The Public Gallery: Rubbish, reports and regionalism

By - Thursday 13th February, 2014

Tom Black returns with a look at the report into north Croydon’s streets and an assessment of the ‘two Croydons’ phenomenon

Street cleans are made of… this, apparently

Last Thursday saw the publication of the long-awaited report from the Croydon North Streets Commission, chaired by Nero Ughwujabo. Our very own Liz Sheppard-Jones was at the launch, though a combination of sniffles and paper distribution tasks led to my absence. You can read Liz’s thoughts here, and I recommend you do so. She provides a good report of the tone of the meeting, as well as a dose of reality when it comes to the report’s proposals.

The report can be read in full here.

What of the political fallout? The initial response is telling.

Labour attended the meeting in strength, with senior councillors arriving with Steve Reed, the MP who brought together the commission in the first place. Reed, in his interview with me in December, explained he does not want to see the commission’s recommendations used as a stick with which to beat the council. Such hope may have seemed optimistic, but stick or not, the report is being listened to. Tory council leader Mike Fisher has said he welcomes the report (an about-face, given I heard him with my own ears when he declared the report was not independent) and will convene a cross-party committee to discuss implementing its recommendations.

Fisher also said that many of those recommendations were ‘already in place’ – a statement likely to become a bone of contention. One ‘image problem’ the Tories are already battling was their own absence at the launch – as Liz pointed out in her report, no Conservatives are elected in the north of the borough, but I’d say that at least the relevant cabinet member ought to have turned up.

Our friends in the south

The Conservative group’s deputy leader Tim Pollard was asked on Sunday’s In The Loop why no Conservatives attended either the launch of the report or the public screening of Riot From Wrong, two events of some importance to communities in Croydon North. Pollard’s reply (that he was not invited to the former, and that Riot From Wrong can be viewed online) may not go particularly far to satisfy those who feel that the Conservatives neglect the north of the borough out of electoral expediency.

Labour, of course, is often accused of the reverse. Slim pickings (more accurately, no pickings whatsoever) for Labour in the south of the borough have led to a perception that Tony Newman and his shadow cabinet have no interest in wooing the voters of Coulsdon and Purley, much less looking after them once in office. One resident of Coulsdon told me that they were flabbergasted when (according to their recollection) Tony Newman said that instead of building an incinerator in the north or centre of the borough, he would seek to find a new landfill site ‘somewhere in the south’. I’ve not been able to track down this quote so it shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but the fact that such a perception exists should be concerning for Newman and his colleagues.

The old cliché of a Tory south of England and a Labour north seems to have found its microcosm in our borough. Is Croydon irrevocably divided along partisan lines? 22nd May’s council elections will provide more evidence, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for truly multiparty competition anywhere other than the ‘battlegrounds’ of Waddon, Addiscombe, Ashburton or Croham (where even the National Front is putting its oar in).

The Public Gallery at The Public Meeting with The Public

Our capitalisation-loathing Managing Editor Rob is going to have a fit over that subheading, but he’ll have to like it or lump it on this occasion.

Yes, it’s that time again – Gavin Barwell, Conservative MP for Croydon South (as opposed to Take That frontman Gary Barlow, an error surprisingly common in local media) is holding another of his usually-quite-good public meetings about political issues. The topic for discussion this time is education. With school places and quality a major bugbear across the borough, the meeting is likely to be well-attended.

The meeting is tonight, at 7pm, in the Town Hall, Katherine Street. Can’t make it? Worry not – I will be in attendance, livetweeting some of the presentation and all of the following Q&A. Got a question you’d like asked but won’t be able to in person? Send me an email at[at]thecroydoncitizen[dot]com (or DM @CroydonCit on Twitter) and I will endeavour to ask it on your behalf.

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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  • Anne Giles

    The reason why some Conservative Councillors don’t attend one or two events is because they appear like a Labour stunt. Glad you will be tweeting tonight, by the way, as I will look at the tweets later. We are not that interested in education, as it happens, as we don’t know anyone who goes to school.

  • Mario Creatura

    The public meeting is in Croydon Town Hall tonight – not Bernard Weatherill House!

  • Robert Ward

    I would like to have attended the launch of the report of the Croydon North Streets Commission, having responded to the questionnaire, but my invitation must have got lost in the ether. That said, having read it through I think it is an excellent report, great content and well expressed. Unequivocal congratulations to the Committee. My congratulations and thanks to Steve Reed for setting this up.
    However, my opinion of Steve Reed went into an instant reverse when his announcement of the publishing of the report were pure politics. All negative stuff about the Tory council. Is it any wonder that the instant response of the Tories is to distance themselves?
    The good news is that I attended last nights CCC meeting at which the Director of Environment at the Council presented the strategy for dealing with the issue. In my opinion exactly the right strategy is in place to deal with the problem. As ever, it needs to be executed, it will take time and there will be bumps in the road, but they are headed in the right direction. I am keen that progress is monitored and that we are kept informed, but it is a great start.
    I will leave the politicians to squabble over who gets the credit, whose fault it is, etc etc. I just want the problem solved. I now believe we are headed in the right direction to do that.

  • bieneosa

    Although Mike Fisher now “welcomes” the report, other Conservative councillors are less convinced. His deputy, Cllr Pollard, said during my show that he thinks the commission is political.

    Like you, I think it would have been prudent for the relevant cabinet member to attend the launch event.

    Interestingly, fly-tipping and litter were raised as issues at numerous points during this evening’s Question Time event in New Addington (another battleground). On a few occasions residents mentioned they were being treated less favourably than the town centre when it comes to keeping their community clean. So, it seems there isn’t just a perceived north-south divide. There’s also perceived division within the constituency of Croydon Central!

  • Sean Creighton

    The CCC meeting was one of the best public meetings I have been at for a long time. Constructive dialogue. A Director prepared to listen and investigate issues he was not aware of. He acknowledged that the Commission report was helpful. My report on the meeting is at