27/07/2013 02:00 PM
PANELLIST: Nero Ughwujabo
A BUSINESSMAN passionate about black and minority ethnic issues sought to rally people to be more vocal in bringing change when he spoke at a debate in Croydon last week.
Nero Ughwujabo, chief executive of Croydon BME Forum, was one of the panelists at the first ever Croydon Community Question Time – a joint collaboration between his organisation and The Voice, held at the Town Hall on July 17.
The panel was chaired by The Voice’s managing director George Ruddock and included Central Croydon MP Gavin Barwell, GP commissioner Dr Angelo Fernandes, Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher and borough commander, Chief Superintendent David Musker.
Its purpose was to give community members a chance to express their concerns on issues affecting the borough. Among the issues highlighted were housing shortages, youth violence, unemployment, benefit caps, education, health and regeneration. Members of the public also voiced their concern about the disproportionate levels of deprivation and unemployment between north and south Croydon.
Ughwujabo said: “If [our elected representatives and leaders] don’t hear your views, how they are going to deliver the services we actually need to build up Croydon, and make it the best borough in London and the most enterprising which is our vision?”
Barwell explained that the £27million received from the Mayor of London after the London 2011 riots would be invested into the areas that had been most affected. And Fisher, who leads the Conservative-run local authority, drew attention to the proposed £1 billion Westfield investment scheme which is expected to create 8,000 new jobs “both directly and indirectly.”
Stop and search was also high on the agenda with an ongoing consultation underway following a report on the anti-crime measure commissioned by the Home Secretary Theresa May, which reviewed the effectiveness of the police power.
Attendee Justin Baidoo, from Croydon Trade Union Council (TUC), expressed anger as he outlined his experiences with the police and the ‘violence’ he had seen take place on the streets of his hometown.
He asserted: “The [police] are here to do a job…but some officers do use excessive force.”
Musker said he recognised that ‘stop and search’ was a “source of tension”, but stressed that “my officers are not racists. Most of them are under 30, they are not from my generation, and have grown up in a multicultural society. If one of my officers were involved in a situation where I saw them to be racist, I would do everything in my power to have them disciplined and sacked.”
Other participants included Javell Nelson, a member of Croydon Youth Parliament; Karen Ruby from Job Centre Plus; and Labour councillor Tony Newham, the leader of Croydon’s opposition, who stood in for Steve Reed, the recently-elected MP for Croydon North.