The view held by some that a few of the councillors running Croydon are almost “playing” with power, when real people face the realities of losing their real jobs, was given extra substance last night.
With more than 100 anti-cuts protestors on the Town Hall steps, Councillor Maria Gatland – she of the colourful Provisional IRA past – apparently gushed that the evening’s Cabinet meeting was “exciting”.
We have not yet been able to confirm with Councillor Gatland whether the comment attributed to her via a Tweet by a political opponent is accurate. If it is, then it is entirely inappropriate and ill-considered.
- Or maybe she really does find excitement in watching the voting for at least 60 local jobs to be axed after her Conservative-run Council decided to close Croydon’s economic development company?
- Or maybe she gets a thrill from seeing a vote to take a hatchet to the grants made by the Council to local voluntary organisations, reducing funding from £1.8 million to just £625,000 a year over the next four years?
At one point last night, the Council’s Cabinet meeting had to adjourn because of the heckling, mostly aimed at Mike “I’m not in this to be popular” Fisher, the leader of Croydon’s ruling Conservatives.
Councillor Fisher, of course, has presided over a massive hike in allowances for himself and his closest aides (the payment of which has been “deferred”, when it ought never have been proposed in the first place).
Councillor Fisher, who is on record as saying he is not on the Council to make himself popular, was clearly unsettled by the boisterous mood in the public gallery, where around a hundred local residents gave him a slow hand clap and stamped their feet while shouting: “Out! Out! Out!”
The break in proceedings allowed the ruling Tory group to scurry away and they came back with a £350,000 transition fund, or sticking plaster, for the voluntary groups who face catastrophe if their Council funding is cut.
This temporary funding will only buy the charities and voluntary groups time to operate until the end of August, it seems.
A full council meeting – notionally open to the public – will again discuss the issues next Monday. Croydon’s Labour group is calling for those opposed to the cuts to attend and protest.
One local newpaper report estimates at least 50 people were denied access to last night’s “public” Cabinet meeting, which also had a significant part of its agenda held “in camera”, out of the prying eyes of council tax-payers and the media.
The Adult Services and Housing department is, under the Council budget for 2010-2011, due to get an 8 per cent increase in its spend for the coming year, up to £109.5 million.
A spokesman for the Council was unable to inform Inside Croydon what proportion of the department’s budget would go to the new LATC, saying that it was not “straightforward”.
The details of the LATC proposal was held in secret, the spokesman said, because it contained “information which is potentially commercially sensitive”.
He continued: “It’s information about a new organisation that will have to compete with other private businesses. Putting its business case in the public domain might restrict its ability to trade on an equal footing.”