Would you invest here?

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The Independent Online
The rioting on Wednesday night is devastating because it was so unnecessary. At this moment I know at least 12 black people who are out of a job because of what happened. A timber company was burnt out on Acre Lane. On top of that building there were offices and small businesses which were all burnt out: people are out of jobs now and it's coming up to Christmas.

After the 1981 riot we lost a lot of business. We had four main jewellery stores: after the riots three went because people couldn't afford the insurance. There were several menswear stores and three, four or five shoe shops. Now there isn't a reasonable shoe shop in Brixton.

We have the leading tube station in London. But people only pass through, they don't stop here. Businesses cannot get insurance because of the high premiums. If you've got a car, you have to pay very high insurance. If you were an investor would you want to invest in Brixton?

The only people who will suffer for the events of Wednesday night are the black community. Among blacks Brixton has one of the highest unemployment rates in Britain. You don't see any young people employed in the Ritzy Cinema and the Fridge nightclub.

To help the youth of Brixton we need proper training programmes. There's no one from Brixton - black or white - being used in the building works here. There are only two black labourers within the whole development on Railton Road. They are all people from outside Brixton. People talk about money being spent in Lambeth: yes, you cannot argue with that, but who benefits from it?

We need a rethink. Take Brixton Challenge: most of the people who run it know nothing about the community. The money from Brixton Challenge is going to white-dominated organisations and white businesses. People resent the way Brixton Challenge operates in Lambeth. It's a socio-economic problem, not a police problem.

The relationship between the police and the community is far better than in 1981. The autopsy that was carried out on Wayne Douglas revealed that he had no bruises: his death was caused by an enlarged heart. There's nothing wrong with people demonstrating, but there's everything wrong with people inciting riot.

A lot of people equate Wayne Douglas with Brian Douglas, who died in police custody a couple of month ago. The only equation is in name. At no time did the relatives of Brian Douglas try to create any disturbance. There was a peaceful demonstration and a march, of which the police were fully informed. The family wanted nothing to do with anything illegal.

Everybody has a role to play in a community. Church, citizens, police, schools, everybody. No one organisation can take the blame for Wednesday night. We'll have to try to improve the situation, to encourage investors. I hope the Government responds in a positive and constructive way. We'll just have to continue fighting: we can't give up.

Lloyd Leon

The writer is a former mayor of Lambeth and a publican.