Croydon North: Christian Peoples' Stephen Hammond answers your questions
Following the Advertiser's public debate ahead of the Croydon North by-election we invited those candidates who were not involved to answer the questions put to our readers by the panel. Here church pastor and voluntary worker Stephen Hammond, of the Christian Peoples Alliance gives his responses.
Richard Atkins, of South Norwood, asked: "What would you do to continue Malcolm Wicks' legacy?"
Stephen Hammond said: "Malcolm Wicks clearly was a much loved and respected MP and dedicated himself the Croydon North Constituency. In terms of legacy it is well known about his accepted contribution to the advancement of social and welfare reform. I believe that everyone has a part to play in ensuring the rights of the under privileged and disabled are fully respected and upheld at all levels. This is something Jesus would do. I would aim to equally see to it that residents' views and concerns locally are heard and acted upon at Parliament if I were elected. Malcolm Wicks' achievement in getting his Private Members' Bill to be adopted by the Conservatives into legislation regarding the Carer Act 1995, and also his commitment for both higher education and also lifelong learning skills, are also things I can directly relate to, not only because I work in health care myself, but also because I teach vocational lifelong learning skills qualifications as well."
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Eileen Gale, of Thornton Heath, and a number of other people asked: "What are your views on the proposed incinerator on the Croydon/Sutton border?"
SH: "Incinerators are very controversial by their very nature, not only because of charges of unsustainability but also because of the CO2 emissions they release into the atmosphere. With brown fill sites already getting filled up the options to tackle this with such a fast growing population do seem quite limited despite the best efforts in the area of recycling. The development of new technology for modern incineration does need to be encouraged to make them more efficient in terms of the environment as well as energy efficiency. However, whilst we may not be able to avoid them entirely, it is right that local authorities should not only take special care where they allow them to be built but are sensitive to the needs of residents to ensure the risk to human health is avoided at all costs. It is right that we should be called to account to be wise stewards of God's earth."
Steve Turner, of South Norwood, and Ryan Earle, from Thornton Heath, both asked: "What actions would you take to address high youth unemployment in Croydon North?"
SH: "High youth unemployment is a well known problem in Croydon North. As a practising Apprenticeship NVQ Assessor, I can tell you that many young people see these apprenticeships as irritating, but often it may be the only way for them to get real work experience. Employers love prospective employees who have got previous work experience, and that is the reality. However, there are a great many small businesses that do not realise the tax saving advantages to having apprentices work for them, which is a shame. Also, not all Apprenticeships are dreadful wage payers. So young people really need to be encouraged to hunt around for the best ones on offer."
Jonathan Cope, from South Norwood, asked: "What approach would you take to reducing crime in Croydon North?
SH: "I would like to see a strategy being developed by the churches in Croydon North where they can employ an army of youth workers to go into the communities and really get involved with dealing with youth problems and also to facilitate the healing of many broken families and homes in the area, as well as the cycle of gang culture ended. This I firmly believe is a very sound solution and I am already working with one of the church leaders in the area to see how exactly that can be implemented."
Liam Fretwell, from South Norwood, asked: "What have you done, prior to this election, to help Croydon North and the people who live there?"
SH: "Well, I am relatively new to the area. The healthcare company I work for is based in Croydon, and I already do voluntary work for a youth charity in Croydon. I will shortly be moving into to the Croydon North area regardless of the outcome of this election. So do watch this space."
Carole Horstead, of South Norwood, asked: "What will you do to address the shortage of school places in the north of the borough?
SH: "This is a big issue that all London boroughs are having to deal with, and is as a direct result of a baby boom. Communities such as local groups and churches in Croydon may need take this on board to start new schools with the assistance of local and national funding and business partnerships. There are churches in Croydon North such as Divine Sanctuary under the leadership of Pastor Mary McCauley who are already advancing work with the challenges of overcoming child exclusion for a number of years now. I know that she is expanding her work all the time, and the local community need to back such schemes including starting new church schools to contribute to substantially resolving this issue. Schools began with churches, and that is who we have to look to again assisted with government funding."
A number of audience members asked: "If you had control of the £23 million pledged to Croydon following last summer's riots, how would you spend the money?"
SH: "I guess there should be no surprise that Croydon North has been overlooked. This is ironic when the vast majority of the poverty, social inequalities and teenage pregnancies in the borough is in the North of it. Whilst most of the employment for the borough is concentrated centrally it is not unreasonable to seek that at least 25% of it should have been ear marked for improving Croydon North to aid employment prospects and business start ups for young people in the area. I believe this is the right and just thing to do.
Vipul Dudhaiy, of Norbury, asked: "What would you do to improve Croydon's negative image problem?"
SH: "I would encourage the Croydon Half Marathon to be moved to a more central and north location. At the moment running around residential areas surrounding Lloyd and Shirley parks is not exactly 'high profile' and is just going to be off the radar of media that matter in London. Rethink the parking charges to make it more attractive for families outside the borough to visit for shopping, dining and leisure facilities. I would strongly advocate the creation of a university. Not much point in talking about turning Croydon into a city without one."
Anne Viney, of Norbury, asked: "If elected, what would you do to ensure young people growing up had a decent chance of owning a home in the area?"
SH: "There is no getting away from the fact that Croydon is an expensive place to live. At the moment the policy of the council is to negotiate for up to 50% of new development in favour of affordable housing when the development is sufficiently big enough to support it. In the interim, the shared ownership scheme offers potentially only a limited route for young people to buy their first home together, and therefore should be promoted much more. Jesus came for the poor and homeless, and it is right that we should come up with radical solutions to difficult problems. That is what Jesus did to turn water into wine and also to feed the five thousand. Therefore, affordable housing in terms of provision for homeless families could potentially be immediately realised by converting the huge amount of unused office space in Croydon into homes right now."