Croydon Labour councillors folded like a pack of cards as they abstained at tonight’s council meeting enabling the Conservative budget and 15 per cent council tax rise to pass.
After voting against the only balanced budget presented to the council by any of the party there was a 30 minute break.
Opposition leader Cllr Stuart King emerged making an impassioned speech saying the council tax was ‘avoidable’ and that Mayor Jason Perry had ‘run roughshod’ over the normal process by not giving residents a referendum.
However, he said despite this Labour councillors understood their statutory responsible and to ensure that ‘we do not act illegally’ would abstain.
Many of his colleagues then said they were abstaining under duress before abstaining. But it all seemed like a charade as a pre prepared statement was quickly posted on Twitter by Labour Croydon.
The final vote was 34 FOR with all Conservative councillors supporting the budget and 33 ABSTENTIONS by all Labour councillors and three votes AGAINST by two newly elected Green councillors Esther Sutton and Ria Patel along with Liberal Democrat Claire Bonham – prompting one solitary cheer.
The budget had earlier been defeated with a vote of 34 FOR and 36 AGAINST.
There had been a slight change in vote because Labour councillor Rowenna Davis was not present to vote as she gave birth recently.
Chief Financial officer Jane West advised on minimum requirements to set budget.
Decisions/resolutions have to be agreed by March 11 but she said the council had a contractural arrangement and that the Council Tax bills were due to be printed tomorrow.
She said it is not possible to process and send out the Council Tax bills if the decision is not made tonight.
She said it would also affect the GLA billing and Croydon would be liable to any losses due to delay.
She said cash reserves would be undermined by £20million per month and the council would have to borrow from other councils at a higher interest rate.
There would be damage to the council’s representation locally and nationally, she said.
The council would in addition be subject to litigation. Not only would it be unlawful but would make a ‘bad financial situation worse’, the council’s auditors Grant Thornton said.
This led to a 30 minute break with councillors returning for a second vote and the Labour abstention plan revealed.