Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Can Croydon’s Economy Survive the COVID-19 Shockwave?

This is the big question facing not only the Council and its partners on the newly established Croydon Sustainable Economic Renewal Board (1), but every employer, every worker, every trade union branch, every community and voluntary organisation whether they employ staff or not.

The crisis across the UK has shown:

·       The extent of inequalities and the particular adverse effects on the low paid and BAME communities have suffered most.
·       The Government’s job retention support scheme has only supported 25-30% of employees. (2)
·       That a big increase in working from home and digital team conferencing
·       An increase in the one use plastic e.g. in the increase in home deliveries.
·       An increase in on-line shopping which may continue adversely affecting the viability of retail.
·       Inadequacy of Universal Credit.
·       The scale of the digital divide.

Many large businesses are going into administration, sometimes like shopping centres INTU due to previous problems exacerbated by COVID. Smaller businesses, particular small shop keepers on low profit margins are likely not to reopen. There is a threat across the country to the future of theatres, concert halls and museums.

In Croydon we know very little about the economic effect of the crisis on the range of mainly small and medium size businesses, and the effect of the crisis on inequalities. We need some very fast analysis of:

·       the experience of every business in the Borough which will require surveying and their views on their future;
·       the adverse effects of known existing inequalities. (3)

The latter will need to include the post code analysis of COVID cases and heir link to housing conditions. Whether there is a correlation with multiple occupation, high density, lack of gardens, and small room sizes, and repair conditions.

As part of the Growth Plan the Council is developing a framework to gauge and monitor the social impact of the town centre regeneration programme, and to build evidence towards social infrastructure objectives, particularly in relation to the engagement and outreach required to develop the Clocktower and Town Hall refurbishment project, and for testing proposals for new community spaces and children’s play provision. In the light of the COVID crisis’s particular adverse impact on North Croydon, a similar study should be carried out on the planning and redevelopment being undertaken in its various districts.

The 2021 Census will provide important evidence as to the nature of the growing population and its diversity which will be able to underpin development of social infrastructure from about 2013.

CTUC Working Party 2014

Back in 2014 a Croydon TUC (CTUC) working party, which I chaired, analysed the on the new Labour administration’s Council’s local economy Growth Plan. (4)

The Working Party was concerned that while the Vision in the Plan was admirable, a set of contradictions was likely to prevent it being achieved. It was particularly concerned that forces outside the Council’s control such as private developers, rental and sale prices, the increasing role of private landlords, the continuing effect of the austerity measures, would simply increase the inequalities and largely benefit newcomers to Croydon rather than existing residents who have a wide variety of needs which are not being met.

It recommended:

·       in-depth analysis of social disadvantage and the barriers to overcoming it;

·       the establishment of a University Centre for Croydon Affairs to provide independent robust research evidence to underpin future policy and strategy development;

These remain relevant today. The proposed Centre could be set up as part of the South Bank University operation in the Borough.

The Council never engaged seriously with the CTUC. After being challenged at the Whitgift CPO Inquiry about this the main officer, now Chief Executive reluctantly agreed to a meeting, but declined to comment on the recommendations. In a follow-up email the CTUC suggested that ‘The main challenge is how to reduce inequalities without driving those experiencing them out of the Borough.’ (5)

The Financial and Funding Crisis

In its creative response to the crisis the Council has spent much more money than it is receiving back from the Government. This means that its budget for 2020/21 is now being re-looked at, with the likelihood of cuts to services and staff in order to meet the legal requirement for a balanced budget. The easy targets will be those areas of expenditure which the Council does not have to legally provide, such as culture (inc. libraries). However, it is these services which are important for people’s health and well-being, and cultural activities are an important part of the local economy. Recent research has also shown that Labour controlled Councils were more adversely effected by Government funding cuts from 2010 than Conservative controlled ones. There is talk that some may go bankrupt. It is to be hoped that this does not happen to Croydon.
While the Prime Minister has announced that the economy will be re-built by infrastructure projects, such as school buildings, hospitals, roads, transport, housing and tree planting, the sum of £5bn is tiny when it is spread across the country, when we remember that the original Westfield scheme was costed at £1bn.

Other Funding Uncertainties

Croydon faces further funding uncertainties:

·       The London Mayor is having to consider major cuts to his budget. This could mean that funding for schemes in Croydon may be ended. Will he safeguard the money for Borough of Culture 2023 which will play such an important role in not only economic recovery but in well-being and health and optimism for the future. (6)

·       Transport for London has lost a major amount of revenue and will continue to do so. Will its funds for schemes in Croydon be cut?

The Need for a Croydon Bank

Even if there are Council cuts it has a massive revenue flow. The NHS, Croydon College, the Academies and Free Schools, local businesses, national and international firms operating in Croydon collectively generate a massive amount of income. Back in 2014 the CTUC recommended the creation of a Croydon Bank to pool that money, retaining much private sector money working inside the local economy rather than being sent elsewhere and using its profits to provide finance for Borough projects. It is urgent for this to be considered and set up.

The Growth Plan as at February 2020

Since 2014 there has been creative and lateral thinking in the development of the Council’s Growth Plan local economic strategy, as set out in the report to the Cabinet meeting on 24 February as part of setting the Budget for 2020/21.

The report provided a lot of detailed information on what had happening over the previous last year and how things were being developed especially in relation to culture, especially in the Town Centre.

Although there will always be legitimate debate about the relationship between to-down/bottom-up, engagement and partnership as programmes develop, the report had much in that was welcome. (7)

The Context

Since 2012 Croydon has seen an 8% growth in population; 11% increase in under-16s; 20% increase in over-65s; BAME residents are now over half of Croydon’s population. This means that a large percentage of the population will not be economically active, and will need education, cultural, play and health services. This poses serious funding challenges. The population will continue to grow over the next 20 years as new homes are built to meet Government and Mayor of London targets.

The Economic Realities

The Growth Plan report to the Cabinet in November last year painted some of worrying economic realities.

(1)    There is a dearth of major employers with over 250 workers. While the number of businesses in Croydon rose 33% from 2013-18 to 14,675, 93% are classified as micro-businesses, and 99.7% as small and medium-sized enterprises SMEs.’
(2)    The main employment sectors are retail, business & administration and health & social care, of which retail, hospitality and health & social care that pay low wages.
(3)    There is a ‘disparity between the earnings of residents living in Croydon and working outside of the Borough, and the pay rate of jobs in the Borough. Those working outside of the borough are likely to earn more than residents living and working in the borough.’
(4)    ‘The unemployment rate in Croydon is the third highest in London at 7.2% (Annual Population Survey). Many of those who are workless have multiple and complex barriers to work and have significant challenges to accessing and sustaining work.’
(5)    There is a high level of in-work families in poverty.
(6)    25% of those in work are being paid below the Living Wage.
(7)    16,600 families were in work and claiming tax credits.
(8)    ‘Borough-wide data masks the extreme differences between various parts of the borough and sometimes between neighbouring wards.’
(9)    ‘The impact of Brexit is yet to be fully felt on the economy in Croydon. It is likely to have disproportionate impact on sectors where EU nationals fill high volume vacancies including construction, retail and hospitality and health & social care.’
Before the COVID-19 crisis happened it was questionable whether the updated growth strategy approved by the Cabinet in November was capable of meeting these challenges, especially with the mothballing of the Westfield shopping development. The COVID crisis will have aggravated most of these challenges.

The Climate Change Crisis

One of the advantages of the COVID lockdown has been the reduction in vehicle emissions and a significant fall in air pollution. This is likely to rise again as lockdown eases. Given the limitations on the use of public transport more people will have to use their vehicles that they might have before the crisis. Yet the climate change crisis has enormous economic implications. This is why the Council recognised that making a contribution to tackling the crisis was urgent.
CTUC welcomed the embedding of the climate change emergency into the Growth Plan strategy. The Council says that its ‘plans for growth and regeneration will incorporate improvements that can have the most impact on reducing or mitigating future climate change. In particular this includes a focus on investment in more sustainable transport, improving sustainable energy supplies and networks and achieving high environmental standards in new construction and refurbishment projects.’

CTUC has also welcomed the report of the Council initiated Citizens Assembly on Climate Change, and the establishment of the Climate Change Commission, although it regrets the absence of invitations to trade union members to take part. Hopefully the Commission will assist in producing creative ideas for strengthening what the Council can do in the future.

Property Development/’Regeneration’

The ‘whole process of urban redevelopment is regressively redistributive and it is contributing, possibly on a very significant scale, to wealth inequality.’ (Peter Ambrose and Bob Colenutt. The Property Machine. Penguin Special. 1975. p. 142)

Although that quotation was 45 years ago it still resonates today.

Reliance on property development (so called ‘regeneration’) still seems to be the Council’s preferred main economic driver. It has no control over developers as evidenced by the Westfield fiasco.

The context in which the economic strategy has to be implemented has changed dramatically even before the COVID crisis with the final decision to leave the European Union this coming December and the priority that needs to be given to the climate change crisis.

The COVID-19 Crisis

Since the Growth Plan update in February Croydon’s economy has been through a period of shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis began, with large numbers of employees being furloughed, some made redundant, some unemployed and some working from home. The continuation of basic economic activity: food retailing, shopping and other goods home delivery, refuse and street cleaning and above all the NHS and care homes have shown how dependent the majority have been on low paid workers, a large percentage of whom have been from the BAME communities, and who are those most effected by inequalities in their lives.

As a direct result of the COVID crisis other blows to the local economy have included:

·       the putting of Fairfield Halls into hibernation until next year
·       the liquidation of the operator of the Council owned Croydon Park Hotel.

Added to:

·       the continued uncertainty as to the Westfield shopping centre development, whether new plans will be submitted and whether the Council will see its own alternative plan;
·       the closure of Debenhams in Centrale run by Westfield’s partner Hammerson.

Other Uncertainties

In addition to the likely cuts in services and staffing by the Council because of the costs of dealing with COVID crisis, other uncertainties facing Croydon include:

·       The possibility of future funding cuts by the Government.
·       The collapse of many small and medium size businesses reducing business rates income.
·       An increase in un/underemployment resulting in reduced Council tax and more people on benefits.
·       Increasing homelessness as more residents will not be able to afford their private rents.
·       The decision of the Government to further loosen control over planning by Councils meaning that new developments are even less likely to meet the economic, housing, environmental and social needs of Croydon’s residents.
·       The possible migration back to Europe as the implications of BREXIT take effect from next January.
·       The potential migration into the UK from Hong Kong following the Government’s reaction to the new law by the Chinese Government has imposed on the island.
·       The knock-on effects of deteriorating world economic and environmental developments that had started even before the COVID-19 crisis.

Is There a Way Forward?

Since every crisis opens up new opportunities there could be a positive way forward to revive the Croydon economy. Given the thousands of Croydon based organisations and individuals involved in running the local economy, there is a real challenge to working with them so they are taking the necessary actions. Central to this must be:

(1)    Measures to create a resilient, diverse economy, based on
a thriving community and voluntary sector, strong civic engagement, a strong public sector, a diverse finance sector, high levels of diversity in the economy, effective public services, closer integration of land use planning with economic development, and strong provision for young people. (8

(2)    The further development of the Co-operative Council model, involving a leadership and an enabling role rather than a command and control one, especially given the ever decreasing revenue funding it will have available. (8)
 (3)   The greening of the economy through an emphasis on developing green jobs such as in recycling and repair for re-use, market gardening, tree planting (including on tracks of unused land between railway tracks into East and West Croydon land, energy efficiency and insulation, solar panel installation, the development Combined Heat and Power schemes to supply energy to neighbouring buildings, and any additional measures identified by the Climate Chance Commission.
(4)    The protection of the green environment from building development not associated with the use of those areas as green spaces or for food growing.
(5)    A reduction in reliance on motor vehicles.
(6)    Further development and strengthening of social economy organisations. (8)
(7)    The establishment of a Croydon Bank. (8)
(8)    The strengthening of the existing devolved role of the existing neighbourhood forums comprising Councillors and local community, services organisations and where possible businesses, by giving them a meaningful budget, requiring all specialist officers to report their scheme ideas for the area, and the establishment of forums in other parts of the Borough.
(9)    Every large employer and medium sized business should be asked to consider its own green and climate change programme, to publicly announce in Croydon what that is in relation to its activities in Croydon, including switching any vehicle fleets to electric, energy efficiency and insulation measures to its buildings.
(10)  The Council should ensure that it develops schemes to collect recyclable waste from businesses.
(11)  Businesses involved in repairing thrown away goods for recycling and re-use should be encouraged to work in partnership with the Council’s waste and recycling sites.
(12)  Private landlords should be put under greater pressure to improve energy efficiency and insulation in the houses they own.
(13)  All community organisations with buildings should be encouraged to adopt an environmental and climate change plan.
(14)  Every public sector organisation with buildings in the Borough should be requested to undertake a climate change audit of their buildings.
(15)  Every office based employer should be asked to consider how it will use and adapt its office accommodation in the post-COVID environment, taking into account the advantages of office based working, working practices to increase employee engagement, job satisfaction, retention and productivity (9)
(16)  Every employer should be asked what essential skills needs to has for the future, and how they can help to train low skilled workers and young people. (10)
(17)  That every employer should be asked to ensure that the work under (15) and (16) includes examination of the issues of diversity. (11)
(18)  CTUC should encourage all its affiliated branches to report on the effect of the COVID- crisis on their Croydon work places, and their concerns about future employment at them.
(19)  CTUC should analyse the ideas developed by the TUC, individual trade unions, the Labour Party New Green Deal, and the Green Alliance work with trade unions to assess their relevance to the particular nature of Croydon’s economy, environmental and climate change challenges, and prepare a brief for its affiliated branches operating in Croydon based work places, and for submission to the Croydon Sustainable Economic Renewal Board and the Climate Change Commission.


(2)    Stefano Scarpetta, Director of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD. In Future of Work supplement. The Guardian. 30 June 2020. p. 2
(3)    The joint report of the Asian Resource Centre Croydon and Big Local Board Green shows what can be done. See
(4)    CTUC. What Kind of Economy do we need in Croydon? Croydon Council’s Growth Plan and District Centre Investment; Growth For All. A Commentary with Recommendations.
And also:
(5)    The CTUC’s follow-up email also stated:
‘Despite what you said about the improvement of District Centres being a political priority we are unconvinced that the Council is able to do enough to bring real quality of life changes to existing residents, other than the possibility of improved high street environments, particularly given the restrictions on key planning issues, such as the range of retail offer in high streets. In particular we are concerned that the growing articulation of concerns about the decline of many neighbourhoods are based on issues which cannot be addressed by money such as noise, insecurity and congestion which we tried to capture in … the commentary on the Growth Plan.
Particularly in respect of District Centres and smaller neighbourhoods we consider that a priority should be to strengthen the alliance between the Council and local residents through using some of the mechanisms in the Localism Bill, such a neighbourhood forum (or District Committees as we called them in the commentary).….
We remain unsure that there is full understanding of the loss of jobs in the past few years, current and potential jobs (by sector) is properly understood, and unconvinced that enough is being done to protect employment sites from residential redevelopment.’
‘Our overriding impression from the meeting is that the thrust of Council policy and action is over-whelming pro-developer with no guarantee their schemes will substantially help current Croydonians. We are concerned that if employers transfer their office bases into the Town Centre this will simply increase the number of commuters, unless there is an agreement of offering vacancies to local people. We fear that many jobs will be in low wage sectors. While there will be an unknown number of construction jobs created in addition to the Whitgift scheme (if the CPO is approved), and while training is being set up, the problem is going to be how to persuade Croydonians to take advantage of that training or those formerly in construction to return. It is difficult to conceive of enough locals being recruited and trained, therefore requiring building workers from elsewhere to commute in.’
The working party also said that there was so much going on that it was probably urgent for the Opportunity Area Framework which included the Town Centre and the various smaller district plans within were up-dated. There was a strong case for doing this as part of the current Local Plan Review.’ Since then Council has appointed consultants to review the Framework.
(6) See:
(7)    See:
(8)    This was included in my three articles on what kind of economy we wanted published in Croydon Citizen in January 2104.
(9)    Stuart Templeton, Head of UK Slack; Darren Fields, Regional Vice-President, UK & Ireland, Citrix; David Price, CEO and Wellbeing Expert, Health Assured; Robin Brodie- Cooper, Senior VP, The British Council for Officers; in The Guardian Future Jobs supplement. 30 June 2020. pp. 3, 4, 5, 7 & 8
(10)  Nicola Inge, Director, Employment & Skills, Business in the Community. Ditto. p. 6
(11)  Derek Irvine, SVP Client Strategy & Consulting, Workhuman. Ditto. p. 9

Saturday, 20 June 2020

The Dilemma of Rhodes Scholarships – Remembering African and Caribbean Students At British Universities

The death of Eldred Jones reported in The Guardian today reminds us of the many students from Africa and the Caribbean and who studied at British Universities.

Jones obtained his BA at Christi Corpus College in Oxford. Becoming a literary scholar and critic his Othello’s Countrymen: English Renaissance Drama was published in 1965, He went to work at Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, which was linked with Durham University. In 1974 he became principal of the College. In 2002 he was made at honorary fellow at Corpus Christi.  

Many other students studied at Oxford on Rhodes Scholarships. A debate between former Jamaican Rhodes scholars on the proposed removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College emphasises the need for Rhodes scholars to continue ‘to be agents of change, fighting against racism and other forms of justice in their home countries.’

This is a useful reminder that history and legacy are complex.
Since it started in the early 20thC the Cecil Rhodes scholarship programme has supported many students of African heritage at Oxford.

Alain LeRoy Locke, of the later Harlem Renaissance, was the first  African American Rhodes Scholar in 1907 (see Jeffrey’s Green’s website). There were then none until 1962 with John Wideman.  

There had been previous Black students at Oxford, the first Christian Cole graduating  in 1876 and becoming the first black African to practice law in English courts from 1883. He was celebrated with a plaque at University College in 2017, thanks to the work of Pamela Roberts, director of the project Black Oxford: Untold Stories (

Time is ripe to give a higher profile about the black graduates at Oxford and other Universities, whether Rhodes Scholars or not.
At Oxford these included Edward Nelson of British Guiana who had held office in Oxford Union debating society (see Jeffrey Green’s website), Frank Dove (see Stephen Bourne’s Black Poppies), Norman Manley (Rhodes and Royal Field Artillery, First World War, Jamaican Prime Minister), Malcolm Joseph-Mitchell (League of Coloured Peoples), Rex Nettleford (scholar and choreographer), and Eric Anthony Abrahams (President of the Oxford Union 1964-5).
There was also Grantley Adams, who became Prime Minister of Barbados. He won a Rhodes scholarship and started at Oxford in 1919. His friends there included Noel ‘Crab’ Nethersole (later Jamaica’s Minister of Finance), Erskine Ward (later Speaker of the West Indies Federation House of Representatives), the Bajan H. A. M. Beckles (later academic), the Nigerian Jibowu who became a Judge, and Sidney Van Sertima from British Guiana who became a barrister). Adams also met the Bajan Principal of Wycliffe Hall (Church of England theology college) Rev. H. B . Gooding (Rhodes 1906).

The internet is full of material, including press and video interviews with more recent Rhodes scholars

There were African and Caribbean students at other universities like at Edinburgh including Charles Duncan O’Neal (1899-1904), who was a doctor on Tyne and Wear before returning home, and John Alcindor, who became a GP in Paddington, whose biography by Jeffrey Green awaits publication. Born in Jamaica the playwright Barry Reckord studied at Cambridge University in the 1950s. Edward Kamau Brathwaite was at Cambridge and then Sussex Universities.

I have been discussing with academics at Durham the history of its links awarding degrees to African students at Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, and some students who came to study at Durham, like H. A. M. Beckles before going to Oxford, and George (Coleridge- Taylor.

Not all Rhodes scholars from the Caribbean came to Britain. Richard Dayton went from Barbados to Harvard. He is now Rhodes Professor of Imperial History at Kings College London.

Every University should be researching its historic engagement with black students. If there are proposals for statues then men like John Alcindor should be high on the list. Plaques could be put up on buildings associated with them as students.

Note: My father was a Rhodes Scholar from Canada in the 1930s.

History is Shades of Grey: The Dilemma Over Baden-Powell

From South African Scouts website

Nelson Mandela was patron of the South African Scouts, and said:

“The international Scout movement is a world leader in youth education, and has particular relevance to the needs of youth in Africa and the emerging democracies around the globe.

I am pleased with the progress of Scouting in South Africa, and in the steps which are now being taken to make the programme accessible to more young people. The importance of a high moral code, which is at the foundation of the Scout movement, cannot be stressed too highly.” (1)

As a letter writer in The Guardian (16 June) points out Mahatma Gandhi supported the caste system. This and the row about the Baden-Powell statue illustrates that historical figures are shades of grey, and are a mix of positive and negative aspects. Given the daubing of the Winston Churchill statute, the recent repeat of David Olusoga’s documentary on the Windrush scandal and the way a hostile environment was built from when the Windrush was sailing here in 1948, highlighted the racist views of Churchill and the pressure he put on the Cabinet from 1951 to examine the issue of immigration by ‘coloured’ people. It also highlighted uncomfortably for Labour Party members racist attitudes of Clem Attlee and a number of Labour MPs.

The Dilemmas about  Baden-Powell

In the first edition of my Black & Asian History Heritage in the UK ENewsletter in October 2003 I wrote the following piece re-Baden-Powell.

‘An area of possible research is the role of the Scout Movement in organising young people in the colonies as well as Britain, what values they inculcated with regard to Empire or internationalism, and what opportunities they provided for Scouts from the Empire to visit Britain. This suggestion has been triggered by reading the book ‘I Was There. St. James’s, West Malvern’ arranged by Alice Baird (Littlebury & Co, 1956). Alice Baird was the Head Mistress of St. James, a private girls’ school in West Malvern. She was a keen supporter of Scouting and Girl Guiding, and knew the founder Baden-Powell and his wife, who sent their daughter to the school.

‘The inspiration he had given to the youth of other nations was strongly impressed on me by the Jamboree at Wembley in 1924, and even more by the great Jamboree at Arrowe Park in 1929. There were thousands of Scouts from all parts of the world. At Arrowe, Scouting was an international expression for India as well as for Norway, for Britain as well as for Hungary; an ideal of the good life which appealed to all alike.’ (Baird, p. 513)

Between 26 January and 8 March 1929, Baird went on a Canadian Pacific Cruise to the Western Islands and North West Africa, along with the Baden Powells. They stopped at Gibraltar, Monaco, Majorca, Algiers, Tangier, and Grand Canary. Then on to the Sierra Leone. It was ‘a great surprise. I had had a vague idea of a hot, dreary unremarkable town, swarming with chocolate and ebony inhabitants. Everywhere we went they welcomed us in the most friendly way. Everyone was genial and cheerful. The winding roads climbed up and up between tropical trees and shrubs to a height from which we could see a great distance over mountains and forest and sea. Then, conducted by African Boy Scouts, we saw native dancers accompanied, or on might say, impelled by the most vigorous playing and thumping of various instruments of music, up till then, unknown to me. There were native diving boys all around the ship all day. When we came back in the evening, one canoe was empty except for its paddles, for its owner had dived and had never reappeared.’

At Dakar ‘Mountains of pea-nuts hemmed in the way to the quay, and up and down the quay stalked tall, dignified Senegalese in their vivid blue robes. Great and important public buildings seemed to be accidentally plunged down on untidy waste sandy land. A long motor drive in the desert behind, and the first sight of vultures and queer Rackham-like baobab trees.’

The cruise returned to Liverpool via Tenerife, Casablanca, Madeira, Cadiz and Lisbon. (Alice Baird. p. 397)

‘Early in the morning, perhaps at six or seven o’clock, we would hear that the Scouts in Gibraltar or the Canary Isles or Tangier, Dakar, Freetown or Lisbon had come on board to greet the Chief; that he had gone off with them, or was inspecting their troops or talking to their leaders, Then, later in the evening, as we left our port, groups of Scouts gathered round the Chief.’ (Baird, p. 514)

On 27 January 1941 she attended the Memorial Service for Baden-Powell at Westminster Abbey. ‘Men and women of all ranks and races came to do honour to the dreamer whose dreams came true.’ (p. 515-6) ‘I saw an Arab Scout wearing the beautiful mourning robes of Palestine, the black robe and white head-dress, like that worn by Lawrence of Arabia. I saw an Indian Scout, wearing the magnificent plumed mourning head-dress.’ (p.516) She also comments ‘Framing the picture, the ancient grey aisles and pillars of the Abbey, the spiritual heart of the Empire where rest so many great and famous men.’ (p.517)

(Since writing the above Postscript has advertised the reduced price availability of the book by Robert H. MacDonald: Sons of the Empire. The Frontier and the Boy Scout Movement, 1890-1918 …)’

I do not recall receiving any comment back on this item from the historians of Black Britain who it was sent to.

The Scouting Movement In Africa

Baden-Powell is commemorated in parts of Africa because of the Scouting Movement. (2)

From School website

There is the Lord Baden-Powell Memorial School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It teamed up with the Scientology Volunteer Ministers Africa Goodwill Tour in 2012 to have some of the students complete Disaster Response Specialist Training. A  singer Grace Paul performed an original Swahili song based on the motto of the Ministers, with the students joining in the chorus: No matter the situation, something can be done about it.” (3)

In 1960 Kwame Nkrumah initiated the Ghana Young Pioneers Movement to replace the Scouts which were seen as the relics of colonialism. (4) The Movement no longer exists, but the Ghana Scouts do. (5)
(4)      Ebenezer Obiri Addo. Kwame Nkrumah: A Case Study of Religion and Politics in Ghana. University Press of America. 1999

What More Should Sadiq Khan Be Doing In Response To Black Lives Matters?

In response  to the pulling down of the Colston statue in Bristol in the wake of the astonishing support for the Black Lives movement around Britain, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor London launched a new commission to assess “the landmarks that currently make up London’s public realm”. Road names, murals and street art will be considered alongside statues and plaques. Since then Oriel College has agreed to take down the statue of Cecil Rhodes.

Action on landmarks will not tackle what is central to the world-wide explosion of support for the US movement: objection to racism.

The way race discrimination operates varies from country to country dependent on its history. Within each country there are conflicts about discrimination and racism.  It is interesting to see the different ways in which people responded around Britain. On Tyneside, for example, where Black British historian David Olusoga grew up as a victim of racial attack, 3,000 people took part in a Zoom  discussion on the murder of George Floyd.

Given we have not seen such protests previously in response to the previous killings by the police of black men in the United States, the question is why now.

  • Is it more than just pent up anger about past deaths?
  • Is it linked to the frustration of COVID-19 lockdown and the need to be outdoors?
  • Is it  a realisation that street protest has been given much more legitimacy since Extinction Rebellion especially for the younger generation?
  • To what extent has the enormous amount of work on Britain and the slavery business and British Black History since 2007 penetrated into large numbers of people’s consciousness?
  • Has the continuing Windrush Scandal and the hostile environment alerted more people to the issues of racism?
We will never really know. What is important is that we are in a new situation which could result in positive actions, as long as the movement does not get diverted and marginalised.

Need for London Review of Racial Disadvantage and Discrimination

As anti-racism is central to the protests  Khan should set up a review of racial disadvantage and discrimination in London, the social-economic experience of Black citizens, the extent to which institutional racism still exists in the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London, and the Greater London Authority, and the way in which his London Plan policies are aggravating the social-economic problems. A key question is to what extent that having to support the arrest for deportations in the hostile environment, how many individual Met Police officers were negatively affected in their view of Black individuals and families?
Khan should challenge the City of London Corporation to join the  review I suggest given it’s  is autonomous with Greater London, and the fact that it was at the heart of the British slavery business and post emancipation in the American slave cotton states, and in colonial exploitation.

The Missed Opportunity of the Lawrence Inquiry Recommendations

Several people have said to me that real progress was being made by local authorities against racism and discrimination up until the publication of the Lawrence Inquiry Report. Then there was a fear of engaging in the issue of institutional racism highlighted by the Inquiry out of fear of being called racist. This in my view is due to the apparent failure of other institutions to look at the Inquiry recommendations and see which were relevant to non-police organisations.

At the time I was Policy Development Officer at the British Society of Settlements and Social Action Centres. I produced a policy briefing showing how the recommendations of the Inquiry for the Met could be used to examine the way our members were working. In the case of one of our members the Black staff were able to open up about their concerns. 

Biased British History

Part of institutional racism is the lack of integration of Black British history in the way British history is taught. This means that neither black nor white pupils have a proper understanding. They largely receive the airbrushed version. While there are plenty of ways in which individual teachers can include Black British History this is usually down to the interest and enthusiasm of individuals and their confidence.

Recently Dame Jocelyn Barrow died. It would be a lasting tribute to her memory as an anti-racism campaigner if the Mayor ordered a review of the extent to which the recommendations in the report of Ken Livingstone’s Mayor’s Commission on African and Asian Heritage which she chaired have actually been implemented since its publication in 2005.

Engaging With The Commission

Historians (academic and community) will need to engage  with the Commission especially as it will also assess the representations of the histories of women, disabled people and LGBT+.

Action in Croydon

It is to be hoped that every local authority in London will carry out its own review of the extent to which they dealing with racial discrimination as institutions and in the wider community. In Croydon we have had the Fairness and Opportunity Commission, and now the Climate Change Emergency Commission. Just as with the latter why not start with a Citizens’ Assembly review to look at the issues and potential actions that need to be taken feeding into to a longer term Commission. The problem is not going to be solved overnight. As I discussed in my paper on preparing for the Borough of Culture 2023 programme Croydon’s Black history and culture and its influence on wider culture should be an important component, especially in those neighbourhoods with  large section of Black and Asian populations who are subject to all kinds of racial discrimination.

See also: