We need investment in the right places and for the right reasons, says Alvin Carpio
Voltaire once said, “When it is a question of money, everybody is of the
same religion." I’m not so sure about that. Tottenham has received a wave of
investment into its local economy. However, money alone cannot solve the area’s
problems and unless they are dealt with head on we run the risk of more civil
Shortly after the riots ended, Sir
William Castell’s business coalition set up a £1m High Street Fund to support
Tottenham's local business community. The Department for Communities and Local
Government (DCLG) has awarded grants to 150 businesses totalling £365,000 and
more than £1m of rate relief has been awarded to date. Tottenham Hotspur FC has
made a decision to remain in the area. The GLA has promised to turn a building
damaged in an arson attack last year into a £3m enterprise hub. Tottenham’s
local business community have received support by various government bodies.
Don’t get me wrong. All of this is
needed and welcome. In fact, we need more! It’s fantastic that Tottenham looks
better, has recovered somewhat, and that its local economy is undergoing a
mini-revival. Most of the roads and shops once ruined have now been fixed. We
need those jobs that the investment is creating and we need more. But all that
glitters is not gold.
There are the issues surrounding the
overall investment itself. Haringey Council have put together a budget for
youth provision this summer. This is a temporary measure, but I hope it will be
expanded. The council have committed to fund a new employment and skills
programme worth £4.5m which is good. On top of that, their £1.5m One Borough
One Fund is great in principle: it’s an opportunity for people to come up with
innovative solutions to some of the problems. But the 80% cut to youth services
is still on the minds of young people. Hundreds of businesses’ riots damages
claims are yet to be settled. Unemployment levels are still too high. It’s a
The riots have spurred new investment
into the local community. But we have got to make sure that this isn’t a
short-term fix to a long-term problem. Tottenham has now got two riots
bookending a generation and the socio-economic harm caused by these events will
not be healed quickly. The fact that another riot has happened again 20 years
after the Broadwater Farm Riots must serve as a pertinent reminder of the
problems with short-term thinking.
Money can’t fix everything: it can’t
pay people to forget the fact that Mark Duggan’s death has not been properly
investigated. It cannot buy a change in law to allow the coroner to interview
police officers about what happened minutes before the shooting. It can’t buy
the justice that so many people seek. In the immediate aftermath of the riots,
David Lammy MP warned us of the similarities with the Broadwater Farm Riot. The
Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had to prove its worth. So far,
it hasn't proved to be totally effective.
What money can do, though, is provide
opportunities. We could, for example, have big businesses in Tottenham
guarantee jobs for local people. Those who have got Olympic jobs could be
helped in the post-Olympic transition to long-term jobs. We could maintain the
number of police officers in the area, instead of having to cut them. We do
need investment: in the right places and for the right reasons.
While the investment is a step in the right direction we must not forget
what matters most. The Broadwater Farm Riots taught us that no amount of
investment could buy people. In the aftermath, the council invested in the
estate that improved the area. But you can’t pay away anger and resentment. One
year on from the riots, let’s not make the mistake of forgetting. We’ve got no
excuses. Beneath all the pound signs lies a sometimes silent frustration that
only needs another spark.
Find out more about ResPublica/ NCVYS Commission on Youth here.