Tony Newman, the leader of the opposition group on Croydon Council, has pledged that if Labour wins control of the Town Hall in the 2014 local elections, he “will blow open the books” to expose the hundreds of million pounds of spending – and borrowing – to which the current, services-axing administration, has committed the borough for decades to come.
Newman and the Labour group have been frustrated by Mike Fisher’s Conservatives on the details of a number of initiatives, most notably over the financial facts of the £450million “urban regeneration vehicle”, the property deal struck with developers John Laing.
To this day, Croydon’s Tory-run council has refused to make public the half-billion pound contract. Even elected (Labour) councillors have been denied access to the paperwork.
It took until last month before the ruling Conservative group would even admit that Bernard Weatherill House, the new council headquarters building, is not, after all, being built at “nil cost” to the Council tax-payers as had long been claimed; instead, it is costing every household in Croydon at least £1,000.
Newman is adamant that Labour will boycott the champagne-swilling opening ceremony of the HQ building later this year, and that they will insist on proper disclosure of council contracts if they should win control at the 2014 elections.
They will also shine a spotlight on the conduct of all council meetings, promising to take up Croydon Radio’s offer to broadcast Town Hall debates – at nil cost to the Council Tax-payer.“I am again calling for all of Croydon’s local media to be allowed to broadcast live the meetings of our full council,” Newman said.
“This has the support of all my Labour colleagues and almost certainly some on the Conservative side, yet council leader Mike Fisher continues to block it. One has to wonder why? What has he got to hide?
“I have made it clear that a Labour Council will have as a first principle that every piece of council business that can be, will be and should be in the public domain. That is the reverse of the current lot, whose default position is secret papers and secret meetings, where they have then nodded through decisions to build their controversial incinerator and their £140 million luxury council HQ,” the councillor for Woodside said.
“In 2014 I pledge now a Labour Council will blow open the books on the luxury HQ for all to see.
“This is the right thing to do in terms of public accountability and it will enable both the public and us to understand quite the level of debt Councillor Fisher has left us all with for generations to come.
“In the meantime, I promise neither myself nor my Labour colleagues will be supping Tax-payer funded champagne on the day the Tories finally open their glass vanity palace.”
- £140 million: the cost of our council’s secrecy and vanity
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- TaxPayers’ Alliance say Fisher is “part of entitlement culture”
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