Croydon will have to invest more in the community if it wants to avoid future riots, said councillors on Wednesday.
At a panel hearing into the summer’s disturbances, Labour councillors Tony Newman of Woodside Ward and Mike Selva of Broad Green said that for Croydon to prevent a repeat of August’s scenes of violence and destruction there will have to be increased funding in community projects.
Selva’s ward was one of the areas in the country worst-hit by riots, with the arson attack that reduced 144 year-old Reeves furniture store to cinders capturing national headlines.
Highlighting a lack of funding for community projects, he urged for ‘more help for voluntary organisations’:
“It’s very urgent to bring all communities in Croydon together and projects that enable this must be supported. These initiatives are essential to prevent communities from living separately, which leads to discontent in an area.
“At present there is not enough money put into the borough’s voluntary sector to allow them to make significant changes.”
During the hearing, held at Croydon Town Hall, Newman echoed this sentiment: “The people who were in any way affected need to know that efforts are being made to help.
“In terms of physical damage Croydon was the borough worst hit by the riots. However, in addition to mending the damage money should also be carefully spent on supporting the community. Politicians and voluntary services should start working together to promote this.”
When asked by William Barnett QC, who is chairing the panel, how the Croydon community has reacted to the August outbreaks, Newman said that while there is still ‘a strong fear’ in Croydon many people have been brought together through sharing their experiences on the riots.
He said: “Communities are now actively engaged to prevent further trouble and we need to encourage this by offering support.”
But from the shadows cast by the riots positive emerged positive news.
The meeting heard from Michael Brown, director of Croydon youth organisation Elevating Success, which has recently started a drama group for young people in the area.
He said: “We have young people from very different backgrounds joining us. These things are important as they encourage children to get on with one another and it is essential they know people are making an effort to support them.”
The panel has been set up to look into the causes of the August riots and is currently hearing local people and representatives of local and regional agencies give their views about what happened and why.
The next panel meeting is scheduled for Saturday 12 November at St Giles School, Pampisford Road, South Croydon.