“I am committed to being a champion for my two boroughs”: interview with Steve O’Connell, Conservative candidate for the London Assembly

By - Tuesday 1st March, 2016

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas continues his series of interviews by sitting down with Croydon and Sutton’s incumbent London Assembly member, Conservative Steve O’Connell

Steve O’Connell AM.
Photo by GLA Conservatives, used with permission.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what makes you passionate about Croydon and Sutton.

Well I’m a local Croydon resident, and have been honoured to be the Greater London Assembly (GLA) Member for Croydon and Sutton for the past seven and a half years or so, and am also a councillor in Kenley. As well as being passionate about serving the people of these two great boroughs, I am a lifelong Palace fan, animal lover and supporter of animal charities as well as being a real ale and curry enthusiast.

As a lifelong south Londoner, I am committed to being a champion for my two boroughs and ensuring that outer London, and Croydon and Sutton particularly, get a good deal from the mayor.

What’s it been like so far to sit on the London Assembly what makes you want to stand again as the Conservative representative for Croydon and Sutton?

First of all, it is an honour to sit as a constituency member on the assembly. The mayor has considerable influence over the day-to-day issues that affect our families and businesses: in essence, the final word over policing, public transport, planning and housing. And he or she will be getting increased powers due to further devolution. Croydon and Sutton need a strong local voice to ensure that the mayor is held to account and that he or she takes our boroughs and their aspirations seriously.

Some observers may argue that a Tory GLA representative for Croydon and Sutton elected to scrutinise the activities of a Tory London Mayor is a conflict of interest. What would you say to that?

Whilst I believe that Boris has been an excellent mayor, I have been very happy to be a thorn in his side: the tram and Gatwick Airport expansion spring to mind. I have no doubt that in any contest between my residents and any mayor, that mayor will always come a poor second. However, often more can be achieved if I am working with a mayor with whom I have a good relationship. Ultimately I need to get good outcomes for my residents and that is what I am there for.

What concerns do you come across when speaking to residents in the Croydon and Sutton wards, and how do you plan to address them if re-elected to sit on the London Assembly?

As far as the mayor and GLA are concerned, the priority for Sutton is very much improving the transport infrastructure. Sutton is peculiarly poorly served by public transport and that needs improving, by way of tram, Overground, and the mayor taking over the suburban rail services.

Croydon needs continued mayoral support in it’s aspirations to become the powerhouse of south London, as well as increased transport infrastructure around tram capacity, and improved rail services. I lobbied strongly for more police in both boroughs, and this was successful, but we do need to ensure crime continues to reduce and public confidence increases. Also both boroughs need more housing, but not at the expense of our green spaces.

Boris Johnson promised Tramlink extensions from Croydon to Crystal Palace and Sutton, which failed to materialise. Zac Goldsmith has recently backed plans for a Tramlink extension to Sutton but there is still no funding commitment for the project. Given that Croydon and Sutton residents were let down by Boris, should they believe Zac’s pledge to resume the project?

Both tram extensions are still in play, though as I have said, the Sutton tram is probably more of a priority for regeneration reasons. To deliver these projects both boroughs have to make meaningful contributions and there has to be a groundswell of public support. I have managed to get a £100m commitment in the TfL budget for the Sutton tram. I am urging the council and the mayor to work together to find the rest. Zac has committed to continue that dialogue and I believe that as long as the council does its fair share, Zac will deliver the tram.

If you and Zac Goldsmith were to get elected to the London Assembly and gain office as London Mayor respectively what would you hope to achieve?

I think Zac Goldsmith would be an excellent London Mayor. The term of this new mayoralty tallies exactly with the four years of this Conservative government. The priority job for the mayor is to work with the government of the day and get a great deal for Londoners by way of investment, revenue, and general support; Zac is ideally placed to do that, Sadiq is absolutely not.

Zac is an independent and strong-willed politician who has bags of integrity and is not fuelled by personal ambition other than to do the right thing for Londoners. I am delighted to be on the same ticket as him, and we make an excellent team.

Any closing statements?

For me, as a local lad, I am proud and excited by the plans and aspirations of both my boroughs. I am very happy and willing to work with whatever council is in power if it is to the benefit of my residents. I have worked well with Tony Newman in Croydon and will continue to do so for the next couple of years. I want to spend the next four years as I have spent the last eight: assiduously dealing with constituency casework, ensuring that we get at least our fair share of investment from the mayor, being a champion for Croydon and Sutton within City Hall, and helping my residents and businesses with all the energy I can muster. I have been proud to represent these great boroughs, and will be honoured to do so again after May.

Andrew is interviewing all of the candidates for Croydon and Sutton in the run-up to the election on 5th May. Read his articles here.

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas

Andrew Hamilton-Thomas

Andrew is a BA Hons graduate in Politics with Media and Culture studies from Kingston University with a strong interest in current affairs and the media. As well as being politically active in Croydon North Labour Party, he is also a regular contributor to the online current affairs magazine, The Orator and a regular feature writer for Premier Christian Media Trust. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMaurice7

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  • Anne Giles

    Great article!

  • David White

    Mr O’Connell doesn’t own Croydon and Sutton. His reference to “my two boroughs” shows a level of arrogance which I hope will meet with a response at the ballot box.

  • Robert Ward

    Mr O’Connell represents Croydon and Sutton. His success in furthering the interests of his two boroughs will I hope meet with a response at the ballot box.