A year after the riots: could money solve Tottenham’s problems?

9:54 am - July 29th 2012

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contribution by 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.

Shortly after the riots ended last year, 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 unrest.

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 (CLG) 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.

All of this is needed and welcome. In fact, we need more! And 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.

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 tough battle.

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 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.

Alvin Carpio was Organiser of the Citizens’ Inquiry into the Tottenham Riots

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Reader comments

1. the a&e charge nurse

One of the main difficulties with places like Tottenham, or at least certain parts of the ‘Nam is the intractable nature of some it’s problems, not to mention the chronic anger and frustation that inevitably goes hand with a bleak environment – in other words, I think few people hold out much hope that the sort of conditions you aspire to are likely to be delivered in the foreseeable future (although I would like to be proved wrong about this)

The nature of the recent riots and those 20 years ago demonstrate that anti-police sentiments still run deep in the ‘Nam and while it is shocking that some took it upon themselves to trash their own community we can at least be grateful that nobody had their head hacked off by a tooled up mob this time.

Personally I have strong reservations that people were burning out cars or looting shops because of concerns about Mr Duggan, or the feelings of Mr Duggans family but rather because some are so alienated they need hardly excuse at all to go on the rampage – the police are at fault in some instances (and they may well have been in the shooting of Mr Duggan) but even allowing for this they are not so rotten that they can be held accountable for the deep structural problems that have existed in some parts of Tottenham for many years.

I hear the annual wage bill for the Spurs squad is £67 million – maybe some of the players could make a good will gesture be reducing their salary from £80,000 per week to a more realistic £50k in order to divert some of the money back into the community to cover some of the youth schemes that been axed?

2. margin4error

If spurs can get its new stadium under construction that will be a big boost. It comes with a lot if money for local business, creates jobs and homes on a site that has been otherwise derelict for years, and will include fiance to upgrade local rail stations.

The club is,a,rare example of a prem team doing a lot for the local community, rather than the lip service stuff most do. Their community trust is the largest in English football (4.5mil) and unlike most sports teams, they don’t use stewarding companies. They hire their own stewards directly. So they can focus on local hiring in a way that Stamford bridge or the oval can’t. They also run the biggest education support programmes in football.

Not many poor communities have a focus point of that sort, and it has the potential to play a big big part in change.

What of Croydon where at least as much riot damage was inflicted as Tottenham and where a 26 y-o man was shot dead while he sat in his car?

Try this video clip from near West Croydon railway station to see how a young guy riding his motor scooter was mugged and robbed of his scooter – by reports, his ankle was crushed as the scooter fell over:

There was much evidence from the rioting in Croydon to show not just a disregard for business property on the part of the rioters but a complete disregard for the welfare of other, very ordinary people.

A hundred or so residents in flats were burned out of their homes, many losing all that they owned. One of the iconic images of the riots was of a young Polish woman, Monika Konczyk, leaping for her life from a first floor flat located opposite to the Reeves furniture store which had been set alight.

4. margin4error

What about croydon? What’s your point?

m4e: “What about croydon? What’s your point?”

Who was it who said that it is impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the electorate?

My points are that: (a) the social problems of Tottenham were/are not unique – rioting in other places was at least as extensive, leading to at least as much harm to people and property; (b) it’s a mistake to see the rioting as primarily inflicted on business property – many very ordinary folk were the incidental or intended victims through no fault of their own: that is apt to be brushed over.

A look at a map of London showing locations of the most intense rioting in 2011 is illuminating – ethnicity seems to have been a factor since many places – eg in west London – were not affected or hardly affected. I’ve not seen any serious analysis assessing the reasons for the spatial distribution of the rioting. If that impression is incorrect, I’d appreciate appropriate links.

Btw I live just about a couple of miles from the epicentre of the rioting in Croydon.

6. margin4error

So basically your contribution is that you feel left out because this particular article is about a different part of London to the one you live in?

I say that because this article looks at Tottenham, the place where political unrest spilled over into fill scale rioting. But it doesn’t suggest others should not write about the subsequent more criminally opportunistic rioting in the rest of the capital.

And I say it because the article doesn’t suggest that business was the only or even primary target or that people didn’t suffer.

So all that stuff seems to just be additional faff on your part to pretend to have a reason for complaining that this particular article just happens not to be about your local area

Also, hard to suggest ethnicity was a big factor. After all, the most ethnically diverse borough is Newham. It is also among the poorest places in the world. Yet it suffered no rioting. The same is true for some other very diverse places in London.

”could money solve Tottenham’s problems?”

Of course it could solve some of the problems. But there are other areas that need fixing that can’t really be fixed. And liberals and leftists won’t even acknowlege them as problems.
One being … the urban youth culture we have in England.
I’ve spent the last month in Greece (and am still there as I write this).
Greek young people are just SO different to what we have in the UK.
It’s so different that it amazes me every day.
By and large (it seems) Greek youngsters are still respectful to adult society. Even when they have their own somwhat anti-social traits like covering every bit of spare public wall space with football graffiti and liking the occasional riot with the police.
But nowhere have I seen the groups of anti-social youths that we have in England, who like to throw their weight around and intimadate everyone around them. Like you get in Tottenham and Croydon.

It comes down to a loss of adult authority.
Even in Northern Ireland I found the young people far more integrated with adult society and more respectful towards older people.
Maybe that had something to do with there being so many ”older people” you still wouldn’t want to mess with there – but every time I go home to Croydon, as soon as I come out of the railway station it’s like ”Oh – back to the urban jungle again”.

In most cultures, young people are ”forced” to be respectful of their elders and society – but in some like the UK and parts of the USA, things have moved away from that norm.

Like was seen here where some kids made the ”bus monitor” cry on an American school bus.

8. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 damon

“Of course it could solve some of the problems. But there are other areas that need fixing that can’t really be fixed. And liberals and leftists won’t even acknowlege them as problems.
One being … the urban youth culture we have in England.”

Um, I’m both a liberal and a leftists and I agree that there are problems with some youth cultures.

The problem here is that your claim is based on two sweeping statements. The obvious one that I just proved wrong by counter-example, and the subtler one of saying “urban youth culture” as if it’s all one thing. I understand it’s probably shorthand but it encourages equivocation.

Not all urban youths embody the type of culture you’re allusing to, and not all people who DO embody that culture are urban youths. I grew up in the countryside and I knew some anti-intellectual, antisocial thugs who liked to pretend to be gangsters.

“By and large (it seems) Greek youngsters are still respectful to adult society.”

By and large, UK youngster are reasonably respectful to adults. You may be right about us having more problems with delinquency than them, or this might just be down to your anecedotal experience.

“In most cultures, young people are ”forced” to be respectful of their elders and society – but in some like the UK and parts of the USA, things have moved away from that norm.”

Which is in some ways a good thing. Demanding a one-way line of respect based on age is just bigotry, after all. Sometimes adults are in the wrong.

9. Chaise Guevara

@ damon again

Noticed a potential point of confusion in my last post. When I talk about a one-way line of respect I’m not ignoring the possibility of mutual respect. I’m specifically thinking of the “adults are just better” attitude embodied in phrases like “your elders and betters”, “children should be seen and not heard”, “Mother knows best”.

Plenty of people still think like this, as can be seen every time an able-bodied adult writes to a newspaper to whinge that they had to stand up on a bus because teenagers weren’t “respectful” enough to give up their seat. What these people seen as a Decline In Morality Among Youth Today is actually just the world calling them on their arrogant bullshit.

It’s before my time, but I’m told it used to be that any adult would feel entitled to punish any child, such as a groundskeeper giving kids a clip round the ear if he caught them scrumping (Britain before my birth was basically Just William, right?). That doesn’t happen any more, partly because we’ve gone off corporal punishment (and a stranger can’t exactly ground you or stop your pocket money), but also because we don’t see what authority the person has to issue punishment.

10. the a&e charge nurse

[7] The theme of alienated youth in other parts of Europe is addressed here (this time talking about the grim ‘burbs in Paris)
It is claimed ‘In order to placate, or at least not to inflame, disaffected youth, the ministry of the interior has instructed the police to tread softly (that is to say, virtually not at all, except by occasional raiding parties when inaction is impossible) in the more than 800 zones sensibles—sensitive areas—that surround French cities and that are known collectively as la Zone.
But human society, like nature, abhors a vacuum, and so authority of a kind, with its own set of values, occupies the space where law and order should be—the authority and brutal values of psychopathic criminals and drug dealers. The absence of a real economy and of law means, in practice, an economy and an informal legal system based on theft and drug-trafficking’.

By contrast, and returning to Tottenham the torygraph claims, ‘Police have for decades fought in vain to counter the area’s numerous postcode gangs – most notably Tottenham Mandem – whose feuding and drugs wars have resulted in scores of deaths. In the past year alone (2011) the Metropolitan Police has had to tackle 88 gun crime offences in the area – down from 141 the year before – and dealt with eight murders. The borough sees around 5,000 violent offences committed annually. While all illegal substances are readily available on Tottenham’s streets, it is the heroin trade which has put the area on Britain’s crime map with the so-called Turkish Mafia said to control around 90% of the country’s heroin market’.

If we take such reports at face value it could be argued growing forms of business activity are going on in Tottenham – but just not the sort that does much to either invigorate the local economy or reduce social tensions.

Try this BBC interview of some participants in the Croydon riots . We can gather from the interviewees that the riots were just a big laugh:

I can’t see throwing money at Tottenham or Croydon – where the rioting caused at least as much harm to people and property – is going to solve anything. Curious that there was so little rioting in Tooting where the local population is very much from ethnic minorities. I suspect schooling standards and attainment had something to do with it.

Btw the looted shops in the rioting near West Croydon railway station in the video clip @3 are mostly Asian.

12. margin4error

When did this become about throwing money? I thought it was about financing regeneration and supporting people to get new jobs and providing improved youth facilities.

While many commentators have discussed the problems with crime and policing issues in Tottenham, very little has been looked into the real cause. Haringey council’s policies have created these problems which has led to two serious riots in a generation. The area has had millions of pounds of public money spent in the name of ‘regeneration’ over the years, yet local people have not benefitted from this. Our young people are still suffering from the three-quarters cut in the youth services budget last year. Many of the area’s schools have been criticised as failing by the government that they have been forced to become academies. The council is facing an environmental meltdown over their plans to switch refuse collection schedules to fortnightly, even though the area suffers from repeated fly-tipping. Many of the area’s housing estates have been suffering from decades of non-investment. Then there is of course the ongoing problems within the child protection services. What Tottenham needs right now from the council are two things- one is strong leadership, and two is better management… however, both of those qualities have been in short supply.

14. Just Visiting


> What Tottenham needs right now ..from the council… one is strong leadership, and two is better management…

Are you thinking along the lines of Rudolph Giuliani the Mayor of New York some years ago who ‘cleaned up’ NYC with his ‘zero tolerance’ approach ?

Chaise Guevara – when I said that liberals and leftists wouldn’t even want to acknowledge some problems, I was just going on the reaction to the riots … and particularly that Guardian report called ”Reading the Riots” which was picked up enthusiastically by this website.

As I don’t think things have moved on much further than that … with many people on the left insisting that there was a political element to the riots, even if it wasn’t very well articulated …. then saying the stuff I did about the culture of the young people most involved isn’t really going to get anywhere.

But, to be honest, you learn as much about the riots from some of the film footage of rioters in Croydon, (the one where they pull the guy off the scooter) than you will from reading a Guardian report.

It’s the society that we have created that’s the problem – and it’s plain to see in that footage. London Road Croydon. Quite run down, small independent businesses owned by south Asians largely. Right next to the more up-market town centre proper of central Croydon. And all around, a free market in housing, which has bent to cater to the bottom rung of housing need. Bedsits and small flats, multiple occupancy housing, and all propped up by housing benefit, because without that the system wouldn’t work.
High rents and low wages have created a culture of welfarism …. but as soon as you mention that, you sound like Iain Duncan Smith … and the left walk off and won’t have it.

But IMO that is really the problem. To get by OK, you need to be either earning quite good money to pay your way, or you don’t try too hard and try to get most of your bills paid for you by the state.

One thing that I’m still waiting on, is a report on how the shot Tottenham man Mark Duggan had lived since he left school.
Whether he had actually worked in proper jobs significantly in his life or not.
Surely it is of some consequence … as if he rarely worked it would be a clear example of the entrenched generational poverty and social issues that governments and their agencies have such difficulty with.

We also have black political ”leadership” that is a throwback to the 1970s (Lee Jasper being one) who promote the line that society has it in for black people and won’t take their foot off the black community’s neck.
It was the ”No Justice – No Peace” march to the police station that sparked the riots in Tottenham.

The London that has been created in the last thirty years isn’t a particularly nice place. It’s divided (not rigidly of course) by class and race …. but although there aren’t walls between the communities, I can’t help seeing it’s dystopian side.

Btw … if you want to see something really far down the line towards broken, have a look around Athens. The ”third world” has come to a European city.
Every communal dustbin gets raked over several times a day by teams of garbage pickers from Africa and Bangladesh. Collecting cans, bottles, scrap metal, even cardboard – all pushing trolleys taken from supermarkets. It’s a sad sight.
Nearly as bad as the police who ”trawl” and racially profile non-Greek looking people of Asian and African origin demanding ID, and then taking them away by the bus load for further investigation of their legal status in the country if they don’t have it.
In England we would probably deny that was happening, even if it was.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 15 damon

That LC article was clearly driven by a desire to portray the rioters sympathetically. But there WAS a political element, especially where it first kicked off. It’s just that there was also a stupid greedy thug element, and by the time it had all played out the latter element seems to have been a lot bigger than the former.

Are you quite sure that lefties walk away in disgust if you say that high rent and low wages lead to welfarism? Because that sounds like the sort of thing lefties say, to be honest. Having a problem with high rent and low wages is practically what distinguishes left-liberals from libertarians.

17. margin4error


I agree with your sentiment – but there is something wrong with what you’ve said – at least to my mind.

There has been very little spent on regenerating Northumberland Park over the last 30 years. Once an industrial corner of London, much of it has become wasteland and had very little done to reverse that. Transport in the area has never been properly addressed and no alternative employment has been generated, besides some “out of town” style retail parks that don’t employ very many people at all.

Add to all of that the tendancy of the last thirty years by Haringey Council to use northumberland park as a dumping ground for immigrants and troublesom tenants – and it is hardly surprising that the place continues to have a tendancy towards extreme behaviour that, when confronted by horrendously bad policing, escalates in part for historic reasons into rioting.

Until the area ceases to be treated as a place to build yet more and more social housing into which to dump the poorest and most troublesom – and instead is given some sense of aspiration that it can become a better place – things won’t much change.

That is partly about education and youth services helping youngsters see that they can achieve better. But it is also about infrastructure. After all, if you do OK at school (not well, just OK) why the hell would you stay in Northumberland Park for the rest of your life? You leave, to be replaced by whoever the council has taken to dumping there now.

The new tottenham stadium project has some potential to achieve this. There is housing incorporated that will not be cheap social housing but will be owned by people. That helps. Likewise the new facilities around the ground, which is largely being built on derelict land – will employ people, and will do so locally – creating a better break for people looking for one.

It can only be a start – but it can be at least that.

You may remember my BBC2 documentary on the town of Cowsick – the smashed toes of a lame duck society. Can money solve a deprived place’s problems? Well, in 1993, the council gave Coswick a football. Good – but not enough. In ’95, Paul McCartney gave them a hundred top hats – fat use! And last year, the mayor gave them a gold mine – It actually worked for a bit, until someone clogged it up with sick. Sick’s a sort of mertaffer for the way these people lead their lives, and it’s going to stay that way, ’til someone lets in… the wind of change.

See here from 5:55 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPrCsfd1E64

19. margin4error

Thanks Ted

Are suggesting that we summon a vigilanty using an illuminous bat sign to sort out Tottenham?

@Just Visiting- Yes

@margin 4error- You’re absolutely right about the way the council does things. I disagree about your (guarded) optimism on the Spurs development. Despite being given planning permission two years ago, building work on the stadium has yet to start. Maybe the owners are getting cold feet (again).


The area has had millions of pounds of public money spent in the name of ‘regeneration’ over the years, yet local people have not benefitted from this.

Do they ever?
My experience of council regeneration schemes is that they’ve had as little consultation with the public as possible and are merely the council leader’s bright ideas of what would ‘sort out’ his/her town. Fuck the plebs and their parochial concerns of wanting decent services and amenities, this is to put suchandsuch on the map!
Listed building with thriving business in the way of said thrusting modern regeneration development?
It’s suddenly been burnt down by a random vagrant. Who would have thought? Don’t worry pal, a few years in the clink and there’ll be a nice brown envelope waiting for you on the outside.
People complaining that your bright idea for the promenade is not only shit, but actually contrives to endanger public safety by combining the pavement and road into one flat surface which has no indication where one stops and the other starts, and isn’t even a roadworthy surface for good measure?
Tell them to fuck off and deal with it cos there’s no more money to sort it out.

So yeah, I can imagine that all that money just ended up being pissed down a well for little to no real benefit.

22. margin4error


Work has begun on the NDP (as it is oddly acronymed).

The work is in three phases – the north, central and south phases. The north phases has begin this summer. It needs to be a certain way through before the second phase can begin (which is the bulk of the new stadium).

The club were always unlikely to make any big announcements on that until nearer the time for construction to begin because, well, why announce their naming rights or whatever financing they are doing only to sit and wait another six months with the perception of no momentum?

Then the third phase begins when the second phase ends. That phase will complete the stadium and build a bunch of flats and a public area platform and courtyard for the old buildings being retained and so on.

So it will happen, and it has started – just not in a very glamorous way.

23. margin4error


That’s not really true – some council led regeneration has been very succesful for local people.

If you look at the development of Westfield in Stratford – Newham Council created a scheme to train people out of work to interview for the jobs being created – and about 50% of the jobs created were got by people in Newham. (There is also an academy at Westfield itself to help those same people train further for jobs further up the ladder.)

So some things can be done. With the new Spurs-led regeneration – Haringey should be learning that lesson and setting up a similar scheme before Spurs, sainsbury and others get done building and start hiring.

Oh – and they should stop using the distant and neglected corner of their borough as a dumping ground for what they see as problem people.

Chaise Guevara @16

” But there WAS a political element, especially where it first kicked off.”

Do you mean the angry reaction by people who were reacting to the killing of Mark Duggan?

That might have been political, but it was also poor politics IMO.
They didn’t know all the facts at the time, and some things the police said were wrong …. but as far as I’m aware the guy had a gun and the police knew he had a gun and were following him.

If you carry a gun you are running the risk of coming up against police firearms teams. They shoot to kill. It’s kind of tough shit whether you were a nice guy or not or whether you were only carrying for your own personasl protection. All over the world the police will shoot people who have illegal guns.

Whether the police’s procedures are the best is another issue. Maybe they are too trigger happy once called in.
But the guy had a gun and so he reakky brought it on himself..

That people in the black community (or enough of them anyway) completely reject that idea and think the police should go softly softly with gun carriers all the time and say that the police are racist ….. is a problem of our f#cked up society we have right now. IMO.

I look in other Eoropean countries to see how it is there, and apart from France …. which has it’s particular problems, I can’t see as many that have societies that get as crass and as vulgar as ours in England.

Go to Croydon on a saturday afternoon and see how it is in the town centre and towards West Croydon station.
Or go to Tottenham on a staturday or a weekday evening.
There is something very divisive and detatched (even”broken”) about the culture that you see on the streets.

And race does have siomething to do with it. The complete plonker David Starkey had a tiny bit of it right when he made is infamous faux pas on Newsnight when he said ”The whites have become black”.

That was the wrong way to put it by Starkey, but he was trying to talk about the new way of urban youth speak that is ”of black origin”.

Just like the MOBO Awards are about music of black origin, that can include Adele and Amy Winehouse, so the modern urban youth culture that is so common in London and some other cities today is ”of black origin” too.

In the way it speaks, it’s a mix of cockney, and Caribbean accents and a bit of Hip Hop rapper speak all mixed up together, but it developed through the black community first and then went mainstream.
And at its heart it can be a form of SELF ALIENATION.

But I’ve probably already gone too far bur ….
I remember in the early 80s when some black youths used to put on West Indian accents just for effect. They coppied the accents of their parents.
When talking with the police for example.
The modern urban dialect evolved from that.
It started out West Indian, got more Cockney and then into what even loads of white and Asian young people speak today.
That’s part of what caused the riots too IMO. Self Alienation reacing it’s occasional high profile erruptipn of violence.

Every day low level stuff hardly gets noticed. We have developed a crass greedy society. And not just the bankers and the rich. But people expecting to consume above their means. So criminality is expected and accepted. It doesn’t matter how you got the phone, ipad or trainers. The important thing is to have got them.

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