The Labor candidate for mayor of Croydon said she was embarrassed by the council’s bankruptcy under the watch of her own party. In May, the borough will choose its first directly elected mayor in the 2022 local elections, changing the way the authority is governed.
Running for the new post is Val Shawcross, a former councilor and leader of Croydon Council in the 90s. The 63-year-old retired from politics in 2018 and chaired the Crystal Palace Park Trust during of the referendum on its future.
Speaking from her campaign office in the iconic Number One Croydon building, also known as the 50p building, she said: ‘I actually thought I could help with this, it’s my borough. I could see my local party was struggling with this, they were campaigning against the elected mayor and I voted against it. It was clear that Croydon had been mismanaged, it needed to be shaken up, it was a system that was going to make a difference.
READ MORE:When are the elections in London and how do I register to vote?
On the doorstep, Shawcross says she met many locals upset by what happened in Croydon. In November 2020, the board was forced to issue a Section 114 notice, declaring the bankruptcy effective as it could not balance its budget. Since then there have been cuts to services, including libraries, and exposed to council-owned accommodation.
Shawcross said: “There are doors, especially where there have been Labor voters, who are really upset about the state of the city and what has happened to the council. I absolutely share their pain, and I am embarrassed.
“I’m going to make a difference if I get in, I’ve been in enough organizations to know how to be successful. I think people understand that I come in as an outside insider so to speak. Going back to what was my first political work, I can make a difference.
Shawcross, who lives in Crown Point with her husband Mick, entered politics as a councilor for New Addington in 1994. She was leader of Croydon Council in 1997 for three years before becoming a member of the London Assembly for Lambeth and Southwark for 16 years and was Deputy Mayor of London for Transport under Sadiq Khan. Shawcross said she wanted “to get rid of a growing divide between north and south” in the borough. She added: ‘one of the themes of my campaign is a Croydon together, it’s artificial administrative borders.’
About Purley Pool, which closed at the start of the pandemic and never reopened, she is clear, she thinks everything needs to be rebuilt. This differs from his main opponent, Jason Perry, the Conservative candidate, who said he would redevelop and reopen the existing swimming pool. The contestant said she thought the municipal development company Brick by Brick was a good idea but “clearly mismanaged”. And the candidate said she generally wants to see less emphasis on building apartments in the borough.
She said: “There is too much emphasis on providing apartments that don’t create a settled community. It’s quite ephemeral in the city center. I think the balance of interests should be to get houses where people have a little garden and certainly more affordable houses, not condominiums but social rental.
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She said she wanted to ‘relieve pressure on stepping up’ in the Croydon plan. She said: ‘There’s a lot of bad feeling about it, people think the council will try to cram an apartment block into any space. I think it’s normal for a suburb to be a suburb.
Downtown and stalled in the redevelopment of the Whitgift Center by shopping center giant Westfield, Shawcross said she wanted more support for existing shopkeepers. She said: “The Westfield project has overstayed its welcome, retail can no longer fund a project like this. It’s up to the developer to come up with a new plan. We need a mixed-use project: it must be a mix between offices, housing, leisure, culture, arts, commerce and entertainment. These big malls are very rigid, we have to go back to something more like streets. »
And she said the city center needed “short-term revitalization” while a long-term plan was drawn up. She says: “[Shop owners] need longer leases to function well. We need activation in the city center.
The Labor candidate was keen not to be linked to the Labor Council administration which drove Croydon into bankruptcy. She said, “I wasn’t on the council. I was not part of any sector involved in consulting. Many local Labor members were shocked and had no idea when Section 114 arrived. Many backbenchers felt helpless. I want to make sure people really have a say.