This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 13/04/2018.
What the Labour party in Croydon is promising in its manifesto ahead of the upcoming local elections
With local elections in Croydon fast approaching, Labour, which currently runs the local authority, has released its full manifesto.
On election day, which falls on May 3, residents will have the chance to choose councillors to represent them at Croydon Council.
The local authority, based in Bernard Weatherill House, is currently run by the Labour Party, which has 39 councillors.
The opposition is the Conservative Party, with 29 seats.
Ahead of the elections, The Advertiser spoke to party leader Tony Newman about Labour’s promises for Croydon.
What is included in the Labour manifesto?
The party’s manifesto for 2018 consists of five key pledges:
1. Make every street cleaner and safer, with zero tolerance to criminal fly tippers.
Labour has pledged to continue with the council’s “Don’t Mess With Croydon” campaign – a crackdown which has seen 196 fly-tippers prosecuted since it was launched in 2014.
The clampdown has also seen the council seize 30 vehicles suspected of being used to store or dump fly-tipping.
Under Labour, the council has also entered into a new waste management contract – contracting Veolia to carry out bin collections in the borough.
These services are currently overseen by Cllr Stuart Collins – the council’s cabinet member for Clean, Green Croydon.
Cllr Collins has promised that, if re-elected, he would boost borough-wide recycling rates to 50% and to continue the flytipping crackdown – but how he would do this is not listed in the manifesto.
Cllr Newman told The Advertiser: “We have got to work with people to make it easier to recycle – it’s good news that people say they want to recycle more, but we have had several comments that the current recycling boxes are too small.
“We have already proposed scrapping these boxes for larger wheelie bins.”
He added:”Fly-tipping and waste are absolutely a political issue – under the previous Conservative administration, I believe only two fly-tippers were prosecuted through the courts.
“We are at nearly 200 prosecutions and, while we would obviously like to see this number come down, there is still work to be done at present.”
2. Ensure the council works with the local NHS to protect front-line services and improve public health.
The Labour manifesto states: “We will continue to work with the local NHS to make it easier to see a GP. And we’ll partner with community and voluntary groups to stop health challenges before they occur – be it weight-management, mental health or domestic violence.”
But with cuts and funding boosts – such as the recent £12 million boost for our NHS Trust – coming from higher up in Government, we asked Cllr Newman how this could be possible on a borough council level.
“I think with limited budgets we need to be firstly, urging Government to offer better financial provisions, and secondly, looking at the borough’s specific needs,” he responded.
“Croydon is the most populated south London borough so we will be demanding more accountability from the Government in assisting us accordingly.
“Residents should also be able to demand more accountability locally and have a say in how decisions are made and money is spent.
“For example, when free IVF was axed last year, residents and the council became aware of this through newspapers – and this is not how it should be.”
3. Tackle rising rates of crime and end Tory cuts to police
The number of knife crimes being committed in Croydon has more than doubled in the space of a year, according to Met Police figures.
Almost two knife offences were recorded in the borough every day in the 12 months leading up to the end of March 2017, according to the Metropolitan Police’s end of year figures.
There were 683 crimes involving knives in the borough from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 – up from 337 offences in the previous 12-month period.
This is the equivalent of more than a 100% increase, compared to a London-wide average of a 24% rise.
To tackle this issue, Croydon Labour is promising to oppose financial cuts to Croydon’s police and adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy to knife carrying.
When quizzed about how police numbers could be protected when Met funding is controlled by the Mayor of London’s office, Cllr Newman said: “We have to be honest with people and say that we do need more police on the streets, no matter how tight money is.
“We have pledged to call on the Home Secretary to increase funding London-wide for police – you can’t do this in Croydon if it isn’t done across London.
“However, this is not merely a police issue – when we say a ‘zero tolerance’ policy, this mindset has to be conveyed through schools, businesses and families.
“We need to show, not just tell, young people that there is an alternative to carrying a knife to protect themselves.
“We need to provide more youth services, such as the new Legacy YouthZone.”
4. Support young people with the jobs, skills and training needed for them to reach their full potential.
Under Labour, Croydon Council has become a living wage employer and has promised jobs to local people at Boxpark, the redeveloped Selhurst Park and the proposed Westfield mall.
Elaborating on how this could be possible – particularly when private companies are not under the council’s control, Cllr Newman said: “Croydon as a town is growing and we will not permit growth at any cost – young people deserve decent apprenticeships and jobs with proper hours and wages.
“While what contracts private companies offer is out of our hands, we intend to lead by example and encourage big developers to make local workers a pert of their plans for major projects.”
The party is also promising “to increase reading for pleasure, keep special educational needs children in mainstream schools, and take the steps that can stop teens falling into gangs.”
Cllr Newman again re-iterated the importance of funding youth services and police for this to happen and, when asked about where this funding could come from, he said: “Everything in our manifesto has been costed in the Council’s annual budgets.
“We have budgeted openly and are completely aware of the costs our policies will entail.”
5. Protect front-line services by bringing libraries back into public ownership.
While Croydon Council was run by the Conservatives in 2012, the authority contracted library services out to Carrillion.
When Carrillion announced in January that it would go into liquidation, the council stepped in and regained responsibility for the library services and staff.
Cllr Newman insisted that he did “not use Carrillion’s collapse as an excuse” to make this move.
“We saw that as an opportunity to bring the services and buildings back under council control – but have never agreed with them being outsourced,” he added.
“Moreover, the Government encouraged another contract with PwC to then be made, but we refused.”
When asked why libraries ranked so highly in the manifesto, he said:”Libraries are vital community hubs.
“They are also facilities where a local budget devolved to residents could be introduced so people can have more say in which facilities are on offer at their library.”