Steve’s first year as Croydon North MP- his Croydon Advertiser interview.

 In Croydon, Speeches
This article was first published in The Croydon Advertiser on 29th November 2013. The questions were asked by reporter Gareth Davies and are underlined. You can see the original interview here.
In your maiden speech in the House of Commons you made a point of speaking up for those abandoned after the riots. How much progress have you made with their cause?

“They definitely feel I have strongly championed their cause. I have written on their behalf to Prince Charles and the Prime Minister, I’ve taken them to meet Ed Miliband and held an adjournment debate in Parliament where the minister responsible for riot compensation had to come and account for himself. I have stood foursquare beside them to fight for what they deserve.

“What has been frustrating is that despite promise after promise, nothing has come through to give them what they are due, but we haven’t given up.”

Is your support for those families the aspect of your work you are most proud of during your first year as an MP?

“It’s one of them, but I’m not going to pick that yet because we haven’t won.

“I’m particularly proud of the case of Olesni Lewis [23-year-old who died after being restrained by the police].

“I engaged with the family, I raised their case in a debate and I had private meetings with the minister. Eventually we got the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to reopen their investigation so there can be a proper understanding of what went wrong.

“The other thing I am proud of is the big issue about the state of the streets in Croydon North. People are really upset. It’s their top issue. I couldn’t get the council to listen so I set up an independent commission which is compiling its own report into what the scale of the problem is and what’s causing it.”

The big news this week is the approval of Westfield and Hammerson’s plan for the town centre. Will Croydon North benefit from the deal?

“I think it’s incredible news for Croydon as a whole, which has been in relative decline compared to other parts of London. Croydon needs to strengthen its offer and Westfield/Hammerson is going to make that happen.

“The key is we don’t want to just regenerate the town centre and leave the districts in other areas in the condition they are in now. It must make a difference to the likes of Selhurst, Thornton Heath and Norbury, where residents want to develop a stronger – and unique – shopping and cultural offer.

“As the plan stands now I’m not confident that will happen, but there seems to be a willingness to engage on all sides.

“The proposals for the regeneration of Crystal Palace Park will affect our borough as well. If we could revive the idea of the tram extension up to Crystal Palace I think that would help to pull regeneration out of the town centre and towards the outer districts.”

Is there anything you have done over the last 12 months you would have done differently?

“What would I have done differently? It’s difficult to say after only 12 months.”

Well, what have you learned over the last year?

“The job is very different than being a council leader, where I was running an organisation with a budget just shy of £1bn. If I wanted something done I could just command certain bits of it and it would happen.

“But, If you are an MP you don’t control anything. I have influence and I’ve been learning to use it to get the results the people in Croydon North want to see. Now I’m running campaigns to persuade people who are in control of the resources or the decisions to do the things that my constituents want.”

With that in mind does it frustrate you that your campaign to protect Croydon North’s police stations has failed?

“The way campaigning works is that you rarely get everything you want. I don’t think it’s a done deal yet, but I’m very disappointed that Croydon North lost all of its police stations* and in the borough as a whole we only have one 24-hour station remaining.

“I was also disappointed that the council would not support the campaign. There’s an issue where they should be standing up for Croydon rather than just going along with the Mayor of London because he’s a Conservative, which is not my experience of what happens elsewhere.”

During the by-election you said you wanted to be Croydon North’s ‘jobs champion’. Do you think you have done enough on that issue?

“Setting up a jobs fair was part of that, but I’ve also raised the issue of youth unemployment on many, many platforms both in Parliament, in the borough, speaking to the police and with Westfield and Hammerson. I think I have gone some way to getting noise about that.”

Do you know how many young people got a job as a result of the jobs fair you held in June?

“I don’t know exactly how many, but I do know that people did get jobs and training opportunities because they told me about it. What I haven’t done is do a comprehensive survey and I’m not sure they would all reply in any case, because people don’t always, do they?

“There were three things about it. The event itself gave practical help to people there and then. Secondly, holding an event flagged up the need to focus more on jobs in Croydon North.

“The third bit is I talked about launching a project to engage the community in helping the long term unemployed. I’ve been talking to a think tank and a number of third sector organisations about putting that project together in the New Year.

“So a year in, there’s progress, but a job done? Absolutely not.”

In October you were promoted to Shadow Home Office Minister. Do you have ambitions to go further?

“I’ve been quite lucky to be promoted within a year of being elected. It’s a real opportunity and it will be good for Croydon. People are concerned about antisocial behaviour and crime in the constituency so there’s a good think there.

“I can never say that I’m aiming to go higher because it’s not in my hands. You would need to ask Ed Miliband about that. It depends what’s offered.”

What would you like to have achieved in a year’s time?

“Can I have two? I would like the state of our streets to be visibly cleaner. It will be such a big issue during the council elections that the two parties will have no option but to clean up the streets.

“The second one is that I want my project on employment to get going. What’s different about this is it is trying to engage the community itself – such as the churches, the mosques and other organisations – to channel support to the people they have access to who are looking for work or long term unemployed.

“I think if you can do that through the community you have a really good and innovative way to get support to people who need it.”