During the EU referendum I was the Vote Leave Lead for my home town of Croydon. This was a great privileged to lead the fight to leave the EU in my town and put the case why this part of South London would be better off with a freer Britain. As part of this I wrote in a local paper “The Croydon Citizen” about what I hoped Brexit or ‘Crexit’ (Croydon’s exit) would mean for the borough.
Now we are almost a year on from the original article and eight months from the referendum I thought it would be useful to take a look how things are shaping up against what we said. How the referendum result is starting to change Croydon, how it will change many towns and districts across the country and how it will affect people entering the post Brexit job market.
The London Borough of Croydon is the largest London borough by population and its southernmost borough. It is a leading business and financial center. Across the many districts of the town live over 360,000 people with approximately one third born outside the UK.
Croydon as a borough voted to remain in the EU by 54.3% to 45.7%. However this masks great differences between parts of the town with 4 council wards voting over 60% Remain and 2 over 60% Leave. Two of the three parliamentary seats voted Remain and one Leave.
The article focused on two problems with our membership of the EU, restrictions on trade and mass uncontrolled immigration.
On trade the Governments White Paper has made it clear we will be leaving the Customs Union. Many countries are lining up the sign new trade deals with us once we leave. Of the 100 fastest growing economies in the world in 2014, only four, including the UK were in the EU, with none in the top 75. We can are now agree new trade deals with countries with the fastest growing economies on earth. Whilst new trade deals can’t come into effect until we have left the EU and its Customs Union, we can start negotiating them now.
The Customs Union tariffs on agricultural products average 18% and all EU tariffs greater than 100% relate to agricultural products. Food prices matter most to the poorest in our society as food costs make a greater percentage of people’s income the lower that income is. Croydon has some of the most affluent districts in the country, with Purley being ranked the richest in Britain in 2002. Croydon also has 22% of its workers classified as low paid and a 30% child poverty rate.
The opportunity to make new trade deals and lower the tariff on food stuffs will help the poorest in Croydon. It can also help the poorest across the globe, developing nations will benefit most from being able to export food to the UK at low tariff rates. Croydon with an ethnically diverse population will be in a great position to export to these growing markets keen to spend the Sterling they have earnt exporting to us.
On immigration I wrote that I believed if we controlled flow of immigrants into the country we could bring house prices under control, get school focused back on education rather than constant expansion and help build more community cohesion across Croydon.
The UK Net Migration figures show 323,000 additional people in the past year or a number almost the size of the borough of Croydon. The average house price in Croydon to the end of 2015 had risen by 14% or over £45,000. That price rise of almost twice the average graduate salary of £23,000, this is the one year rise not coming close to price of an average property in Croydon of over £329,000.
Prices are still rising too fast at 10% in the past year however signs of improvement are coming. The government is committed to controlling immigration as part of leaving the EU. One clear message of the referendum is the country wants to take control of and ultimately reduce immigration. Why are these things linked? The price of houses like anything is a measure of supply verses demand.
Increasing population will only drive up prices unless we can also increase supply. Croydon’s town hall has been inundated with protests over plans to build around 10,000 houses over 5 years. As a country we need to build many millions of houses to begin seeing house prices move back to affordable levels. New houses are not popular, our cities are losing their green space and our island feels increasingly crowded. If we keep increasing the number of people coming in these problems will only get worse.
I have been a school governor in Croydon for over 10 years in recent years primary schools in Croydon have had to expand into temporary sites at short notice. This is due to unexpectedly high demand for school places. The next few years will see considerable expansion of secondary schools in the borough. All these changes take away focus from the quality of education and the unplanned (or uncontrolled) nature of the change has really impacted the quality of classrooms being used for teaching. In addition to this schools have taken on an increasing number of English as an additional language (EAD) students. This adds further strain to classes which is now often over 30 pupils in size.
In recent years parents have found they can’t get their children into the local school. New schools are being built on every spare piece of land not already being used for new houses and homes are increasingly unaffordable. All of this leads to an increased feeling people can’t get on in life and a further divided community. Growing up in the 80s Croydon had a more affluent south and less affluent north but the difference wasn’t that great. Many families lived across different parts of the borough, this is less and less common with clear dividing lines in the town. One measure of this was the political map that once saw mixed votes for parties across different parts of the town. Now we see an increasingly divided town with a Labour half and a Conservative half (by way of declaration I’m campaigning for UKIP to break that duopoly).
Controlling immigration allows for better integration of the communities already in the country. Certainty of homes and schools will help communities settle and reduce the difference between different parts of the town. This will also increase the prospects for the students of today getting onto the housing ladder and ultimately picking the towns they want to build a life in.
We haven’t yet invoked Article 50 at that point we will be two years away from leaving the EU. Once we leave we literally open up a world of possibilities for trade. Trade which we can benefit from and the developing nations of the world can benefit from. By controlling demand we can slowly bring back sense to the housing market and plan our schools and other public services. I firmly believe Croydon has a great future ahead of it as one of many thriving towns across Britain.
About Michael Swadling:
Michael works in the IT Industry for and has lived in Croydon all his life. He has been a Governor in local schools for over 10 years. During the Referendum he was the Croydon Area Manager for Grassroots Out, Leave.EU and Vote Leave. A member of UKIP campaigning for us to leave the European Union.
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Lead photo source/ credit: Ross Burgess
What Does Brexit Mean for a Town Like Croydon? | Michael Swadling Reviewed by Student Voices on 00:27 Rating: