Leader's blog

News and thoughts from Croydon Town Hall


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A home of your own

“A home of our own” is now a fading dream for so many people. It had formerly been the very bedrock of our society that drove the post-war consensus that if you studied, worked hard and “did the right thing”, going on to own your own home would be part of the “deal”. This is a dream that now lies in tatters for so many.

It is also equally true for many of today’s generation that they have lost the choice of being a proud tenant of a house the council built. Council homes in too many areas across the country are available only for those in most dire need – not as choice, or as part of a wider housing offer.

For too long and in too many areas, supply has completely failed to keep up with demand. In other areas of low demand and market failure, plans to demolish entire neighbourhoods have proven not to be the answer. In these areas, the creation of new employment opportunities has been painfully slow.

It therefore seems incredible that, with the general election dust now well and truly settled, the government apparently intends to press ahead with its scheme to force housing associations to sell off their homes. If this was not outrageous enough, to pay for this the government also intends to compensate housing associations by dramatically reducing the already depleted supply of council homes by forcing councils to sell their most valuable properties.

The aspiration for many people to own their own home remains as strong as ever. It is that desire that current government proposals exploit by reigniting the right-to-buy debate in terms of housing associations, and doing little to address the ongoing decline in the supply of new homes across all tenures. For previous generations, renting in the private sector while saving for a deposit to buy a home was the norm. Today in London, where average rents in the private sector have just topped £1,500 per month, that plan is clearly no longer feasible for the vast majority.

So, at best, this policy is a diversion that will do absolutely nothing to address the housing supply crisis, and, at worst, it is a deliberate attempt to attack the role of affordable social housing in society.

The vast majority of those who have looked at the detail of this policy, including those from all sides of the political spectrum and the housing industry, agree that it will do nothing to address the growing housing supply crisis we face. Under these current government plans, Oxford could lose 25% of its social housing stock and Southwark could lose 30% at the rate of 500 homes per year. In essence, over time and in areas of high demand and high value (including inner London), only those earning salaries significantly higher than the average will be able to live there. Dame Shirley Porter herself would be proud.

However, as with so many other policy areas, we no longer have time to look to or wait for Whitehall to come up with the answer. So, as the leader of London’s largest borough I am proud that Croydon is committed to building more than 9,000 new homes within the next five years, that we are working in partnership with the Mayor of London, and that the Treasury is to deliver Croydon’s Growth Plan. I am also proud that the first policy decision this administration took in June 2014 was to increase the affordable requirement of developers in Croydon to a minimum of 30% and that we are on course to deliver.

Whether it is a more flexible and local approach to right to buy, greater fiscal devolution or increasing the Housing Revenue Association borrowing cap, housing policy and delivery is surely somewhere we can turn the devolution debate into reality and let local government and our partners get on and deliver the new homes our country so desperately needs.

Cllr Tony Newman
Leader, Croydon Council
LGA Labour Group Housing Lead


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On your side

One of the key commitments of our council administration – which took office just over a year ago – was to serve all of Croydon, and accelerate the borough’s economic growth as a matter of urgency, while ensuring that as many local people as possible benefited from that growth.

So, for once, I have a list of positive stats and facts that reflect the progress we, together as Croydon, are making and, in so doing, turning those ‘ambitious’ plans into a reality.

  • Office vacancy rates at less than 10%, falling from 55% in 2011.
  • A 49% rise in the now-flourishing ‘tech sector’ since 2011.
  • 1,800 new homes being built, and 1,053 affordable new homes completed.
  • Imminent start of a major commercial development on the prestigious Ruskin Square site.
  • Box Park pop-up shopping mall at East Croydon set for the summer of 2016.
  • Work about to start on transforming the Fairfield Halls into the Southbank of Croydon.
  • District centre improvements under way in South Norwood and Thornton Heath, with others to follow shortly.

What all of the above illustrate is how fast we are now turning around Croydon’s economy and truly making it London’s most exciting and vibrant borough. Taken along with events such as this summer’s forthcoming Ambition Festival and the recent hosting through the town centre of a major international cycle event, we are, once and for all, ending the cheap jibes we once saw aimed at Croydon. Instead, we are reinforcing the view that Croydon is the place to be, the place people are moving to, and the place new jobs are being created.

However, with growing success comes a new set of challenges that together we must address.

East Croydon station is no longer up to the increased demands being placed on it and must be modernised – so, come on Network Rail, let’s get on with it. More trams, and tracks to run them on, are needed urgently, so we will be lobbying the Mayor of London, whose responsibility this is, as a matter of urgency.

More schools are needed and council, with partners, is building them; and we need the government to approve the planning process that will allow Westfield/Hammerson to get on and deliver the much-needed and talked about new retail centre.

Finally, as council leader, my job is also to ensure that, even as Croydon is being transformed, as a council we remain focused on delivering high-quality local services such as continuing to improve our street cleaning, increasing recycling, keeping your council tax bills as low as possible, and much more.

We are making good progress on all these fronts, but, as ever, if you have any problems or ideas about how we can further improve services, do not hesitate to let me know directly at tony.newman@croydon.gov.uk

Best wishes

Tony

Leader LB Croydon

@Cllrtony