Let’s hope that 2014 is a better year for Croydon than 2013.
The Borough’s community activists will be able to take stock at the first of a series of meetings organised by the Croydon Communities Consortium starting on Tuesday 14 January at Shirley Community Centre (see http://croydoncc.wordpress.com)
Knowing the Price and Value of Nothing
There were lots of negative decisions and actions flowing from the Council’s “Know the Price and Value of Nothing” Tories. Cuts, library service tendering, the sale of Riesco items, the uncritical acceptance of the Westfield/Hammerson £1bn retail capitalism cathedral, the blind faith in the property development industry, the waste of money on building Bernard Wetherill House, the purchase of David House, the take-over of the Boards of Fairfield Halls and London Mozart Players …..
While these are matters that concern different groups of activists, the issues that get seem to get residents across the Borough upset are the state of the streets with respect to litter, fly-tipping and dirt, and the street lighting replacement programme. Smaller groups of residents obviously get concerned about particular local planning and development issues, as demonstrated in Coulsdon.
Much that was positive in 2013 was due to the ‘co-operative’ efforts of activists, especially in the cultural field, with a wide range of local Festivals, the continuing Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign film shows that have stimulated others to start their own shows, the Croydon Tech City movement, Croydon Radio, Croydon Citizen, the Fairfield Halls and Arts debates initiated by South Croydon Community Association, the Stanley People’s Initiative.
Labour and the May Local Elections
Residents will be able to have their say on 24 May in the local elections. The key issues are what Croydon Labour will offer that will swing the key seats to them to gain majority control, and what effect UKIP will have given the Euro elections are being held on the same day. Of course Labour can offer very little given the reduced 2014/15 budget it will inherit and the further cuts it will have to make from 2015/16 as required by the ConDem Coalition. However Labour can offer a completely different approach based on a different set of values to those of the Tories. It wants to follow the road pioneered by Lambeth – the co-operative model. It needs to take into account a fundamental flaw in the original approach – namely it was a top down initiative with no preparatory wide scale public discussion before hand. A central value for Labour if it is not to be become hostage to the demands of Central Government, the London Mayor and private development forces, and to the potentially over cautious and unimaginativeness of the Council’s chief officers, is that genuine community engagement must be central to the whole process of decision making; a ‘co-operating’ culture. Out must go the traditional ‘we known best because we were elected’. Non-elected activists might be seen as ‘busy bodies’ but they play essential roles in trying to ensure that accountability and transparency remain key elements of a healthy democracy.
Although it has accepted the Westfield/Hammerson deal Labour wants to negotiate much more positive outcomes. It understands the value of education and culture so even if it cannot fund any cultural activities others than the refurbishment of Fairfield Halls, it can work much more co-operatively with the community and voluntary sector.
The Continuing Role of Activists
Whatever happens activists can help by continuing with what we all do – seeking to influence things for the better, help reduce the worst impact of the negative effects of local and national corporate state capitalism, and fostering interest in our people and community rooted perspective on history and culture.
But activists also need to change their attitudes. Out must go any claim to be ‘community leaders’. They never are, they are spokespersons for their particular organisations. The perspectives they provide are important, but there may be many other perspectives that are not aired in their organisations. It is their responsibility to work with others to find out those perspectives, which is why the Croydon Community Consortium meetings will be useful.
The Importance of Background
It is always worth keeping in mind background. So it is always worthwhile revisiting coverage in Inside Croydon (http://insidecroydon.com), Croydon Citizen (http://thecroydoncitizen.com) and in the local newspapers on line archives.
Some of my blogs and other webs postings in 2013 may still have a useful role in helping to understand some of the continuing issues. I will be continuing to post on this blog, contribute to Croydon Citizen, produce my EDiary/News of events, reading, resources, history and political notes. I am also continuing to co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Network and compile its newsletter.
Engaging with Croydon Council
Croydon Cultural & Heritage Matters
Croydon Housing Issues
Croydon Labour’s Manifesto
Croydon Library Tendering
Croydon Street Lighting Programme
Croydon’s Private Rented Sector
Croydon’s Section 106 Planning Monies
Croydon Street Litter Problem
Policing and Crime
Sale of Riesco Collection Items