Leader's blog

News and thoughts from Croydon Town Hall

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A white ribbon borough

Rachel Slack, Maria Stubbings, Katie Summers, Casey Brittle, Clare Wood – young women who should now be in the prime of their lives. Instead, all have, in recent years, lost those lives as a direct result of the hate crime that is domestic violence. Many other women, as the excellent coverage of this difficult subject in this week’s Croydon Advertiser highlights, have suffered horrific experiences but have escaped with their lives and are now looking to better and more secure futures. In Clare Wood’s case, her death led to the creation of Clare’s Law which allows women who may have reasons to be suspicious about a partner’s behaviour to check police records to see if there are any previous convictions.

Our Labour administration in Croydon made it clear when we took office in June that tackling the ever-increasing number of reported cases of domestic violence and abuse would be one of the council’s top priorities – and it is. That is why we are committing to becoming a White Ribbon borough and we will be formally launching this on International Day Against Violence against Women on 25 November. White Ribbon status will formally recognise that Croydon is making the tackling of domestic violence one of the key borough-wide priorities.

I am proud that it was a previous Labour administration in Croydon that put in place Europe’s first Family Justice Centre (FJC), in 2005. This is where all the public services – such as the police, NHS, social services and others – are under one roof, so that somebody who is a victim of domestic violence can immediately access all the support services they will need, and don’t have to repeatedly tell their story to different public agencies in different locations. However, we again need to strengthen the FJC, and then go much further than before in really coming together, right across Croydon, to state clearly that domestic violence will simply not be tolerated.

So, as part of our journey to achieving White Ribbon status, we will launch more education programmes within our schools, ensure that everyone who works in public services, such as the NHS and police, are trained to the very highest standards in terms of spotting the symptoms of domestic violence and have the confidence to make early interventions that, in some cases, will save lives. Alongside this, we will run high-profile poster and social media campaigns reminding the public that this is a crime that will not be tolerated, and offering helplines for those who might need them.

The ongoing increases in incidents of domestic violence in Croydon are completely unacceptable, so it is time to collectively redouble our efforts and ensure we are the generation that says loudly and clearly: “Enough is enough and the time to act is now.”

If you need help or advice, call:

  • 24-hour domestic violence helpline – 080 8200 0247
  • Croydon Family Justice Centre – 0208 688 0100

Councillor Tony Newman
Leader, Croydon Council

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Standing up for Croydon

Many years ago, strange as it may seem, Croydon was a quiet London suburb that most people thought of as part of Surrey, rather than London. It was at this time, all those years ago, that civil servants in Whitehall – who had the job of deciding how much of national government money in the form of local government grant each London borough received – made decisions that stand to this day.

Since then, Croydon’s population has increased significantly; the health, transport and educational needs of the borough are radically different, and Croydon is, in many places, every bit as much a London borough as any other – and proud to be one. So much of this change is, of course, great news, more jobs for local people, new affordable housing, an enviable tram system, a 24-hour train service, the soon-to-be Westfield shopping centre, and our wonderfully diverse communities. All of that means Croydon is really starting to feel like a modern European city, and not that sleepy suburb of all those years ago. That should be nothing but good news, however…

The day after our new Labour administration took office, back in June, I asked officials to take me and colleagues through the Town Hall finances and, frankly, it was a shock. Not only did we inherit the self-confessed multi-million pound budget ‘black hole’ our Conservative predecessors had left, it was also confirmed that the historic underfunding of Croydon was worse than ever. Then, perhaps most depressing of all, we realised the true effect that the current coalition government’s draconian cuts to local government were having on some of our most valued local services, such as youth provision, street cleaning and schools. To be blunt, in some areas these services had been cut to the bone.

Now, as a new council administration, we have made a clear choice – we are not going to allow Croydon to become the victim of other people’s wrong decisions, nor of this or any other government’s cuts. We are going to stand up for Croydon, demand our fair share of financial support and, in the meantime, focus on delivering services well, albeit a smaller number.

So, in the months ahead, while more council services will be available online only, they will be available, not cut. Improving our street-cleaning service will be a top priority, along with declaring war on the increasing number of fly-tippers that we’re now catching. We will seek the maximum fines possible for this offence and, for repeat offenders, even tougher sentences. We will also continue our schools improvement programme, and make sure that, by working alongside the police, we continue to see reductions in crime.

And we are looking hard at how, by working with partners and community groups, other key services continue to be provided. How we do that is something we also want your views on, so do look out for our Fairness Commission, to be launched later in the year. This independent body will be taking evidence at meetings, online, and from as many as you as possible as local residents. It will seek to ensure we deliver, in the years ahead, the services that are really important to all of you as fairly as possible, right across the borough.

Croydon is in good shape and our local economy is starting to grow, so if I, with my team, have two main jobs, they are to ensure we deliver high-quality local services, and to lobby, represent and persuade others that Croydon really does now deserve its fair share of financial support from national government to deliver those services.

We will not let you down.