The Public Gallery: Street cleans are made of this

By - Thursday 17th October, 2013

Independence of Croydon North Streets Commission questioned by Conservatives

Croydon North’s MP, Labour frontbencher Steve Reed, has launched a commission ‘to investigate the growing crisis of litter-strewn streets across the north of the borough’. Keeping a pledge he made at the by-election last November, Reed set up the Croydon North Streets Commission this week with a remit to give recommendations on how to deal with litter and flytipping in the north of the borough.

Although set up and launched by Reed, the commission will operate independently of the MP, who this week became the first new member of Labour’s shadow cabinet to make the front page of the Evening Standard after a bombastic performance in parliament. The commission’s makeup is impeccably non-partisan, including former and current officers of residents’ associations, the Secretary of Croydon Mosque, and a board member of the Asian Resource Centre.

It plans to hold public meetings with ‘residents, community groups, schools and businesses’ in order to establish a plan of action. The final report is expected to be given to the council before the end of the year. Residents seeking to contact it can do so here.

Mario Creatura suggested that Newman’s remark that the commission will ‘shame the Tories into action’ was an admission that the commission had a party political agenda

But nothing ever lasted longer than a week in Croydon without someone pointing a political finger at it. The Tories were quick to accuse the commission of being a biased, ‘party political’ exercise.

Mario Creatura, aide to Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell, was keen to contribute an observation during Monday’s full council meeting. On Twitter, the Croydon Tory (who won’t rule out whether he’s standing for council in 2014) picked up on something said by Tony Newman, leader of the Labour group.

Creatura suggested that Newman’s remark that the commission will ‘shame the Tories into action’ was an admission that the commission had a party political agenda. Consultation of sources present in the eponymous Public Gallery confirmed that the Labour leader did indeed make the remark in question, and it did appear to suggest some level of partisanship for the commission.

It is ironic that Tory spin doctors tried to discredit a commission to prevent flytipping while Tory councillors complained about flytipping

The makeup of the commission, when scrutinised, suggests no such bias exists. But Newman’s error will come back to haunt Labour, and may jeopardise how the commission is perceived.

It is perhaps ironic, however, that Tory spin doctors spent much of yesterday’s council meeting trying to discredit a commission to prevent flytipping while Tory councillors used the meeting to raise the issue of flytipping time and time again. Insinuations were made that Labour wanted the north of Croydon to be ‘in a state’ because it would give them campaign ammunition, while the Conservatives were accused of neglecting the traditionally Labour-voting north of the borough.

The Conservatives’ determination to discredit the commission before it can report is another reminder of the total lack of bipartisanship in Croydon. The commission will help whoever is in power in Katharine Street, and to attack it is short-sighted. In Croydon, one of the most heavily whipped and tribal councils in the country, independent commissions may become more commonplace as councillors prove unable to set aside their differences and co-operate for the common good.

New Addington selection adds to internal trouble for Labour

While the Conservatives make hay out of Labour’s selection of ‘not from round here’ candidate Louisa Woodley, it seems the former Woodside councillor (who also failed to be selected for Thornton Heath) has caused a stir in Labour itself since being selected for New Addington. Rumours are circulating that someone leaked the New Addington selection information to the Tories – which would explain how the blues’ infamous ‘this is an insult to our area’ leaflet was published so quickly.

There’s an atmosphere of discontent among those in Croydon Labour who feel (it is alleged) that New Addington is a lost cause ‘now Woodley’s got the nod’. Infighting has been on the rise in the historically troubled local organisation, and there are even rumours that ‘challenges to leadership’ are being talked about behind closed doors.

Talk of ‘challenges to leadership’ could mean any number of things, only one of which is an actual leadership challenge. But such talk sounds to me like just that – talk. Newman is no fool and is an impressive chamber performer – even if, as outlined above, his bombasticity gets the better of him sometimes – and that’s vitally important in motivating a party to campaign and win. Concern about what vision he has for Croydon may continue to nag at councillors and members. But to replace him would give the Tories ammunition for their campaign and portray Labour as divided – the accusation that, when believed, has historically spelled electoral death for the party since the 1920s. Labour’s leader in 2014 will be Tony Newman – not some new man (I’m so very sorry for that pun).

Tom Black

Tom Black

Tom is the Citizen's General Manager, and spent his whole life in Croydon until moving to Balham in 2017. He also writes plays that are occasionally performed and books that are occasionally enjoyed. He's been a Labour Party member since 2007, and in his spare time runs an online publishing house for alternate history books, Sea Lion Press. He is fluent in Danish, but speaks no useful languages. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • Mario Creatura

    Entertaining and astute observations as always Tom.

    However, I did want to clarify. From my tweets on the night you’ll note that I said:

    “@CllrTony confirms @SteveReedMP’s @CroydonStreets is party political to “shame the Tories into action”. Disappointing to hear.”

    “I’d hoped @CroydonStreets was apolitical to help find a solution to fly-tipping.”

    ‏”@bieneosa: @MarioCreatura As a resident of Croydon North, I’m hoping all evidence will be dealt with by an independent commission.

    @bieneosa As would I. But Cllr Newman reveals his hand. Which is a huge shame for the people of Croydon North.”

    I want the Commission to provide genuine grassroots suggestions (independent of political influence), to the Council to tackle the problems affecting Northern residents.

    That your sources confirmed that the Labour leader did indeed make the remark in question, and it did appear to suggest some level of partisanship for the commission indicates that my comments weren’t meant out of political malice, but out of practical disappointment.

    In any case, I’m hopeful that the independence of those on the Commission will balance any perceived partisanship pressures from the Labour leadership. I sincerely with them the best with their report.

    • Anne Giles

      The Commission was for residents of Croydon North and they were asked to fill in a survey. I filled it in as well, telling them that I do visit the area frequently, rarely find any fly-tipping and when I do I report it to the Council, who always clear it up the next day.

    • Anne Giles

      I just posted a comment and it has vanished.

      • Anne Giles

        Ah. There it is.

        • James Naylor

          Hi Anne. I’m going to delete these comments as they are unnecessary. Glad your comment finally appeared.

  • bieneosa

    Another excellent article, Tom!

    I’m glad that you have covered the issue of fly-tipping which, by all accounts, appears to be in vouge as we approach 2014.

    We all know that fly-tipping and litter are not just unsightly, but can also lead to public health issues. Furthermore, studies have shown that when the appearance of an area is in decline, which can be caused by litter, fly-tipping or poor maintenance of the public realm, it can lead to wider societal issues such as an increase in criminal activity. In the long-term the associated cost is not just a finacial one, but also has an impact on community cohesion. All political parties should see this as a serious issue and, instead of trying to outdo each other by grandstanding in the town hall, should work together to prioritise the needs of the people they have been elected to serve.

    There are some who blame residents in Croydon North for the state of the streets. There are others who claim there is hardly any fly-tipping at all. Interestingly, I have noted these people are unable to come up with any solutions to the problem, other than calling the council’s hotline. Whilst I agree one should report fly-tipping, the significant increase in the number of fly-tipping incidents suggests that this is treating the sympton rather than the cause. Hence why an independent comission to find out the causes and nature of the problem makes sense.

    As a resident of Croydon North, I want the area to improve and not be caught in a spiral of decline. In theory, the Croydon North Streets Commission should be a vehicle to aid this improvement. The intention should be to address the needs of the community. Also, the findings of the commission should not be used as a political weapon. This will not aid the community. Instead, I would like to see engagement, buy-in and partnership across the floor to address and act on the findings. This is the kind of progressive leadership that Croydon deserves.

  • moguloilman

    I applaud Steve Reed for setting up this Commission. Rubbish in the streets is an issue that needs to be dealt with.

    What is important is what the Commission comes up with. If it is a list of residents complaints and a finger pointed at the Council with a string of accusation of Tory this and Tory that, then it will have failed. If it comes up with practical suggestions and a constructive approach then it will succeed.

    Walking around the areas where rubbish collects I have seen that it is a mixture of fly tipping by builders or others doing refurbishments and residents who dump their own rubbish, usually next to a bin or more often next to a pile started by a fly tipper.

    Solutions? Catch and punish the fly tippers seems to be the Council response. This may be part of the solution but in-house refuse storage seems to be an issue. In some areas provision of large bins and recycling facilities may help. Possibly stop charging builders for taking rubbish to recycling centres?

    Crucially the Commission could be part of the solution by engaging local people in the solution. Peer pressure to stop people dumping themselves, turning in flytippers (local residents are there 24/7), making sure people know who to call, when the council collection days are etc.