I was pleased to welcome Shaun Bailey, running to be the next Mayor of London, to Croydon today.
He spent the whole day touring the borough, really getting to see what we have to offer and learning about how he might be able to work with us to boost our town's prospects.
We first went to Cressey College, a multi-site special school for students (5-19) with social, emotional and attachment difficulties, with additional complex needs and/or particularly challenging behaviour. With Shaun's background in social care, he was able to get under the skin of the issues facing the school and the children that it looks after. A valuable meeting that reinforced Shaun's commitment to helping disadvantaged kids, often from difficult backgrounds like his, to get on in life.
I then took Shaun for a walk around Croydon Town Centre, discussing the review of the Westfield/Hammerson development that's currently going on. With the project paused, residents are rightly nervous about what the future might hold for a scheme that is worth £1.5bn and some 5,000 local jobs. When the Conservatives ran Croydonm Council, held the Parliamentary seat of Croydon Central and managed City Hall the plans for Croydon were going ahead. Now they've ground to a halt, with Labour running Croydon, Croydon Central and the Mayoralty. I wonder if there's a correlation?
We stopped off at Zabardast Wraps in Centrale to meet local entrepreneur Neelofar Khan. We spoke about the business pressures facing our SMEs, the changing pattern of consumer behaviour on the High Street and what the Mayor could be doing to leverage more advatages for district centres that are looking for small but immensley potent offers of help. I know Shaun will be looking to do more work on boosting support for business in our capital, and meeting Neelofar helped crystalise his vision.
Stopping off at White Hut Studios was the highlight of the day - meeting Silvastone and Miriam to hear about the incredible work they do reaching out and inspiring disadvantaged young people in Croydon was incredible. Shaun was inspired to create his own tune with the team, who knows if it might get some airtime in the near future...
Showing Shaun around the perenially closed Blackhorse Lane Bridge was a real eye-opener for him. Seeing the impact of the closure first-hand, and pledging his support to get it open as quickly as possible, will be a real boost to our local community. Closed since 2016, the bridge has caused endless difficulties for local business and local residents trying to go about their daily lives. Delay after delay means this burden has grown so heavy for so many. It's time Sadiq Khan used his powers as Mayor to get out bridge open - we've been waiting so long for him to act, and yet he does nothing.
Shaun finished his trip by meeting Croydon's 29 Conservative councillors. As elected representatives, we work hard deep within our wards to find the issues that matter to people in Croydon - that's vitally important to share with those seeking high office. Shaun left the meeting buoyed by our optimism for our town, and pledging to do all he can to boost our borough when he wins the Mayor of London election in May 2020.
To find out more about Shaun, visit https://www.shaunforlondon.uk/.