Croydon MP’s Steve Reed And Chris Philp clashed while debating on BBC London Vanessa Feltz radio show about whether Croydon should have an elected mayor.
Croydon north MP Reed accused Croydon south MP Philp of voting for cuts imposed on the council which had led to its financial crisis and said that the Conservatives were not interested in ‘democracy’ and were trying to ‘suppress voter turnout’.
Chris Philips hit back saying that other councils had the same financial settlements from the government as Croydon but hadn’t gone bankrupt. He blamed the disastrous Labour leadership and property speculation for losing tens of millions of pounds with a ‘tiny Town Hall clique’ responsible.
Steve Reed, said: “They’ve (Conservatives) cut Croydon Council’s funding, the government grant funding by over three quarters. That’s the primary reason the council got into financial problems.
“Now, If we elect a mayor, then the costs for it, I’ve looked at what happens in other councils, the average mayoral salary is £85,000 a year.
“Times that by four over their term in office, the average mayoral office costs half a million pounds a year times that by four over four years, the cost is £2.75 million. That could only be paid for by a council tax hike, cutting street cleaning, cutting care for older people, closing libraries or closing a youth or closing youth centres.”
The MP, who is Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government added: “The other problem is you can’t get rid of a failing mayor, whereas a council can get rid of a failing leader, so when the mayor of Tower Hamlets and indeed later the mayor of Liverpool were arrested on very serious fraud charges, the council did not have the power to remove them from office so they stayed in post.
“A leader in similar circumstances can be removed by councillors and replaced. I don’t understand why you’d want to spend nearly £3 million on another politician when we could prioritise that money for public services that people rely on.
“The reason they’re (Conservative Party) is promoting this model is they think they can’t win the council elections next year under the current system, that’s why they’re trying to change the system. They’re not interested in democracy, they’re interested in rigging the system to suit themselves, even if that costs Croydon taxpayers £3 million pounds.”
MP Chris Philp, responded to accusations about the council’s funding from government: “In terms of trying to blame that for the Croydon Council’s bankruptcy, every other London borough particularly outer London boroughs, have precisely the same financial settlements from the government as Croydon but Croydon is the only one that’s gone bankrupt.
“And the reason for that, is the disastrous Labour leadership under the leader model, which is engaged in property speculation that went disastrously wrong and lost tens of millions of pounds, and the council didn’t listen.
“That is why we need to change to a directly elected mayor chosen by the people who will actually listen rather than the failed leader that led us into this situation that simply has not listened, not just on council finances, but on planning on residents living in third world squalor.”
He added: “The critical point for me, whether it ends up being a Labour Mayor, a Conservative mayor or somebody else, is that because of their mandate, because they’re selected directly by the public across the entire borough they will have to listen to the public – instead of simply keeping 20 or 25 councillors happy behind closed doors.
“That accountability, means the elected mayor will listen to the public, not a tiny Town Hall clique and that is that is what led us to this awful situation.”
During the debate and while speaking against the directly elected system at a recent Thornton Heath Community Action Team meeting Steve Reed said he was “not anti the mayoral system,” and it was good in Lewisham and outstanding in some places but he said it was ‘not appropriate’ for Croydon in the current circumstances.
He told THCAT that he favoured the cooperative model of Lambeth, where he had been leader, doing things with people not to people, with power and decision making opened up to those on the receiving end of services. He put forward some possible ways to do that including:
A Community Trust for Grangewood Park like the one at Crystal Palace which is delivering improvements.
Tenant led social housing with managers accountable to the tenants who are able to get rid of them.
Community Regeneration Boards for each area.
Community energy generation organisation, owned and funded by the community.