The world's attention is on London at the moment, as it was a year ago but for very different reasons. But how much has really changed since the riots that disfigured my town and other parts of the capital last August?
Croydon quickly re-opened for business. But replacing the buildings that were lost, dealing with the underlying problems and repairing the damage to the town's reputation was always going to take time.
On the economic front, we were given £23 million by the Government and the Mayor of London, which Croydon Council is using to attract new businesses to the town centre and improve the public realm. An important infrastructure project - a second entrance to East Croydon station - is now underway a progressing quickly. The Old Town and Surrey Street Market area is benefiting from a Government pilot project run with Mary Portas to work with local volunteers and businesses to turn around struggling high streets. And despite the difficult international economic climate, unemployment is falling. All signs that we are heading in the right direction.
As well as this, there's the prospect of yet more good news - two of the world's biggest retail developers, Westfield and Hammerson's, are vying to invest £1 billion to redevelop the Whitgift Shopping Centre, right in the centre of our town, demonstrating renewed confidence in the future potential of Croydon.
Underlying social problems - family breakdown, poor parenting, gang culture - are tougher to deal with but the Government, the Mayor, the Metropolitan Polce and the Council are all giving increased attention to these issues. And crucially there is much greater recognition in Whitehall and at City Hall that outer London boroughs like Croydon are not affluent suburbs and need to be handled differently, something that I've been lobbying for some time about.
But if more remains to be done on these fronts, we have undoubtedly become a stronger community. Perversely the riots reminded many people that, for all its faults, Croydon is their home and they care for it. As a local MP, I have seen a huge upsurge in people wanting to do something to help turn things around. And that, more than anything, gives me hope for the future.
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