In his exclusive Inside Croydon column, the local Labour MP condemns the Conservative-run borough council for raising Council Tax after mismanaging the borough
The country is facing a triple-dip recession. Household budgets in Croydon are under pressure with rising fuel and food prices, escalating costs for housing, and cuts in wages and benefits. Many people in Croydon are struggling to make ends meet.
So what have our Tory councillors chosen to do? They’re going to make you pay more Council Tax.
The government minister responsible for local government is Eric Pickles. He’s a Tory, just like the councillors who plan to take an extra £35 a year off people in Croydon. Mr Pickles says councils that put up Council Tax up are “giving their residents an almighty kick in the teeth”. I watched him in parliament saying there’s no need for councils to put council tax up if they make enough savings instead. So why are Croydon’s Tories putting up council tax rather than cutting out waste?
Let’s have a look at other councils next door. Labour-led Southwark and Lambeth are both freezing Council Tax. I agree government funding for Croydon has not been generous, but these two councils have both suffered even bigger funding cuts. Yet Lambeth is freezing council tax for the fifth year running and both neighbouring Labour-led councils charge a lower council tax than Croydon’s Tories.
Walk across the border from either of those boroughs into Croydon and you can’t help noticing how much more litter there is on Croydon’s streets. We seem to be paying more but getting worse services for it. That’s a sure sign of an inefficient, wasteful council.
Croydon’s Tories are also wasting at least £125 million of public money on a glittering new glass-and-steel headquarters for themselves in the town centre. That’s at a time they’re telling you there’s no money for libraries, for schools, for replacing worn-out roads and pavements, or for more police. Despite residents’ demands for these swish new offices to be opened up for public use and to provide spaces for new businesses to create jobs, they will be strictly sealed off to the public who are paying for them.
Croydon’s Tories could be reducing the number of senior managers, sharing services with more efficient councils nearby, making more flexible use of the council’s vast cash reserves, opening up decision-making and financial data to closer public scrutiny.
But no; instead of getting on with the hard work of making the council more efficient, the Tories have decided to reach for hard-pressed residents’ pockets instead. They think it’s the easier option. Perhaps they’ve forgotten there are council elections next year. What a chance for Croydon’s people to show these pick-pocketing Tories what they think of their tax hikes, substandard services and wasteful spending priorities.
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon – 142,300 unique page views, Nov 2012-Jan 2013
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- Whoops… Council setting the agenda for blunders (insidecroydon.com)
- Councils raise tax rates… and salaries for top staff (telegraph.co.uk)