Tony Newman’s Labour group faces losing control of Croydon Town Hall at the first time of asking if the latest national opinion poll, which puts the Tories 12 per cent ahead, translates locally.
And yes, of course all opinion polls come with hefty health warnings since the pollsters collectively got so much so spectacularly wrong in the lead-up to May’s “too close to call” (ha!) General Election.
And yes, the next council elections are still a long way off, in 2018.
But one year into Newman’s group’s control of the borough council, unless they are able to convince local residents that Labour has truly made a difference to Croydon, this week’s ComRes poll, conducted for the Daily Wail, would see the Tories gaining three wards and nine new councillors.
At risk for Croydon Labour if their party is so far behind in the polls is Waddon, the only ward in true-blue Croydon South that does not have Conservative councillors; plus Ashburton, the much-prized ward won for the first time by Labour in 2014; and the key battleground ward of Addiscombe.
Such an outcome would make Tim Pollard the new leader of the council, in a group of 39 Tory councillors, a majority of eight over Labour’s 31.
Even a redrawing of ward boundaries could not save Labour at current support levels.
Whether such a threat to their hard-won seats persuades the well-established Addiscombe councillors – cabinet member Mark Watson and Scrutiny Committee chair Sean Fitzsimons, plus Mayor Patricia Hay-Justice – to begin to lobby for more action, and spending, on key local issues remains to be seen.
Certainly, the local party’s leadership’s strategy of doing just as the council’s executives tell them and implementing many of the policies they inherited from the discredited previous Tory administration does not appear to be winning over hearts and minds.
Which may explain why Newman has started wittering on about getting an extension of the Bakerloo Tube line to Croydon. This is something which transport experts claim has about as much chance of happening as the editor of this website winning the next staging of Miss World. That Newman’s latest pie-under-the-ground blatherings have been given such extensive coverage elsewhere just goes to demonstrate the lack of rigour of some media.
Publicly giving your “backing” to a scheme over which you have little or no influence, and which is unlikely ever to happen, is a low-risk distraction strategy for Newman – distracting from those aspects of local government over which he does actually have some influence, but has so far failed to cause much of an impact.
Transport for London’s Bakerloo proposals would see the line extended from the Elephant and Castle to Lewisham, thence to Catford and Hayes by utilising existing overline tracks, and then possibly tunneling through to Bromley.
Somewhat sniffily, Bromley Council has turned its nose up at that suggestion. The project is reckoned to cost at least £3 billion. TfL says it “… is investigating a range of options with boroughs along the route of the extension to for generating funding for the extension from new developments”. Which all suggests that it is just another Boris Johnson project which is entirely unfunded.
Newman’s fantastical “bring it to Croydon” call makes for easy headlines, but it fails to address the fundamental engineering issue: how? Where are the existing tracks along a route from Lewisham into Croydon? Tunneling all those extra miles would be prohibitively expensive.
Croydon Council’s record for extracting funds from developers, such as Menta and Hammersfield, has been woeful. Anyone managed to complete the walk over the Bridge to Nowhere from Dingwall Road across the tracks into Addiscombe yet? What makes anyone assume they might be any more successful in extracting many millions from the shopping mall or skyscraper developers for the Tube? Maybe Newman can tap into Tessa Jowell’s private income sources?
Meanwhile: how’s the state of Croydon’s streets?
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