Comment by ANDREA PERRY
Having watched the latest playground antics at Croydon Council I have come up with a quick fix towards creating a new income stream to pay the £50 million annual sum required to service the borough’s £1.6billion debt – a swear box of sorts.
In fact, it would be called a ‘mess’ box and Conservative councillors would be required to throw in a fiver each time they use the word ‘mess’ in a sentence.
At Wednesday night’s full council meeting, during councillors questions to Croydon’s Tory Mayor Jason Perry, I lost count of how many times the word ‘mess’ was used.
How are you going to fix Labour’s ‘mess’ on finance, housing, graffiti, anti social behaviour, bin collections…and even broken, vandalised lifts in a multi storey car park in Purley was attributed to Labour’s ‘mess’.
The only councillor off-message was Adele Benson who instead tried to use the word catastrophic in relation to Labour’s record on housing but when the third attempt of annunciation failed she blamed it on a sore throat. She should have just stuck with ‘mess’ or opted for one of the Mayor’s favourite words: ‘toxic legacy.’
In fact, the whole meeting could have been cut short by about half an hour or more if the increasingly frustrated civic mayor, Labour Cllr Alisa Fleming, who was trying to keep order and manage the meeting time, had banned the use of the words ‘Labour’, ‘mess’ and ‘fix it’.
She even went so far as to advise members about respect and how they phased their questions because the impression they were giving to residents was not one of making ‘Croydon a better place’.
But as it continued she quipped: “I’d swear there was a full moon outside.’
It wasn’t helped by a series of lame questions from the shadow leader and deputy leader Cllr Stuart King and Callton Young. Both men the hangovers from the bankrupt Labour administration and lacking in any contrition.
Mayor Perry described Cllr Young as the ‘gift that kept giving’ and each time he posed a question, Mayor Perry said ‘encounters with you always leave me speechless’.
Young’s first question on the use of £36 million in capital receipts was ridiculed by Perry who responded that this money was required to pay off the debt ‘you created and saddled this town with’ describing the debt as being the size of a ‘small country.”
In order to reduce the debt £100million worth of assets are being sold off and he said, as an organisation, the council would get smaller and would have to do less but in a better way.
Then King attempted to berate the Mayor about anti social behaviour affecting traders on Surrey Street but again failed to acknowledge that Labour had allowed the Public Space Protection Order to lapse in Surrey Street which was now being reintroduced to tackle said ASB.
Conservative cabinet lead for planning and regeneration, Cllr Jeet Bains, came up with the best analogy of the night for the Labour years, saying when Labour departed last year, the council looked like the scene of a drunken party, leaving behind broken departments, traumatised staff and failed corporate practice.
This may be a quote Labour leader Keir Starmer might want to lift but just change Labour to Boris Johnson.
There’s no doubt the Labour era saw the demise of the borough, most notably the dirt and decline of Croydon’s streets, so it was no surprise to learn that at his first meeting with Veolia, the council’s waste provider, the Mayor was told by the contractor they hadn’t spoken with a politician in Croydon for two years.
Ironically, these bitter political exchanges happened long before many of the actual debates on key motions which saw the Mayor defeated three times.
For the first time since last May’s local elections, Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrat councillors voted against proposals from Mayor Perry and his cabinet.
The first defeat was on the motion to drop the inflation link to the borough’s Council Tax Support to save £425,000 that would otherwise go to Croydon’s working poor and pensioners, which was passed by 35 votes to 34 thanks to ceremonial mayor Cllr Flemming using her vote.
The Conservatives also wanted to oppose the Mayor of London’s extension of the ULEZ but that was also closely lost as was a Labour motion to challenge the failed bid to the government’s Levelling Up fund.
Both were tied at 34 each Cllr Flemming had to step in again to break the deadlock.
If you had to sum up the meeting it would be that Mayor Perry outperformed by a mile against the Labour frontbencher but even in self imposed exile, Labour still continues to win the votes.
Almost a year on from the election I’d have hoped politics in Croydon would have moved on a bit with politicians finding some common ground to get the borough out of its dire straits – for the sake of residents if nothing else – but it just seems the mess may have turned in to a quagmire.