows? – hard to judge that. I mean the other side gave 4000 fines in the first 2 weeks without proper Consultation. But we can always to a good consultation and have the same impact can’t we? Can we?

    So all said and done why do the Councillors and Mr Perry feel that issuing fines to drunks is a worthwhile use of Police Resource as opposed to getting another moody firm at taxpayers expense to do a performance related target driven enforcement on those least likely to do this and least likely to ensure the warden ends up in A+E? I can envisage two old ladies getting fined for drinking a homemade 1% alcohol flavored bottle of elderflower and ginger tonic in two disposable cups on the London Road bench before shopping in the local Lidl.
    What I cannot envisage is the major groups ever being fined out of existence nor those said fines ever being paid in enough numbers to warrant the waste – just even more people being made homeless and put in custody for non payment of fines they have no money to pay as they pissed it away on said alcohol.

    Perhaps the three Labour Councillors are representing their residents and have been asked to re-introduce the old ”Zones” – perhaps they should have a good think of the long term impact and determine what is the best course of action and then communicate that and why. They might find they lose votes but end up getting more in the long run.

    Mr Perry and tackling Anti Social behavior clearly has a notion that is gimmicky but frankly clearly has not looked at what occurs in this borough and is attending too many ”friends and supporter parties” and not putting serious thought into the solution.

    SNCK are making a good point and are actually providing a solution to remove the problem at source and prevent re-occurance. weather it will work enough is debatable but worth a shot and support. but still there does need to be some control on behavior in that area perhaps communication and productive options might assist along with lunch.

    Mr Perry and the no drinking zones are providing a solution to just move the problem outside a zone and make money. Result is displaced problem only to perhaps non Tory voter area

    But you have a law it should apply equally, and to all not in Zones. It should be equipped with support and resource to be effective and deter.

    When LUL/LRT introduced a no smoking ban across the Network it was not just for a few stations in a few areas to benefit a few residents in rich/powerful/politically connected/ business and profit/developer profit/ areas.

    One has to wonder exactly what areas the zones will be in? – who will benefit? – what vested interest is being met and not disclosed? And why ”new laws are required when the old ones are still there and the issue is resource to enforce, not the Law itself.

    So call me a cynic (I am ) but I smell a lot of rats! and not just that because of the shit services and crap council decision process – strangely there actually are rats on bins of ”Perfectly legal developments” as there still is no bin store as listed in the Planning conditions. Another lack of resource we appear to have at Fishers Folly?.
    So shall we be hearing from the new widely feted scrutiny group at the Council? Has Democratic services got any bodies to actually take notes? Are we reliant on external contractors to take a minute?

    As I end this of this admittedly long missive I am watching the rats across the road on the bins and thinking how long before the maggots appear from some rotting wild animal corpse that was deposited? And the fleeting thought of ”just like Croydon Council” flits across the mind uninvited!.

  4. Cathy says:

    The same thing has happened in Church Street, where the last administration thought it was a good idea to put seating where we didn’t need any and encourage street drinking. There had already been multiple complaints from the public about abusive behaviour at the tram stop but the council thought they would make them more comfortable and encourage rough sleeping. The safer neighbourhood team clamped down on the area and it has improved greatly since then but surprisingly nobody has opened up the retail spaces on offer. Anybody renting those units would be spending considerable time and money on cleaning their doorways of soiling and litter.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      The real question there is 1. if the Safer neighborhood team clamped down, why they did not clamp down earlier. 2. Where did they move them to and how come there was nothing they could do hen asked to do something before?
      3. How come you can still see the same faces in the same quilts in Central Croydon begging and drunk at North End and at the back of the Market. and still sleeping in those places in the early hours

  5. Neil Jackson says:

    We have the same at Reeves Corner. They walk in front of the trams, who have to slam their brakes on, swear, and leave garbage everywhere. Not to mention using the Minster underpass as a toilet for both ‘problems’. Perhaps the Kitchen could pop along here with a few binbags… or perhaps these yobbos could be made to get a job, as I was back in the recession after six weeks on the dole. Tough love is what these people need, not mollycoddling.

  6. Ian Kierans says:

    They are the same ones from Church St and South end and by Barclays Bank.
    Perhaps a solution would be to have a toilet and washing facility for those with No fixed abode? Then they could be clean – smell better and have a better chance in a job interview?

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