Over the last few months Friday mornings at Croydon Voluntary Action (CVA) have become the favourite part of my week. It is a time when local residents come together with voluntary sector groups, the Police and other statutory service providers to talk honestly and openly about issues the local community are facing and where possible find instant solutions or kick start longer term plans.
Meetings are often full of tears and laughter in equal measure as people open their hearts about problems they are confronting and then one or two people start coming up with potential solutions. In truth the meeting represents a micro example of the type of culture I wish to see spread across Croydon Council.
Friday 24th Septmbers meeting was no exception. It started with tears as we held a memorial service for Sergeant Matt Ratner, the police officer who was killed at Windmill Road custody centre a year ago. I never had the opportunity to meet Mat but over the last year I have heard story after story of a loving and caring Police Officer, who loved his family and loved playing rugby and passing on his skills and mentoring a younger generation.
Later in the meeting Kai Whyte the Olympic Silver Medallist BMX rider joined the meeting. There was great celebration as Kai told us about his exploits in Tokyo and how he was inspiring a new generation on his return to the UK, but there was also shock as Kai told us about the racism and discrimination he had to overcome to be part of the Tokyo team.
Like many in the room as Kai relayed his story I could not help thinking of Sgt. Matt Ratner who I am sure would have been in the front row cheering Kai on if his life had not been so tragically cut short.