Less than 6 weeks before the borough Council elections which will determine who runs Croydon for the next 4 years, the Conservatives on Friday laid out their challenge to the Labour party which currently runs Croydon – a plan for a dynamic, forward-looking and clean town, delivered by a Council which is well-run and above all which listens to residents.
Determined to share their vision with as many people as possible, copies of the manifesto will reach many residents over the weekend. However, for those who don’t receive it, Croydon News has picked out some of the highlights.
It is clear from the manifesto that the Conservatives are great believers in the Westfield/Hammerson redevelopment of Croydon town centre. It was the Conservatives who brokered the proposed deal, when they ran the Council before 2014, and the development was awarded planning permission by the then Conservative Council in 2013. Since Labour took control in May 2014, there has been barely any progress. Labour’s indecision has led to several delays as the developers have been forced back to the drawing board, and although planning permission was granted again before Christmas it took the intervention of the Conservative Minister for London to secure that.
With other major developments in the town centre also delayed – including Taberner House and Fairfield Halls – there is a real question mark over Labour’s ability to deliver Croydon’s redevelopment. The Conservatives believe they are much better placed to make these developments happen.
Listening to residents
One theme that runs throughout the manifesto is the Conservatives’ belief that Croydon’s residents should have a much stronger voice in how the Council is run. This is particularly the case with planning, where currently many controversial developments are given planning permission despite overwhelming opposition from local residents.
The Conservatives will address this by inviting Residents’ Associations to advise the planning committee, and by offering the position of Vice-Chair of the planning committee to the largest opposition party. It will put an emergency stop on any development by the Council’s own housing developer Brick By Brick until all schemes have been thoroughly reviewed. Brick By Brick is responsible for many of the most unpopular planning applications, and a Conservative Council will commit to not allowing development of any of the Council’s parks or green spaces – 31 of which have been left without statutory protection in Labour’s local plan.
Cleaning up Croydon
In 2014, Labour were very vocal that they would end fly-tipping in Croydon. In the 4 years of Labour control the problem has got worse and worse – with a 65% increase in the number of reported fly-tips than since 2014, compared with an average 12% increase in the rest of London. The Conservatives have avoided the hubristic promise of ending fly-tipping, but they have come up with a number of specific policies aimed at cleaning up Croydon’s streets.
First, a Conservative Council will be much more proactive than the current Labour Council, investing in motorised ‘fly-tip busters’ which will “tour the borough looking for fly tips, excess litter, graffiti, badly maintained verges and all the other annoyances which infuriate residents”, according to the manifesto. Secondly, a Conservative Council will introduce 3 free collections of bulky waste for each household each year, removing the incentive to fly-tip. Thirdly, recognising that residents are often forced to store waste far longer than necessary if the Council’s refuse contractors fail to collect their bins, the Conservatives will give residents a rebate of £10 anytime their refuse is not collected – paid for by the contractors.
A wide-ranging vision
It is difficult to cover every policy from a 12 page document in a single article, but the Conservative manifesto offers positive ideas about every aspect of Croydon. From giving carer’s a discount on their Council Tax to celebrating the key festivals of all the different religions practised in the town, and from letting people make voluntary additional contributions to Council Tax to go toward tackling homelessness to supporting the traders of Boxpark and Surrey Street market to develop and grow, it is clear that an enormous amount of thought has gone in to the Conservative vision.
The question is whether they get to put it into practice in May, or whether Croydon’s residents will choose to give Labour another chance to deliver the things it has failed to do since 2014.