Croydon North election candidates go head to head over jobs and crime
THE Conservative candidate for Croydon North has said the public would be better off reporting crime to police based in shops or libraries than at a new station in London Road.
Opening a police base in Broad Green was one of the key recommendations of the independent public inquiry set up following last summer's riots, but Andy Stranack believes it would have little impact on crime in the area.
He said: "The danger of this debate is that we start saying that if we have a police building in London Road it's going to solve the problems.
"My true feeling is it would be better to have police desks in WH Smiths, a library or a sports centre than building another (station)."
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Mr Stranack, who will have to overturn a strong Labour majority if he is to be elected next Thursday, appears to be on the opposite page to his campaign manager Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell.
Expanding on an answer given by Mayor of London Boris Johnson during a visit to London Road on Tuesday, Mr Barwell said a police station or office in London Road is a "priority".
He said: "Your office has been really good on this Mr Mayor because they contacted me last week as the local MP to talk about where the front counter service should be in Croydon Central and I made the point to them that as soon as this by-election is over they should speak to whoever the Croydon North MP and clearly having (a police base) on London Road I would have thought is a priority."
In February, the Local Independent Review Panel, tasked with exploring what could be done to prevent the riots from reoccurring, recommended an increase in "visible policing" in West Croydon and New Addington "by opening full-time stations in these areas".
In an in-depth interview with the Advertiser Mr Stranack, 42, said that even if the police budget wasn't being cut the money would be better off invested in front-line officers.
He said: "Generally the public don't go into police stations that much. It's not about the bricks and mortar it's about how we're using our police services.
"A visible police presence in places where people actually go is more of a deterrent – more of a comfort to residents – than expensive building that no one ever goes to."
Mr Stranack's stance mirrors that of the Met which said earlier this month that contact points in supermarkets or libraries could replace South Norwood police station.
The building, in Oliver Grove, is one of five stations across London that has been given approval for closure, leading to criticism from Labour councillors.
When asked whether he would back a campaign to save the station Mr Stranack replied: "It's not the key campaigning issue. I would say no. I don't think I could be convinced."
The charity worker, who in 2001 gave up his £30,000 a year job and sold his house to learn about the causes of poverty by moving onto the Monks Hill estate, also appeared to contradict the party line on plans for an incinerator on the Croydon/Sutton border.
The controversial proposals have the backing of Conservative controlled Croydon Council but Mr Stranack, wants a public meeting on the matter.
He said: "We have a landfill problem. Recycling is part of the solution, and it's great that rates are going up, but we are still going to have to find other measures.
"My position on the incinerator is that as long as people can convince me its safe then I will back it. But I'm not convinced.
"The two key issues are traffic flow and air safety. Those are the two things I need to be convinced about before I could say it's something I could buy into."
Labour's Steve Reed has urged voters to elect him on his record of creating jobs – in the week his borough of Lambeth was found to have the highest unemployment in London.
Throughout his campaign the Lambeth Council leader has pitched himself as Croydon North’s 'jobs champion'.
He has savaged the Tory-run council for high level of youth unemployment in Croydon North and believes his record shows he is the candidate to get the constituency working again.
"I think people will expect their MP to take action on jobs," he told the Advertiser, adding: "I have a track record of creating jobs and I want to be measured on that."
But the credibility of these claims have been called into question after official figures revealed that Lambeth is now top of the London unemployment table.
There are 11,830 people on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in Lambeth. That equates to 5.6 per cent of the population, above Croydon (4.5 per cent) and the London average (4.2 per cent).
When the Advertiser highlighted these figures Mr Reed, who had not seen the data, said: "Lambeth is heavily deprived but the point is we’re creating jobs to help solve the problem.
"If Lambeth wasn’t doing that, (unemployment) would be even higher. Without a Labour government there’s a limit to what we can do."
Mr Reed, who has been Lambeth council leader since 2006, pointed to his role as chair of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea regeneration project which, if completed, would create up to 25,000 jobs. Work has begun on Streatham Leisure Centre with a further 600 jobs, he added.
The particular issue of youth unemployment is the centrepiece of the Labour campaign and, in that area, the figures add up.
There are currently 1,220 people aged between 16 and 24 on JSA in Croydon North, more than in neighbouring constituencies. In Streatham, where Mr Reed lives, there are 730.
Although the number of young people on JSA in Croydon North dropped 6.9 per cent in the last month, there is still a lot of work to do.
"Given this area has higher levels of youth unemployment than other areas, people want to see more opportunities to get back to work," said Mr Reed.
"Young people feel that without hope of a job their futures look quite frightening."
If elected, the Brixton Hill councillor says he would organise a jobs summit, held early in the New Year.
"It will involve talking to partners, potential employers, skills providers and Croydon College about how we can all come together, first to understand why its worse than in surrounding areas and secondly what we can do about it," explained Mr Reed.
"I can use my experience I have had with the giant Vauxhall Nine Elms project which is creating thousands of new jobs through partnership working.
"If we can do it a couple of miles down the road, why can’t we do it here?
"It’s going to take someone to stand up and pull those parts together.
"The Tory council isn’t doing it so I intend to do it.
"I expect the summit to create jobs and yes I want to be measured on that."
The Croydon North by-election candidates:
Monster Raving Loony Party: John Cartwright
National Front: Richard Edmonds
Christian Peoples: Stephen Hammond
Respect: Lee Jasper
Green: Shasha Khan
9/11 Was An Inside Job: Simon Lane
UKIP: Winston McKenzie
Liberal Democrat: Marisha Ray
Labour: Steve Reed
Young People’s Party: Robin Smith
Communist: Ben Stevenson
Conservative: Andrew Stranack