In an exclusive column for Inside Croydon, TONY NEWMAN, right, local councillor for Woodside ward and leader of the Labour opposition group at the Town Hall, counts the high costs of a council vanity project
As we move into 2013, one story that has haunted Croydon for the last five years will become reality. The disgraceful waste of hundreds of millions of pounds of our money on a monument to vanity – the shining new council offices that will be opened this year.
At the same time, further drastic cuts are being made to youth services, libraries, schools, support services for the vulnerable and elderly, will all hit the people of Croydon.
This ought to haunt those who took the decision to build these luxury offices forever. Sadly, I am not sure it will.
In which case, we will have to wait until 2014 and the local elections to send Croydon’s out-of-touch Tories the clearest message: that their arrogance in proceeding with their luxury council HQ at a time when the global economy was heading deeper into recession and council services were already coming under greater financial pressure than at any time in history was obviously wrong. For the Tory council to make this scheme their priority over all other public services shows how completely out of touch they are.
By their own recent admission, the building has cost us at least £140 million. That’s approximately £1,000 for every household in Croydon.
Even these figures can be only estimates, as five years into this “project” under Mike Fisher’s Conservative-run council, much of the financial detail is still being hidden from both the public and those of us who are elected as local politicians to represent you.
The amount being spent on these unnecessary and unwanted council offices, £140 million, could have provided a brand new school, stopped our libraries being privatised, installed new street lighting, provided numerous play areas for children, invested in the crumbling Fairfield Halls, and much more.
Yes, even in these tough times we could be going into 2013 with a council on the side of local people and offering much-needed investment in our town. Instead, we have got a glass monument on what Inside Croydon has called CostUsAMint Walk, to the folly of Mike Fisher and his friends.
This is not an accident, but it is the result of clear choices made by the current Conservative Council, with decisions often made in meetings that you, the public, were banned from attending.
So later this year, when you see the pictures of a grinning Councillor Fisher at the opening ceremony of his new offices, probably with a glass of Council Tax-funded champagne in hand and possibly still trying to tell us the luxury Council HQ has not really cost us any money, remember those cuts to your local services, remember those cuts to the services to care for our old and vulnerable.
And never again let anyone ever say that voting in the local elections does not make a difference – it does, and it has.
- Croydon, Christmas 2012: Scrooge is in charge of the Town Hall
- TaxPayers’ Alliance say Fisher is “part of entitlement culture”
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
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- Getting trollied: Croydon’s uncharitable councillors (insidecroydon.com)
- Legacy of the riots: Croydon abandoned by middle-class (standard.co.uk)
- £30m libraries privatisation could be sent for judicial review (insidecroydon.com)