Mayor Perry has ‘second thoughts’ about investing in Croydon

‘Things are going to get worse before they get better,’ said the borough’s £81,000 per year part-time Mayor last week, as he begins to find his Town Hall task a bit of a struggle, reports WALTER CRONXITE, political editor

Second thoughts: Mayor Jason Perry speaking to potential investors at last week’s conference

Jason Perry, Croydon’s £81,000 per year Mayor, says he would “probably have second thoughts” about investing in the borough.

In a major gaffe from the person who is supposed to be encouraging businesses to set-up and trade in the borough, Perry made the remarks in an interview with real estate website React News.

Their reporter spoke to the executive Mayor after he gave what was supposed to be a keynote speechr to potential investors at last week’s £300-per-ticket Develop Croydon conference.

Part-time Perry – the Mayor’s office only answers the phone four hours per weekday, while the Tory has retained his directorship of his family firm – didn’t share his reservations about Croydon with the 40-or-so developers, property speculators and other business people in his audience at Boozepark.

Six months into his term as Mayor, and Perry is having to cope with a series of set-backs, such as last week’s scrapping of the Tory government’s “investment zones”, and more delays encountered for Perry’s “big idea” for using the former Allders building.

No-go zone: Perry had pinned his hopes on Croydon becoming one of Thick Lizzy Truss’s ‘investment zones’

In the interview last week, Perry revealed that he had submitted an application to government for Croydon, after a decade of development blight caused by the Tory-backed deal to bring Westfield into the town centre, to be considered for investment zone status.

Investment zones were one of the proposals announced in the brief tenure of No10 by Liz Truss.

According to the government, “Investment Zones are designated sites where businesses will benefit from time-limited tax incentives and streamlined planning rules to deliver investment, create jobs and build the homes that communities need.”

By “streamlined planning rules“, the Tories actually mean virtually no planning rules at all…

Announced by KamiKwasi Kwarteng, last week his successor as Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in his Budget statement announced that he was abandoning investment zones.

Perry gave a clear impression of being increasingly desperate when he told React News that Croydon had applied for investment zone status. “With the position we’re in financially, we need to go for every opportunity that’s available,” Perry said.

Perry was elected as Mayor in May, inheriting a council that had gone bust in November 2020 with a budget overspend of £63million and debts of £1.5billion – £1billion of which had been left behind by the previous Conservative administration at the Town Hall, of which Perry had been a senior member of the cabinet.

In return for a government bail-out of £120million agreed in 2021, the council is having to implement massive cuts to its spending on public services, although preliminary figures show that Perry’s council had overspent its government-approved budget by around £20million in just his first six months in office.

Perry told React News, “We’ve got £1.5billion of debt, it’s costing us the best part of £50million a year to pay for that before we’ve delivered any services…

“The council needs to get smaller, it needs to do less,” Perry said.

Gaffe No1: Perry’s admission in an interview with a real estate website was not what he shared with investors

“There are likely to be more cuts because the council does need to get smaller.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Perry, which was not anything he had emphasised when campaigning to get elected, and was not mentioned in the council-funded “manifesto” produced recently in an effort to relaunch his already struggling mayoralty.

The cuts, Perry said, are “Not something that any of us enjoy, but it’s the reality.” He said nothing about any cuts being made to his own generous council pay packet.

Inside Croydon has already identified how Perry, and his cabinet member for finance, Jason Cummings, intend to reduce the amount spent on Council Tax Support for the most vulnerable families in the borough, while also axing millions spent with the “third sector” – charities and voluntary groups operating in the borough.

When addressing the conference audience, Perry made a different, more up-beat pitch. Perry said he wanted to see “a thriving shopping centre” in Croydon in five years’ time and “a town that’s once again proud of itself”.

But in his one-to-one interview, Perry said, “The council role is about creating an environment where investors come to Croydon and think, ‘Yeah, I want to invest in this borough’. At the moment, if I were an investor walking out of East Croydon Station or Thornton Heath or Norbury… I’d probably have second thoughts.

“In recent years in Croydon [there] has been a decline. The place has been dirty… graffiti has absolutely exploded across the borough. There’s just an environment where it looks like nobody cares and you can do as you like, and we’ve got to stop that.”

Perry didn’t appear to make any connection with the borough’s decline and 12 years of Tory government-imposed “austerity” on its budgets for services, such as street-cleaning and graffiti-removal.

The Develop Croydon conference at council-subsidised Boozepark was being staged as more closures were being announced to long-standing private businesses in Croydon all on Mayor Perry’s watch.

Gaffe No2: Perry’s ‘big idea’ was supposed to launch ‘this autumn’. Now he says there have been ‘delays’

Just up the road, Waitrose on George Street had closed its doors for a final time the Saturday before the conference; two nearby Wetherspoons pubs had closed over the summer; and last week one of the borough’s longest-established and largest restaurants, The Chateau, ceased trading abruptly, cancelling all its Christmas bookings.

Even Perry’s “big idea” to try to revive the town centre now seems unlikely to be operating before Christmas, as the Mayor had originally promised.

In July, Inside Croydon revealed the Mayor’s plan to bring Fabien Riggall, the founder of the hugely successful Secret Cinema, to the town centre with a new immersive experience called Lost, on the ground floor of the old Allders building.

“The initiative will repurpose vacant town centre spaces into cultural hubs, showcasing a diverse programme of arts in partnership with the community,” was the corporate bullshit spouted five months ago by Develop Croydon, as they promised then that it would open “this autumn”.

Riggall said something about being “excited to be working with the local community”, though little or nothing has been heard from him since.

For his part, Mayor Perry heralded “… the arrival of Lost in Croydon later this year”.

Lost, Perry said then, “will be the start of the change we want to make and an important boost for the local area”.

Since when, the momentum around Lost has been… well… lost.

The council owns the building, following the Compulsory Purchase Order conducted on behalf of Westfield and Hammerson. Three years ago they evicted all the traders and small businesses in what was called the Croydon Outlet, at the behest of “Hammersfield”, the Croydon Partners – the joint venture formed by the shopping centre developers and operators in 2012 when they were promising Croydon a glitzy new, £1.4billion supermall.

Perry’s now been forced to admit, “I think there has been a delay [from] the Partners”, over Lost.

“So we are looking at early next year now.”

Read more: Cynical, hypocritical and devious: benefit cut to hit thousands
Read more:
This is the stark human cost of the borough going bankrupt


 

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
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6 Responses to Mayor Perry has ‘second thoughts’ about investing in Croydon

  1. Jackgriffin1933 says:

    It behoves the editor of this esteemed organ to ensure accuracy in IC’s reporting.

    Attendance at Develop Croydon was not £300.

    It was £295.

    TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE POUNDS!!!

    FFS: I can’t imagine anything of even less value for money other than a pint of Aspalls in the Dog.

    • Plus VAT… Another £59.
      And did you clock the “array” of speakers for their “New Era, New Energy” bollocks…
      Heather Cheesbrough, Negrini’s appointee as planning director;
      Perry;
      Katharine Glass, dir of conference organisers Grey Label;
      Kristen Aspinall, the council;
      Nick Hibberd, the council;
      Carol Squires, the council;
      Steve Dennington, the council;
      Richard Plant, Whitgift Foundation’s favourite estate agent…

      Unmissable.

      • jackgriffin1933 says:

        The VAT is neither here nor there as they will all reclaim it.

        The session I found boggling was Community & Character in Croydon’s District Centres.

        Horse. Door. Stable. Shut. Bolted was the first thing that occurred to me.

    • Nick Davies says:

      Oh there is. Now covid is over they may well have a convivial pissup in Cannes in the diary. You could stand drinks all round for a year in the Dog for what that will cost.

  2. Last week the Mayor (of London, not our borough) announced that Bromley, Lambeth and Greenwich were each getting £130k to become the capital’s new Night Time Enterprise Zones. The intention is that this “will help boost the selected high streets after 6pm with innovative events and business support to drive the economic recovery”.

    Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Harrow and Islington are getting £25k “to pilot ideas to make licensing easier for businesses”.

    Croydon is getting sod all. Did anyone in Fisher’s Folly or Croydon Tories’ Mayor Perry or Cllr Jeet Bains, the Cabinet Member for Planning and Regeneration, bother to apply?

  3. Lewis White says:

    Just a comment on “Croydon’s District Centres”.
    Not having been to the £495 conference, I have no idea about the discussion relating to them.

    Living in Coulsdon, and going by bus and on shank’s pony through Purley, my impression is that these are under stress, with some empty shops, but, overall, are quite lively places, with a lot of activity — people popping in and buyimg things in the still numerous small shops, and the supermarkets. In this, the two major supermarkets in Coulsdon are , in my view, key to the prosperity of Coulsdon Tiwn Centre. Waitrose and Aldi (expressed in “seniority” of arrival in Coulsdon in the 60’s and 2000’s, are “middle to large” rather than “superstores. They are both actually “in” the centre, not outside to, or separated from it by distance or physical / mental barriers like wide busy rioads. People can park in their car parks, go shopping in the supermarlet, AND pop easily along or over the Cousdon high Street into a small shop for sometung else, which they can’t or don’t want to buy in the supermarket.

    It does actually work.

    Coulsdon benefits from good bus services through the high street, delivering people right in to the very heart of town, and taking them away afterwards, with their heavy shopping. It is convenient– two main bus stops in both directions plus tow more at the two ends. Plus– were have a good amount of on street parking, with a free period to encourage “pop in parking” and “pop in shopping”.

    Purley also has two supermarkets, but the big one (Tesco) with its huge car park is separated from the town centre by the very busy “Purley Cross”. It is not hard to walk from one to the other via the underpass area or surface crossings, but it feels a bit separated from the twn centre. The synergy between people using the suoerstore and the tiown centre feels less than in Coulsdon.

    Purley alos has good bus links right in the middle (the Brighton Road).

    Much of Purey Town centre benefitted from ne wpaving and street furniture, a decade or more ago, which definitely gave the look of the area a real boost– and, in my observation, has had a direct effect of attracting people and businesses. The initiatives of the Purley BID (Buisiness Improvement district) with its colourful community “mega knitting” with cosy wrappers for trees and street furniture have also made a tremendously attractive impact.

    One of the differences between Coulson and Purley is that Coulsdon no longer has big gaps in its centre, as blocks of flats of decent design have been built on the old Pinewood motrs site and the ex builders’ mercahnts.

    Purley has been blighted for decades by the hole at its heart–the derelict island site, now thankfully being developed for new flats, albeit many in a rather tall block.
    This must bring more people to live in, and spend their hard earned spondulakes, in Purley itself. I really hope it all works out.

    Purey , however, is still blighted by another void–of activity– the ex Sandsburys/ and mothballed leisure centre and pool building.

    I also really hope that a decent design is worked out to bring new flats, a new pool, and enough parking, for this sad site.

    The vibes and prospecst for Purley and Coulsdon must be good.
    The presence of buses bringing shoppers and workers in to the cenre, plus the parking, are key success factors.

    However, we need all the missing bins to be be brought back, plus street cleaning and washing down. Purley Brighton Road, the footways and bus stop areas, with only a few bins, which are overflowing by Friday, but don’t get cleared until the next week, is a greasy mess. More money from Government is needed for street cleaning.

    Also, it is really sad that no money has been spent in recent years in Purley to finish off the repaving , where it is really needed, in the Brighton Road shopping area. ots grey and greasy….. unlike the nearby “High Street” area with its mellow red brick Dutch paving bricks.

    It would be nice if Inside Croydon readers living in New Adington, Norbury, Upper Norwood, Addiscombe, Selsdon, Thornton Heath, Waddon, Broad Green and Norwood junction could tell us their assessment of their own centres. What makes them tick–or not? How is the public transport? The parking? The Shopping and leisure?

    I am fairly confident that these local centres, in their way, are changing, but in most cases improving.

    Meanwhile, what of the main Town Centre, with stalled redevelopment of the Whitgift, and progress on the St George’s walk area seemingly stalled too?.

    No Southbound buses in the High Street from Katherine Street — just a void of activity that one assocates with town cetres …. hardly any people.
    So unlike Coulsdon.

    How long will it take to fill the void that is Croydon Town Centre? And, how should the void be filled? Could Mayor Perry get a design ideas competition and genuine public involvement lined up for the area, in 2023 ?
    .

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