Newman outlines Labour group’s ambitions for Croydon

More co-operation with voluntary groups and residents, cleaner streets, more openness and transparency at the Town Hall. Councillor TONY NEWMAN outlines some of his Labour group’s proposals for 2014

In May, Croydon goes to the polls to elect a council administration to serve our town through to 2018. As the leader of the Labour opposition group at the Town Hall, I am acutely aware that winning that election is not enough. If we are to play our part in returning credibility to politics, both locally and nationally, then Croydon needs to become a beacon for a new politics.

Leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council, Tony Newman, right, canvassing commuters about rail fares this morning with activist Andrew Rendle

Leader of the Labour group on Croydon Council, Tony Newman, right, canvassing commuters about rail fares this morning with activist Andrew Rendle

Decisions regarding where to spend budgets that affect local communities need to be taken where possible by those local communities and local councillors working together, and those decisions that are taken in the Town Hall need to be open, transparent and accountable, unlike in recent years.

If Labour is elected, all Town Hall Council meetings will be webcast, the number of questions from members of the public to politicians will be increased and all papers will be online at least a week in advance of any planned meeting, discussion and decision.

It is simply not acceptable that £140million can be spent on a luxury new council office, with the financial details hidden – as we have seen under the current Conservative council – while our town is in the grip of a fly tipping epidemic, has too many dirty streets, a shortage of school places and an anti-social behaviour crisis caused in part by cuts to council services.

Croydon stands at a crossroads: the Conservatives, to be fair, have made their position in Croydon crystal clear. Youth services, the arts, neighbourhood enforcement officers, school crossing patrols and much more, have all been cut, with the Tories claiming they have no money.

All this as their council administration continues to spend our council taxes on itself, oblivious to the cost of living crisis in the real world: £140 million on those luxury council offices, plus £4.5million on furniture to kit it out, £20 million on highly paid consultants who have replaced the hundreds of staff sacked in recent years, and much more.

In tough financial times families are having to watch the bills and tighten their belts, and a Labour council, if elected next May, will ensure the Town Hall does so too.

Labour in Croydon has a different vision. That’s why our manifesto for this May’s election’s is entitled “Ambitious for Croydon”. We believe the council and the Town Hall should work closely with local businesses to bring much-needed jobs to Croydon, work with the voluntary sector and groups to deliver services more efficiently, and work with housing providers to ensure affordable homes for local people are built quickly and are available to buy or rent.

Croydon's £140m new head offices

Croydon Council’s £140m new head offices – the full financial details of the build’s costs have never been revealed by the Conservative-run council

We also are clear that we will, if elected, serve all of Croydon.

It is simply not acceptable that much of north and central Croydon, under the Tories, have some of the dirtiest streets in London, with incidents of fly tipping at record levels and the Council not prosecuting anyone for this crime that is blighting so many communities. A Labour council will ensure all our streets are properly cleaned. Everyone in Croydon pays their Council Tax and everyone is right to expect a decent service.

Labour is ambitious for all of Croydon. That is why investing in our many district centres is as important for us as the welcome Westfield and Hammerson retail development we have worked so hard for in the Town Centre. We have many vibrant local communities and investing in them, ensuring clean and safe streets and ensuring more local decision-making is all part of Labour’s plans for a community-led regeneration of our borough, in partnership with the Town Hall.

There is much to be proud of in Croydon, with many, many people, communities, voluntary groups and others doing excellent work across our borough. And so many people want a council that backs Croydon, helps restore pride to local communities, listens to local people and, yes, cleans their streets properly. In short, they want a council on their side and ambitious for Croydon.

We can’t change the world at the local elections in May. But I believe passionately that we can make a start changing Croydon for the better, and that can happen if the Town Hall once again plays its part working with local communities, listening to local people and acting upon what they say.

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5 Responses to Newman outlines Labour group’s ambitions for Croydon

  1. The present administration has made a complete pigs’ breakfast of running Croydon and shouldn’t be trusted to do so again.

    But, as I recall, the Labour party, led by Mr Newman, made an equally bad job of doing so when it was last in power.

    Mr Newman’s comments on openness in decision-making are very attractive, in stark contrast to the childish secret-squirrel nonsense practised by Mike Fisher and his Tory cronies.

    But there are no figures included in your report of Labour’s ideas. So what will Mr Newman cut to pay for the improvements he proposes? Or by how much is he intending to raise Council Tax? Or how else will he generate the extra money?

    Nationally, the Tories promise more austerity, Labour talks about tough decisions to be made, so the chances of extra money for local government, whoever wins most seats in the next General Election, are remote in the extreme.

    I am disappointed that there is no mention of an obvious way of cutting costs: combining back-office administrations with other London boroughs. That would allow each borough to make attractive savings that could then be spent on front-line services. The idea of 33 finance departments (one per borough) or 33 departments of any kind across London is sheer extravagance in the prevailing economic climate.

    • mraemiller says:

      “I am disappointed that there is no mention of an obvious way of cutting costs: combining back-office administrations with other London boroughs”

      Oh the Colin Barrow solution. Hammersmith, Kensington and Westminster combine their administration to cut costs. Sounds great. But of course it creates a democratic defecit because it’s creating a new layer of unelected government. What happens if say Westminster goes Labour and Hammersmith and Kensington stay Tory? the new Westminster local government is tied in to pre-existing agreements with Hammersmith and Kensington … who will of course call the shots. So there’s no actually point in voters in Westminster voting Labour at all because even if they change their council they’ll still be tied into the Tory policy of the two adjacent boroughs and bound by all the promises and deals made by the previous administration.

      Who runs the merged services? Well, the Cabinets of all three councils. So in effect the three cabinet leaders appoint the service controlers from the Cabinets of the three councils. So the voter elects the councillors, the ruling party of the council selects a cabinet and then the three leaders of the three councils form their own mini-cabinet within the cabinet and re-alocate the jobs. Which raises the question … why if we now have one big super-council instead of three do we have the same number of politicians doing less jobs. And, of course, who’s in overall control? Answer: no one it’s a triumverate …or whatever you call it …with no one person directly accountable to the voters.

      Of course the logical solution if you went down this road is to actually merge local governments properly to make local councils that are larger. But then, of course, it isn’t very local any more.

      This will create efficiency savings we are told. But there is of course a downside – if you have larger councils bidding larger contracts then eventually they’ll create less service providers because they’re no longer bidding contracts separately.
      So you can have say one waste management firm doing the same job for three councils. Fine. But when they put their prices up and you want to change contractor where will be the competitors?
      There’s be less of them with less track record…

      In short it’s creating a whole new tier of unelected government without the political infrastructure to contain it – and eventually there will be a cost to that.
      Both political and financial. Or if it sounds too good to be true it probably is…

  2. David Aston says:

    An interesting article from Mr Newman, I expect a similar response from The Conservatives. You can’t put a cigarette paper between them. But one thing’s for sure, Labour will spend money they haven’t got while the Tories continue to try and balance the books. Everyone suffers either way. I urge voters to look for alternatives…and that’s definitely not The Liberal Party!

  3. This is a welcome first statement of Labour’s approach. Let us hope that there will be further detailed statements on its strategy particularly supporting low income residents as their standard of living continues to fall, a positive approach to supporting cultural activity, increasing affordable housing, and how community participation can be made more meaningful and influential than the traditional public meeting and survey approach. Labour will also need to spell out how it will cope with the next massive round of cuts required of the Council from 2015/16 . I hope that very few people will boycott voting readers on the grounds of ‘a plague on both your houses’. Whichever Party is in control from May continued pressure is needed to tackle the bankruptcy of Croydon politics , and to avoid the temptation to disengaged with the Council .

  4. “More co-operation with voluntary groups”
    Is it Tory Newman who wants “Call me Dave” Cameron’s Big society? or is it Tony Newman the Labour group leader who lost control in 2006 and is still the group leader? Must be an achievement.

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