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Does class matter in Croydon?

THE boss of one of Croydon's largest employers sparked debate last week when he said his business may leave the borough due to a lack of middle class recruits. Sarah May Hayes asks if class matters in today's Croydon... CROYDON MP Gavin Barwell has claimed more affluent people are needed in the borough – just a week after a private employer bemoaned the lack of available middle-class recruits locally.

Last week Mike Webb, chairman of Allianz Global Assistance, told the Develop Croydon conference that he may be forced to leave the borough as the pool of middle-class people traditionally recruited to its business was drying up.

Following the Advertiser's report, a debate has raged on our website, with many residents and business owners putting their views forward about class and what role it still plays in 21st century Croydon.

Mr Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, said this week that although class should not matter, providing workers have the relevant skills, more affluent people are needed in Croydon.

He said: "My own view is that it's not really an issue of class.

"There are two main issues: one is we have to make sure we have highly skilled people; that clearly is important.

"The second thing is that over the last 20 to 30 years Croydon has gone into economic decline, so we have more deprivation.

"We have to reverse that deprivation by bringing more affluent people to live here. However, I don't think it's about class background.

"If someone is from a working class background and they have the skills then great, but we do need to bring more affluent people to the borough."

One resident told the Advertiser that he feels class is now a redundant idea.

Mechanic Richard Hough, who runs Autoclutch next to Norwood Junction station said: "What is class? I don't understand it.

"I would describe myself as working class because I do a manual job, but then what about political parties?

"Should I vote Labour just because I am working class? Because I don't, I vote Conservative.

"JK Rowling is one of the richest women in the world but she is a strong Labour supporter – should that change just because she's rich now? It is all ridiculous. I think it is a complete cop-out and what Mr Webb said is ridiculous.

"Immigrants come here and often have very professional jobs like doctors, but are they seen as a lower class? I just don't understand it.

"I think it is pathetic and an absolute insult. I would employ someone who lived in a tower block or who lived in a big house in Purley, as long as they had the skills."

Croydon resident Mawusi Akpala, 33, believes that if you get up and go to work every morning, you are, by definition, part of the working class.

She said: "I think the middle classes and the working classes are starting to merge.

"It's very easy to be one or the other nowadays.

"Working class used to be something to be proud of but now people seem to think it sounds better if they are middle class.

"Really, if you get up and go to work every day and earn money then you're the same as everyone else."

Her friend Carol Yard, 45, agreed. She said: "I think this class thing is just a way to divide us. These so-called middle class people have bought into the idea that they are somehow better but really we are all the same.

"They are still working and we shouldn't be ashamed to stand up and say we are working class."

But pensioner Anne Giles, from Selsdon, believes that the class structure is still alive and well.

She said: "Your class all depends on your profession.

"I agree with what Mr Webb has said in a way because he is not looking for someone who is working class, for example a builder, he is looking for a professional, someone who has a degree, who would be more middle class.

"If that is what he wants then he has every right to ask for that.

"However, I do think that it would be very wrong if he just didn't want to hire a working class person based on their class – as long as they have the relevant skills they should be hired."

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