Croydon's Future

Helping Croydon's riot victims

Devastation at London Road, Croydon following the riots
Devastation along the London Road
The rampant looting and arson on the night of 8/8 poses many long term questions for Croydon.  However, virtually all Croydonians agree that the victims of 8/8 should be “made good” – in a fast and effective way.
Boris Johnson - does he love Croydon?
The £42 man?
It is heartening that many ordinary Croydonians have helped the victims in practical ways.  In particular, many Croydonians were quick to donate clothes and furniture to those who were burnt out of their homes.  Also, there were a number of fund raising initiatives – such as charity auctions. 

As an aside, Boris must be pondering his popularity in Croydon given that his signed “I love Croydon” teashirt raised a paltry £42 when it was auctioned on eBay to raise funds for the riot victims.

However, for a family burnt out of its home, or a torched business, the level of help needed is substantial.  It far exceeds that which private donations can meet.  This is where we look to our Council and the government to ensure the victims receive fast and effective help.

Our education system - fit for purpose?

The recent riots have given us cause to reassess our society.  In London, almost 1/5 of those arrested were juveniles.  Why are some of these young people so disaffected?  Why do others have such a poor sense of right and wrong?  Obviously, the riots pose many searching questions on our education system - both in Croydon and nationally. More fundamentally, the riots have prompted many of us to look anew at society today in England.  Our media is currently trumpeting the record GCSE results.  But for a disturbing number of our children, our education system seems to be failing them completely.  What are the root causes of this education failure and how should they be addressed.

Over the last few days, there has been a very lively twitter debate on our education system. For the next few days, this blog is open to any guest contributor who would like to put forward their analysis of the problems of our education system and suggest realistic solutions.  The first guest contributor is Christian Wilcox.  Christian is completely open in disclosing his Labour party perspective.  Hopefully, readers will respond to Christian's analysis via the discussion boards.  I'm also happy to post any other guest contributors' articles on our education system - no matter what their political standpoint.

                                      A view on Education, with a Labour Party slant.

                                                        by Christian Wilcox

This is a perspective on Education today by myself.  A Labour activist, but not a fan of New Labour and Blairism.  I’m of the new generation that appeared under Gordon Brown.

Needless to say, after the Croydon Riots of 8/8, some of us will be asking why kids turn to crime.  As Cllr Matthew Kyeremeh said at a recent meeting this has been 20 years in the brewing.  Hence why some Rioters were in their 20’s.  So…  What’s gone wrong?

I’m just going to focus on education.  And please remember I am not Malcolm Wicks MP or Cllr Wayne Lawlor.  This is just my view.  Why turn to crime?  Basically because it can pay better for the low-skilled.  It’s actually a long story.

New Labour did make mistakes.  And one mistake in my eyes was the dreaded ‘grade inflation’.  Why we now have A*’s basically.  Ok, where to begin.





More disappointment for Croydon

Croydon's blighted St Georges Walk
The blighted St Georges Walk shows the sorry state of Croydon
Croydon has been in decline for an awfully long time.  Even before 8/8, its local economy had lost vigour, it was awash with vacant office space, it had a dire image, its shopping precinct had become tired and it was suffering large job losses.  If ever a town needed regeneration, Croydon was the place.

The most extraordinary thing is that Croydon’s decline continued during the 10 years up to the financial crash in 2008 – a time when the rest of London was booming.  To be fair to our Council, it recognised that serious action was needed.  It hired Jon Rouse as the Council CEO in 2007 – the man who “wrote the book on urban regeneration”.  Shortly after his appointment, Jon recruited the highly rated Emma Peters as Director of Planning & Regeneration.  The Council then embarked on formulating a 20 year long-term development plan – the “Core Strategy”.  This Strategy was billed as not just giving developers a licence to build anything they wanted, but a holistic plan to renew every aspect of Croydon – its economy, education, culture and social provision.  All very good so far...…

But after a promising start, the wheels began to come off the Croydon regeneration wagon.  It became apparent that the Core Strategy was little more than a cover for forcing through building masterplans – a developers’ charter if ever there was one.  Croydon’s economic and social problems were barely addressed by the Core Strategy.  Worse was to follow as our Council was forced to save £90m over 3 years as part of central government’s austerity drive.  The age of austerity bit Croydon especially hard due to its increasing reliance on public sector employment.  Huge numbers of redundancies were announced at two of Croydon’s most important employers - the Council and UKBA.  The axing of the Clocktower re-inforced Croydon’s image as a cultural desert.

The Croydon riots - the aftermath

Devastation of Croydon shops on London Road
Devastation following the riots at Broad Green, Croydon

Rubble at the Croydon Reeves Corner site following the riots
All that remain of Reeves is rubble
Yesterday afternoon (Sunday, 14th August), I went to see the damage to my town.

My journey began at Reeves' Corner.  My feeling on seeing Reeves’ furniture store reduced to rubble was one of pure despair.  This business flourished under 5 generations of the Reeves family since 1867.  In the space of one night, this iconic Croydon business was reduced to rubble.  I reflected on the quiet dignity of Maurice Reeves and his two sons in the aftermath of this tragedy.  

Burnt out homes at Reeves Corner in Croydon following the riots
Burnt out homes at Reeves' corner
I also felt a real surge of anger at seeing the burnt out homes nearby.  Although the iconic image is of Monika Konczyk jumping from the flames of her burning home into the arms of the firefighters below, I wondered how many more residents had been put in danger of their lives?

As I gazed upon the rubble, I bumped into John Cheetham who was on his way to the memorial service at Croydon Minster.  This service had a dual purpose – both to remember the 38 people who perished in the Lanfranc air disaster but also to reflect on the events of 8/8.  As big crowds made their way to the Minster, it was clear that the service would be very well attended.  Many “community leaders” bring the term into disrepute as they follow their own personal agendas.  However, in the case of John, he really is one of Croydon’s outstanding community leaders.  As he departed for the service, he noted that it was “one way of showing that Croydon is a decent place with decent instincts”.


The Croydon riots

Monika Konczyk jumps from the flames of her burning Croydon flat
Monika Konczyk leaps to safety
The photo of Monika Konczyk jumping from the flames of her first floor flat into the arms of the fire fighters below is an image that will stay in the mind for a very long time.  The damage to property in Croydon on 8/8 was truly appalling.  However, the real shock is that many innocent Croydonians came within a whisker of being burnt alive in their homes.  Is this what Croydon has come to?

At the individual level, personal responsibility and choice does exist.  I hope that the maximum number of Croydon’s looters are apprehended and feel the full force of the law.  However, the events of 8/8 pose many questions for how Croydon in particular (and the country in general) acts to prevent a recurrence.