Tory MPs grandstand after voting through 40% council cuts

STEVEN DOWNES on the abject politicking of Croydon’s Tory MPs over the application of council cuts that they have supported at Westminster

Even by Tory standards, the rank hypocrisy of Croydon’s Conservatives over Chancellor Gideon Osborne’s austerity cuts is staggering.

A typical Tory voter: or at least Croydon's Conservatives seem to take the electorate for fools

A typical Tory voter: or at least Croydon’s Conservatives seem to take the electorate for fools

Both of the borough’s MPs, Croydon Central’s Gavin Barwell and South’s Chris Philp, dutifully toed their party line and have voted through benefit cuts and other austerity measures put forward by David Cameron’s Government. But now, they’ve taken to grandstanding on social media to bellyache about the impact of those very same Government cuts when the reality comes closer to home.

So with all the predictability of partisan professional politicians, instead of doing something about the cuts as they are affecting the borough – such as voting against them, or lobbying the Treasury for a fairer settlement for their borough – Barwell and Philp are trying to blame someone else. They must think that the electorate in their constituencies are fick or summat.

First, Philp opted for politics by petition over the proposal to close the CALAT adult learning centre in Coulsdon, as was first reported by Inside Croydon. Philp seems to have overlooked that he is an elected MP of the party in Government that has the power, and the resources, to provide the money to pay to keep the centre open.

But that would be too much like hard work for Philp, when instead five minutes on a laptop and a gesture-politics petition aimed at the local Labour council offers him an arse-covering alternative.

It reads: “We, the undersigned, call on Croydon Council to review and reverse this ill-judged and knee-jerk reaction and that the council enter into consultations with the local community and civic leaders to protect education provision in the south of the borough. CALAT is unique in its provision of education for all ages, races and budgets, and should not be treated as a point-scoring exercise in political austerity.”

Shhh! Don't tell anyone, but these are not waiters at a Croydon Business Club. They are, in fact, Tory parliamentary candidates

Conservative MPs Gavin Barwell (left) and Chris Philp: Prefer to grandstand on social media, rather than achieve fairer central government grants for Croydon

By this morning, the petition had not quite reached 200 signatures – so hardly the stuff mass movements are made of.

It is clear that closing the CALAT centre in Croydon is something that ought to be avoided. Finding the cash from central government to keep it open ought to be the MP’s priority. And the council’s, for that matter.

Meanwhile, Gavin Barwell has decided to grandstand on Twitter over the issue of the borough’s street-sweeping regime.

Barwell also appears to think we are all stoopid and so have forgotten that it was his Tory colleagues, when in charge of Croydon Town Hall, who halved the frequency of bin collections to once a fortnight, which now sees over-filled residential wheelie bins spilling on to our pavements.

Barwell has been in parliament for five years, and his voting record shows that he has never once opposed any of the dogmatic austerity cuts. After five years, these policies have been demonstrated not to work. So, inevitably, the Nice-But-Dim Tims of the Tory party have decided to apply even deeper cuts.

Croydon Council now faces a further 40 per cent cut in the money it receives from the Tory Government. “Local government is being destroyed by this Government,” Paul Scott, one of Croydon’s Labour councillors, said on Saturday.

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, speaking at Ruskin House at the weekend, described the Osborne austerity agenda as “a scorched earth policy” which poses an “existential threat” to the fabric of our society – including the street-cleaning services and adult education provision which even our local Tory MPs reckon we need.

Barwell's street-cleaning tweets dripped with rank hypocrisy: he has never voted against any of his Government's cuts

Barwell’s street-cleaning tweets dripped with rank hypocrisy: he has never voted against any of his Government’s cuts

As well as closing CALAT Coulsdon, Croydon is about to abandon green waste collections – another penny-wise, pound-foolish measure which will surely end up costing us all more money.

And Barwell claims that there’s to be a £554,000 cut in the budget allocated to street-sweeping. But a senior council figure claims that the MP has got his facts wrong.

What a load of rubbish: Croydon's streets have less frequent rubbish collections and have streets swept less often, too, due to Tory cuts

What a load of rubbish: Croydon’s streets have less frequent rubbish collections and have streets swept less often, too, due to Tory cuts

Some of the cuts in spending on street-cleaning have been made possible by better managing the contractors’ working patterns.

“We’ve increased street-sweeping frequency in problem areas, reduced it in non-problem areas,” a council source explained, without mentioning that the “problem areas” tend to be in the Labour-voting northern parts of the borough, while reduced services are likely to be experienced to the south, which tends to have solidly Tory blue wards. In Sanderstead, for example, the streets are to be swept once every six weeks, rather than once a month.

Councillor Stuart Collins, Labour’s deputy leader on the council who is responsible for the state of the borough’s streets, told Inside Croydon: “There were no cuts in street-cleaning services.

“The cabinet meeting of July 13 referred to charging for building and DIY waste at recycling centres, and also charging for new and replacement bins, and the rationalisation of the landfill rounds through the village system. The opposition had the opportunity to ask questions but said very little. Now they have got their facts wrong.”

There remains a lingering disappointment, however, that Croydon’s “ambitious” Labour council, by applying the cuts, is simply doing the Tories’ dirty work for Osborne, and Barwell and Philp. That’s largely because, under recent local authority legislation, they have no option: if a council fails to make a budget and apply it, the borough chief executive can step-in and take over all executive powers for the running of the council within 24 hours.

But then, with Nathan Elvery in the CEO’s office in Fisher’s Folly, there are some who might argue that’s already happened anyway.

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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
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