Leader's blog

News and thoughts from Croydon Town Hall

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A day in the life

As is the case at all the political party conferences, the real work is done away from the TV screens and main conference hall. Monday, for me as Croydon’s council leader, was such a day.

8.30am – It’s a conference breakfast discussion on the key role of retail in helping to drive regeneration. A lively roundtable discussion hosted by Tony Travers followed, and there was much discussion about training and employment opportunities, as well as changing shopping patterns. Thanks to the excellent John Lewis Partnership for hosting the event.

10.30am – I have now been joined by Croydon cabinet colleagues Alison Butler and Mark Watson for an excellent meeting with the housing charity Shelter. We discussed the housing supply crisis affecting affordable housing as a result of government cuts, Croydon’s scheme to license private landlords to ensure affordable and decent accommodation for all, and much more. It was great to hear Shelter’s support for our Labour administration’s early decision to increase the supply of affordable housing in Croydon to 30%.

11.30am – We have now moved on to a really positive meeting with one of the country’s leading housing associations, to hear about its ideas on how to increase the supply of affordable housing in Croydon, so that those on average incomes might get a foot on the housing ladder. The need to increase the supply of housing of all types is one of Croydon’s biggest challenges, and one the council has a key role in helping to deliver.

1pm – Lunch with some Croydon colleagues sitting outside in the square next to the magnificent Manchester Town Hall. These types of pedestrian-friendly spaces are something we definitely need more of in Croydon.

2pm – It was great to get some time to pop into the main conference hall to hear the speeches from jubilant Scottish colleagues, rightly celebrating the victory last week to keep the UK together. In my view, the setting up of a false border between us and our Scottish friends, if the referendum had gone the other way, would have been an appalling outcome.

4pm – A cup of tea

4.30pm – A meeting with Labour’s brilliant parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central, Sarah Jones.

5.00pm – Back to Manchester Town Hall for discussions with leaders of other London councils.

7.30pm – I am speaking at a housing debate, along with some other council leaders, and Labour’s shadow housing minister, Emma Reynolds MP. The commitment from everyone involved to really ensure that a Labour government makes tackling the housing crisis one of its main priorities is great to see.

10.00pm – Call a taxi, back to the hotel and prepare to do it all again tomorrow.

Tony Newman
Leader, Croydon Council

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A tale of two meetings

I was struck last week by two totally contrasting meetings I had in the space of 24 hours about our wonderful borough of Croydon.

First, I spent an eye-opening evening with Croydon’s fantastic new Mayor Councillor Manju Shaul Hameed, listening to the many volunteers from across the borough, who told us about the work they are doing providing food banks. Their work is inspirational, but the really depressing fact was that every one of the food bank providers confirmed demand for their services is only going one way – and sadly that is up.

The fact that in the second decade of the 21st century, food banks have become something so many families depend on is deeply worrying, and further evidence that the current economic recovery is at best patchy and many families are seeing that despite often working longer hours, their household income is cut in real terms.

The discussion on food banks confirmed that as a council we have to do absolutely everything possible to ensure, as we said in our election manifesto, that all the people of Croydon benefit from the investment that is now seriously starting to flow into our town.

We have in our first 100 days in office taken some positive steps. For example, we have implemented a 30% affordable housing policy, so developers have to provide housing that is affordable and available for Croydon residents. Luxury apartment blocks are fine, but we also need homes that local people can afford to buy and rent.

We have also introduced the London Living Wage, so any contractor who works for us will have to pay this as a minimum, as the council itself now does.

We have started to change the council’s procurement policies to ensure more local companies get a real opportunity to bid for council contracts, and we are working with companies such as Westfield to encourage them to offer the jobs available in their new retail development to local people.

All of the above struck me as more important than ever as I left the second meeting I referred to earlier, which was with officials at the Greater London Authority at City Hall. There was rightly much exciting talk of the need to expand the Tramlink, increase house building and attract more companies and jobs to Croydon, all of which is absolutely vital to secure Croydon’s long term future.

However real success for all of us, whether working for the council or in the private sector, will only be achieved if we can look back in a few years’ time and say it was the residents of Croydon and many of our local companies and small businesses that have benefited from the current inward investment.

Equally for Croydon our long-term success will only be ultimately confirmed if those food bank providers tell us one day that the demand for their services, is at least beginning to decline and not continuing to increase.

Tony Newman

Council Leader