Did someone mention a zero increase in Council Tax? And did anyone mention the widespread increases in charges for a variety of council services, from parking to vermin control, which virtually all Croydon residents need to use?
While Croydon’s political leaders continue to congratulate themselves loudly for managing to implement a zero-increase Council Tax policy that has been forced upon them by national Government, Mike Fisher’s “top team” of Conservative councillors have been noticeably more muted about the widespread cuts in services, and the rapidly rising service charges which they are implementing.
There was no surprise last night when the Conservative-controlled council voted through its 2012-2013 budget proposals at the Town Hall.
Protests against library closures and the building of the Beddington incinerator were ignored as, again, Croydon’s Tories used the wider economic conditions as an excuse to introduce a degree of political dogma which – had it been even hinted at in their election campaign in 2010 – would have rendered them unelectable.
We have highlighted some of the detail of the council’s budget documents previously. There were other measures passed last night of which we can find no trace in any election literature issued by Croydon’s Conservatives. We wonder whether Inside Croydon‘s loyal reader can help us by locating the relevant documents and appraising us of where these measures were ever put before the borough’s residents for approval…
- Residents’ parking permit charges to rise again, by 9 per cent
Until 12 months ago, an annual resident’s parking permit cost £48. Then, while local residents campaigned against some crazed proposals which would have rendered it impossible for ordinary Croydon families to park their vehicles near their homes, Phil “Two Permits” Thomas managed to sneak through an increase in the residents’ permit charge to £75 – a hike of 56 per cent.
Now, that’s about to rise again, at a rate three times greater than inflation.
Given that local councils are prevented by law from using parking charges as an easy cash cow, being restrained from using any revenue raised for anything other than road and traffic services, it remains unclear quite what Fisher and Thomas intend to use this extra parking dough for. More traffic wardens? More flash new parking meters? More expensive CCTV cameras to keep a check on the councillors’ cars in the council car park?
Of course, Phil Thomas and his mates on the council remain entirely immune from this latest increase in charges. Thomas receives two free parking passes, although it remains unclear how he can manage to drive two cars on council business at one time.
- Increase in pay and display charges
From Coulsdon to Thornton Heath, Croydon’s beleaguered shopkeepers will be deeply unimpressed by further proposals to increase pay and display car parking charges.
Any measures which make it less convenient, or more expensive, for potential customers to visit their stores can only be damaging for their businesses, many of which are fragile, struggling on in the difficult economic circumstances, burdened by this Government’s 20 per cent VAT rate, or working hard to recover trade after the impact of last August’s riots. So this move by Croydon Council will be deeply resented by local retailers.
Did anyone notice Croydon’s Tories ever mention increasing parking charges across the borough as part of their election campaign?
- Introduction of pest control charges for private residents
Last October, mere mortals may have believed that the unpopular move to fortnightly bin collections – anyone see where that was promised before the elections? – was intended as a cost-cutting measure by our council.
Now, we learn, it is in fact a money-raising measure. With anecdotal reports of an increase in local vermin populations, which some link to the amount of rubbish being left out on the streets, it now seems that any residents calling out the Croydon Council rat catcher will face charges for this service. A piece of pure Croydon genius: create a problem, and then charge more to resolve it. Trebles all round!
- Increase charges for bulky waste removal
This proposal aims at raising a mere £20,000. What effect it might have on the amount of fly-tipping, as people opt just to dump their bulky waste rather than go through the hassle, and costs, of calling out the council may soon be seen on our streets. For a mere 20 grand, we may ultimately discover that the council is spending even more in clearing up the results of fly-tipping.
- Increase in burial and cremation fees
It is unclear how these increased charges will be applied. It is fair to assume that this will affect many of the borough’s pensioners.
Under the budget as passed last night, there are also further cost-cutting measures planned. These include:
- Ceasing letter notifications on planning applications
So if someone in your street wants to build a whopping great extension in their garden, Croydon Council will no longer send you a letter to advise you of the application for planning permission. So you won’t necessarily be aware of the scheme unless you have Derren Brown-style psychic powers. So you probably won’t be able to file an objection (should you be so minded).
For the sake of a few thousand second-class stamps, Croydon Council appears to want to make the planning process less open, transparent and accountable. Could that be because they want to make it easier for developers to get their schemes for blocks of flats or private hospitals on unsuitable sites through the planning system?
- Trading Standards – 1 job loss
- Area Enforcement Officers – 4 job losses
- Registrars – 2 job losses
A further erosion of the council’s frontline services – exactly the sort of cuts which Mike Fisher and his mates had said that they would try to protect.
The possible impact? More fly-by-night scamsters, dirty restaurants and poor trading practice will be able to thrive in Croydon; there will be fewer checks on keeping our streets clean, or that the street lights are working, or calming disputes between neighbours over noisy sound systems; and it will take longer to get an appointment to get married at the Town Hall, record a birth or the death of a loved one.
Did any of us vote for any of these measures?
It is not a matter of economics, but of choices. Because meanwhile, Croydon Council continues with preferential treatment for expensive pet projects, such as multi-million pound grants for the Fairfield Halls and the £450 million URV that includes the new luxury council offices.
Does anyone think that these are the right choices?
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- Council Tax will let Croydon play at social engineering (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon’s Budget (part 2): Fisher shows what his priorities are (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon’s Budget (Part 1): We’re all in this together (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon spends £1.7m on consultants and saves… £800,000 (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon Council paid £20m for interim staff in 2011 (insidecroydon.com)