The Public Gallery: Generation Rent, Opportunity Croydon, and a visit from Cameron


By - Thursday 11th December, 2014

Tom Black looks at landlord licensing, political figleaves and how the powers that be are waking up to the Croydon-tech link


Generation Rent comes to Croydon

With the media circus of Fieldgate (or pantomime, as the Advertiser wittily put it last week) dominating headlines recently, you’d be forgiven for forgetting the council is on the verge of introducing selective landlord licensing.

But it’s coming – the consultation period ends tomorrow, and while the scheme has been revised (the £1,000 cost to landlords became £700), it looks like it will go ahead. Consultations have a poor track record when it comes to causing a complete abandonment of a policy.

The debate has raged here on the Citizen site, too. Landlord Robert Ward has expressed his scepticism over the scheme. This has prompted a response from Dan Wilson Craw of Generation Rent, a non-partisan charity focused on making the private rented sector more habitable. The article is timely, coming as it does in the week that Generation Rent’s Croydon site – and campaign – went live. Look out for the article this afternoon.

Croydon Fairness Commission begins deliberations

There was some consternation when Croydon Labour announced the launch of its ‘fairness commission’. The Conservatives questioned its value. Taxpayers objected to its cost. Local wags pointed out the name sounded like it was cut from the same cloth as the Committee of Public Safety.

This last concern, at least, has been addressed. The commission has been rebranded as Opportunity Croydon, and there doesn’t appear to be a guillotine in sight.

It’s chaired by the Bishop of Croydon, and its vice-chair is Labour councillor Hamida Ali. An impeccably apolitical chair and a representative of the council by his side – that, it appears, is the image the council wants the commission to project.

Will it work? So far, the commission’s £200,000 price tag has not been popular with the general public, and there are accusations flying around that it is nothing more than a fig leaf, enabling the council to pass on some of the heat from the inevitably unpopular cuts that current Westminster policy dictates. ‘The Opportunity and Fairness Commission said this would be okay, so it must be fine!’

Less cynically, the commission does look like it will be able to help the people of Croydon more broadly than as a set of advisors to the council. It has been implied that members of the public will be able to directly submit matters for consideration when other local bodies are perceived to have failed them. While the commission has no legal powers at all, it will obviously wield a deal of soft power.

Damp squib, fig leaf, or roaring success? We shall know soon enough. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Croydon Tech City gets a Downing Street nod – sort of

Hot on the heels of George Osborne’s plug for Croydon in the Autumn Statement last week, David Cameron appeared to decide he was not going to be outdone by his chancellor in the Croydon stakes.

Speaking during a visit to Harris Academy Crystal Palace, Cameron told the assembled masses – including the Croydon Guardian‘s Chris Baynes – that the school’s success was a strong argument in defence of the Coalition’s changing policies on qualified and unqualified teachers. This was a clear shot back at Labour shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, who recently named Croydon as a borough in which educational equality was at risk because of the rising number of unqualified teachers.

The reason for Cameron’s visit was to make an announcement of a new £67 million programme aimed at producing better computer science teachers and better-trained pupils in the field of ‘digital skills’. Explaining the choice of location, Cameron said the plans would help Croydon’s technology sector by producing more school leavers ready to be the ‘app-creators of tomorrow’.

But ‘tech evangelist’ and Photoshop narcissist Jonny Rose – founder of Croydon Tech City – will have been disappointed if he expected a shout-out. Unlike Boris Johnson’s remarks when he came to Croydon to help Gavin Barwell’s launch in September, Cameron’s speech didn’t directly mention Croydon Tech City. Still, Rose need not lose heart – it’s becoming clear that there’s a memo in Conservative Central Headquarters somewhere, and it’s got ‘CROYDON = TECH’ written on it.

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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  • Sean Creighton

    The consultation on the licensing scheme ends tomorrow (Friday 12th). Given the vociferousness of the landlord lobby against the scheme it is important that tenants voices are contributed. Readers can go to my blog site http://seancreighton1947.wordpress.com and search ‘landlord’ to see the news postings on the consultation, inc. Unite Retired Members branch asking for the consultation period to be extended.