‘Our time is now’? Newman is having a bit of a Mayor

WALTER CRONXITE, our man in the Town Hall reception flicking through the visitors’ book, says that the council leader’s “strategy” for funding cannot be delivered unless he agrees to abandoning the patronage on which he depends for his political power

Micawber-like, Tony Newman is hoping "something will turn up" in terms of funding for Croydon

Micawber-like, Tony Newman is hoping “something will turn up” in terms of funding for Croydon

“Our time is now,” the leader of Croydon Council, Tony Newman, declares in his latest online offering. He must think he is south London’s answer to Alex Salmond, although given what he goes on to say, his resemblance to Mr Micawber, ever-hopeful that “something will turn up”, seems greater with every passing day.

Less than six months since getting elected to run the Town Hall, Newman says that his strategy for Croydon’s salvation is to demand freedom from Whitehall guidance and government cuts: “Six months into our Labour administration in Croydon we have taken a clear strategic decision; namely we will seek to be masters of our own destiny and not victims of central government diktats or funding cuts,” Newman writes.

Truth is, this shows Newman has no strategy at all.

Newman wants to see extra rates and Council Tax income that comes from additional businesses created and homes built in the borough, money that is currently shared with the Mayor of London, all to come to Croydon.

With overblown hyperbole, Newman has launched Croydon’s bid for control over its own taxes by claiming that, “We are on course to see Croydon transformed from a sleepy suburb to a modern European city…” Oh, the city delusion, again. When will the burghers of our borough learn? “…with regeneration happening not just in our metropolitan centre but right across our many fantastic district centres as well.”

With the Hammersfield development as yet unfunded and its start delayed by another year, to anyone who doesn’t have a Glee Club membership card, it appears as if the local council leader is getting a bit carried away by his own press office’s PR spin.

Despite claiming support for the proposals from Mayor Boris Johnson and Croydon Tory councillors, it seems very unlikely that a new London Mayor in 2016 will allow money earmarked for the City Hall budget to be diverted to Croydon.

There is a modest momentum from Westminster politicians to find a way of devolving power to the people after the three main party leaders were shocked by their experiences in the Scottish referendum. Manchester has been promised extra powers, but this is devolution across 10 councils in Greater Manchester, not just one. If greater autonomy were to come to London, chances are it would be at city, not borough, level.

Risen without a trace: Tim Pollard

Risen without a trace: Tim Pollard

As ever, Croydon suffers from being a borough of huge size that has nevertheless been subsumed into Greater London. There are 32 boroughs in London, far too many in a time that calls for yet more austerity and savings.

One of the conditions for extra powers in Manchester is that they should have a directly elected mayor. That’s not something that the charisma-lite zone that is the Town Hall chamber will find an attractive option.

The leaders of Croydon’s two-party state, Newman and the Tories’ Tim Pollard (now there’s someone who’s risen without a trace) have found their way into well-paid power by being selected for council seats by just a handful of party activists, and they have then secured their own place at the top of the Town Hal pecking order by doling out £1.4 million per year of public money in the form of cabinet and shadow cabinet jobs for arch-loyalists. Patronage under the Medicis was rarely more blatant.

Having a directly elected Mayor of Croydon could undermine the self-serving edifice which Labour and Conservative councillors have managed to create for the benefit of their own party groups. So don’t expect any serious devolution of powers to Croydon anytime soon, unless Newman, Pollard and their closest allies agree to having a directly elected Croydon Mayor. And we all know what they say about Christmas and turkeys…


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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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3 Responses to ‘Our time is now’? Newman is having a bit of a Mayor

  1. davidcallam says:

    The Manchester experiment requires one elected mayor across all 10 boroughs in return for maybe some slackening of the purse strings by Whitehall.

    The London equivalent would presumably be one elected mayor across all 33 London boroughs – sorry, we’ve already got one of those, you say.

    Collapse of stout party, and stout party’s less rotund political counterpart.

  2. davidjl2014 says:

    Oh dear, oh dear, Mr Micawber is obviously suffering from delusion. And this after only six months! At this rate, come the next local elections, he’ll be a prime candidate for the Monster Raving Loony Party.

  3. The most important phrase in this report is the line: “doling out £1.4 million per year of public money in the form of cabinet and shadow cabinet jobs for arch-loyalists”, this along with the lack of robust selection procedures for senior Council officers including the CEO create very weak strategic management structures. These structures are not capable of effectively managing the Borough finances now; so the thought of delegating further funding to Croydon would be folly. Literally like throwing money down a black hole as there is so little transparency about public funds in this borough.

    Croydon political parties, local government and other connected agencies need to sort out their basic governance. Effective management might offer very much better value for money; then we will be able to judge whether or how much funding is required to fill any gaps.

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