Accountability? Openness? Transparency? Trust? It is little wonder that an increasing number of people in Croydon distrust the motives of the ruling group on the council, and are suspicious of the lip-service that they pay to consultation and local accountability.
This week, Inside Croydon spoke with a senior figure involved with Neighbourhood Partnerships, a potentially vital artery of local democracy which some might see as a beacon of Call Me Dave’s “Big Society“. Until March 31, Croydon NPs had received £60,000 per year from the council.
Croydon’s NPs still exist, despite having lost their funding. Apparently Croydon Council could not even find the £10,000 that the NPs said that they would need to meet basic running costs through to 2012 (our councillors clearly have different priorities – like paying for the champagne piss-up that is this month’s Mayor’s Inauguration Banquet).
We asked the NP official what, if anything, councillors had done in the past month to resolve the organisation’s future. “We’ve heard absolutely nothing,” we were told. “They’ve just kept us hanging in the wind.”
At risk of becoming a mutual admiration society, CroydonsFuture has again posted something that looks to be right on the money as far as Croydon’s Neighbourhood Partnerships and the council’s real attitude to accountability is concerned.
“The decision to end support for the Partnerships had very little to do with cost savings. In the context of Croydon’s annual budget of £300 million, £60,000 is a vanishingly small amount. Indeed, the Partnerships were willing to pare running costs back to £10,000, but our council wouldn’t even compromise in providing this pittance of support.
“My personal view is that our council took fright at the Partnerships new collaborative way of working. Sadly, our council likes to be able to ‘tick the consultation box’, but is very fearful of well-organised and authoritative criticism – even if this criticism is constructive and well meant.
“The future of the Partnerships is unclear. Many Partnership folk are keen to establish some form of successor arrangement. But hiring a meeting hall costs money. Also, at the time of writing, our Council hasn’t confirmed that it will extend its public liability insurance to any future ‘successor’ community meetings…
“Our council suggested it would replace the Partnerships with a cabinet roadshow. The roadshow could have value if it provides a true two-way dialogue. However, if the roadshow turns out to a PR stunt – death by PowerPoint – then it will be worse than useless.”
We recommend you read the whole of the CroydonsFuture posting on the state of local democracy in our borough.
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