The Public Gallery: Three weeks to go


By - Thursday 1st May, 2014

The poll of small things: Tom Black considers the crunch points of Croydon’s local elections and cheers as Citizen contributors join battle


Holy moly, in just 21 days the polls will be open. Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday that I was questioning why the Tories hadn’t selected any candidates yet, asking which party would be able to capitalise on Croydon Tech City’s success, and lauding the organic rise of community-led groups.

These days, I’m questioning why the Tories haven’t produced a manifesto yet, still asking which party will be able to capitalise on Croydon Tech City, and last night I livetweeted a meeting of a community-led group. How things change.

But the election looms nevertheless. So what can we expect for the next three weeks?

What issues will decide our council’s makeup?

The brutal truth of this election is that not everyone’s vote will count. Croydon’s high number of safe wards mean there are only two that could change hands on the night of the 22nd: Waddon and Addiscombe. The former is currently Conservative, the latter Labour.

So for all that the Conservatives accuse Labour councillors of not reporting flytipping, or Labour accuses the Conservatives of something-or-other to do with Cane Hill, it’s unlikely that much of it will matter – at least electorally speaking. What will matter are the issues that seem relevant to the voters in Waddon and Addiscombe.

The Labour and Green parties are making much of the planned Beddington Lane incinerator, which will impact air-breathers in Waddon and elsewhere in the borough. Labour delivered a leaflet on Valentine’s Day entitled ‘Sorry seems to be the hardest word’, highlighting what they claimed were broken Tory promises on the incinerator.

Increasing numbers of betting shops are also a concern for many in Waddon – as is the case across the borough. With Wednesday’s news that local authorities will have more powers to limit the number of such shops, there may be a late surge of promises to Do Something about the rise of the betting shop.

The make-up of Croydon’s council could come down to the future of one 1900s public house

I was flippant about flytipping above, but both parties are making hay out of the state of Alexandra Road in Addiscombe. Labour says the Conservative council is failing to control flytipping while the Tories riposte that Labour councillors in Addiscombe should take more direct action themselves. The mess on this street may have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the borough if enough voters swing one way or another.

Similarly the local Menta development, along with the proposals for the listed Lesley Arms pub, may not impact all of Croydon. But the voters of Addiscombe – like their locally-concerned fellow citizens in Waddon – have an unusual amount of say in the makeup of our next council. Forget Westfield, Tramlink extensions and the Riesco collection. It might all come down to the future of one 1900s public house.

The Citizen‘s latest print edition, available now at venues around Croydon, is an election special. Many of the issues that may determine our town’s future are assessed in its pages. Pick it up today!

A declaration of interest – and another of happiness

Eagle-eyed TPG fans have contacted me over the past week about a certain Mr Stephen Black, standing for Labour in the ward of Coulsdon West. Mr Black is, as some have suspected, my father. While I hope it won’t be considered improper for me to say I think he’s a wonderful man, I feel it’s in the interests of transparency that I declare he is a candidate, and that I am his (very proud) son.

Stephen (or, as I know him, ‘Dad’) is a contributor to the Citizen, having written on architecture, local cuisine and planning objections. With Mario Creatura of the Conservatives also standing in Coulsdon West, it seems my home town will pit Citizen writers against one another. Mario himself has written on community activities, all-women shortlists and Croydon Tech City.

It’s incredibly encouraging to see so many people who’ve contributed to the Citizen standing in these elections. Patsy, who wrote a moving tribute to Nelson Mandela, is standing in Fairfield while Gareth and Stephen will be tearing chunks out of each other over in Ashburton right up to polling day, cementing their status as Croydon Central’s answer to Heath and Wilson. Young Ben and James are joining Mario in his quest to put youthful Conservatives on the council. Peter told us all that UKIP’s lack of whips will save the day and intends to prove it by standing in Addiscombe. Councillors, including Tony, Tim, Toni, Steve and Adam, have made their cases to stay in office or win power. Brendan and Shasha have kept the politics section from turning into a red vs blue slugfest with articles on green (and Green) issues.

From cabinet members to activists, from Ashburton to Coulsdon East, it’s very encouraging to see people who engage with the Citizen make efforts to represent their local communities right across the borough.

So – let’s keep this going. The Citizen is already the home of many a rich debate about our town’s future, both online and in print. If you’ve something you want to say, particularly before polling day on the 22nd, get in touch. Whether you’re standing to be a councillor or not even sure you’ll vote, the discussion will only be improved by your contribution.

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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  • gbsblogs

    Hmmm…really not sure I identify politically with Mr Heath, but good article.

    All these ‘youthful Conservative’ articles are really making me feel old. Surely as a 31 year old fighting in a winnable seat I deserve an ‘honourable mention’? :-)