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'We're not communists, we just want a variety of shops in West Croydon'

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LABOUR councillors have denied they are trying to create a communist regime in West Croydon by dictating which businesses should open in the area.

The attack was launched by Councillor Vidhi Mohan, cabinet member for communities and economic development, as the cabinet approved a £1.5 million, three-year investment programme for West Croydon on Monday.

The clash came after Labour councillor Stuart Collins complained that, since the riots, London Road was becoming a haven for betting and pawn shops.

He said the council should be looking at being more proactive in suggesting what types of businesses should be opening, to ensure there was a proper mix in West Croydon.

Cllr Mohan said: "This is not a communist system where we say what sort of shops should be there. It is up to market forces to decide."

But Labour councillor Toni Letts told the meeting: "I would like to think we would want to be a progressive authority and want to encourage a variety of businesses in the area, rather than every other business being a greengrocer or pawn shop.

"That is a not a communist idea, it is economic sense."

Cllr Mohan was equally dismissive of a challenge made by Labour member Louisa Woodley about £174,000 being spent over three years on new initiatives, including the employment of a West Croydon safer, cleaner co-ordinator.

She said: "A total of 87 businesses in London Road were affected by the riots and I think it would be better if more of the money was spent on helping them."

Cllr Mohan defended the new post, claiming that other money was being directed at helping riot-hit businesses and that the co-ordinator's financial package would play a key role in reducing crime and making West Croydon cleaner and safer.

The £174,000, when broken down, includes up to £88,000 for the co-ordinator post, £50,000 for supporting victims of business crime, and £21,000 for helping businesses join the Croydon Safer Radio scheme.

The scheme provides businesses with a radio handset which they can use to report incidents directly to the council's 24-hour CCTV control room.

Of the investment package approved on Monday, about £1.4 million will come from the Greater London Authority as part of post-riots investment fund, with a further £179,000 coming from Croydon Council's match-funding.

In addition to the co-ordinator role, about £550,000 will go into job creation and £280,000 into helping develop new businesses.


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