Leaflets distributed in key wards this week have accused the Croydon Conservatives of deliberately misleading voters in the controversial, paid-for four-page advertisement wrapped round the previous week’s Croydon Guardian free paper. The wraparound attempted to pass itself off as a genuine news coverage, predicting a 27 per cent increase in Council Tax if Labour take control of the Town Hall next week.
“It’s a political lie on a grand scale,” Tony Newman, the Labour leader on Croydon Council, said today.
Senior figures in Croydon’s Labour group are also furious about what they describe as “gutter politics” after Mario Creatura, the Tory candidate in Coulsdon West, distributed campaign material claiming that former Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks had endorsed the Bedroom Tax. Wicks, who died of cancer in 2012, had been a government minister 10 years earlier when a pilot scheme looked at ways of offering council tenants incentives if they wanted to downsize their homes. Wicks never endorsed the Tory-led government’s Bedroom Tax or any proposals like it.
Creatura, who has a full-time state-paid job working as the assistant to Gavin Barwell, the MP for the Whitgift Foundation, was described as “a vile little liar” by one Labour cabinet member, who accused him of “trying to smear the reputation of someone who’s no longer around to defend themselves”.
They added: “There are no depths that the likes of Creatura won’t sink to in a desperate attempt to cling on to power.”
The Tories’ Croydon Guardian advert is hardly a paragon of great campaign literature or decent newspaper design. As first reported by Inside Croydon, the Tories blundered when they managed to omit the names of their candidates in one whole ward.
The Croydon Guardian group hardly protected its own reputation for independent journalism by taking the Conservative Party’s money for the ad – estimated at a hefty five-figure sum – since the publishers did not ensure that a disclaimer to show clearly that it was an advertisement was featured prominently on every page.
Labour’s response has been to distribute directly to households in key wards a newspaper of its own, featuring the headline “Fury at Tory tax lies”. Politicians usually shy away from using such direct language or accusing their political opponents of outright lies – probably because they realise that they are always vulnerable to such accusations themselves.
In Croydon, Labour’s political Achilles’ heel has been the 27 per cent rise in Council Tax when they were in charge of the Town Hall in 2003.
That rise was in part necessary because of a shift in the balance between the amounts raised by the borough councils and by City Hall. As a consequence, Council Tax rises in all London boroughs rose by significant amounts in that period: in Westminster, Council Tax went up by a staggering 271 per cent in “real terms” (that is, adjusted for inflation) during the 1994-2006 period under a Tory council. In our neighbouring borough of Bromley, Council Tax bills rose by 99 per cent in real terms in the same period. Apart from three years of LibDem/Lab joint control during the period in question, Bromley is another Conservative-run council.
So the Council Tax rises in London boroughs in that timeframe were due to systemic changes rather more than any party policy. But Croydon’s Tories never mention that.
They also manage to overlook that it would be impossible for any political party in charge of Croydon Town Hall to raise Council Tax by more than 1.99 per cent. That’s because it is the law. Croydon Conservatives should know this very well, since in 2013 they increased our Council Tax by the maximum amount allowed. Had they tried to increase Council Tax by any more, then they would have needed to hold a local referendum for approval.
After eight years of Conservative control of Croydon Town Hall, all our Council Tax bills are now higher than they have ever been, and yet the standard of services we receive from the council are acknowledged to be worse than ever.
In fact, the Tories are only promising to freeze Council Tax in Croydon for the next two years – the same election pledge made by Labour.
“Croydon Tories know that the law of the land forbids any council, regardless of political colour, to increase Council Tax beyond 2 per cent,” Newman said. “They are also acutely aware Labour councillors voted to freeze Council Tax this year and next.
“As they become increasingly desperate about their own chances of political success, to willfully mislead the people of Croydon about Labour’s tax plans, just weeks before an election is frankly a political lie on a grand scale.”
Inside Croydon’s recent coverage of the local elections:
- Policy analysis 1: The incinerator
- Policy analysis 2: Hammersfield
- Conservatives snub hustings as sham candidates exposed
- Threat of UKIP forces Tories to press the panic button
- These are the councillors who voted to build on a public park
- Questions mount over political influence at council
- Council allowances and local politicians’ secret consensus
- The list of candidates for the May 22 local elections
Coming to Croydon
- Warehouse International Playwriting Festival, May 17-18
- Riverside Animal Centre Open Day, May 18
- Coulsdon East local election hustings, May 19
- St Giles’ primary school open morning, May 21
- David Lean Cinema: The Rocket, May 22
- Songs From The Ledge, Spread Eagle Theatre, May 23
- Greek Myths: stories and mask-making, May 27
- Howard Marks: Scholar, Smuggler, Prisoner, Scribe, May 29
- David Lean Cinema: Dallas Buyers Club, May 29
- Tales from Ancient Greece, Upper Norwood Library, May 29
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, May 31
- Stitch Pitch quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, June 2
- Croydon Tech City “summit”, June 6
- An Improvised Murder, Spread Eagle Theatre, June 7
- Lakes Playground Action Group fun day, June 14
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, June 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Classic Car Show at Purley Rotary Fields, June 22
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- Warnings to the Curious, Spread Eagle Theatre, June 27
- South Norwood Allotments open day, June 28
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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