A senior figure in Croydon Labour has called on his party’s leadership at the Town Hall to cut councillors’ allowances by 10 per cent to “show solidarity” at a time of swingeing council cuts, with around 600 jobs expected to be axed in 2016.David White is the secretary of the Croydon Central Constituency Labour Party. While White’s comments were made in an individual capacity, that they are held by such a senior and influential figure within a CLP in a key marginal seat may be seen as representing the groundswell of more radical opinion in Labour’s grassroots. It will surely give council leader Tony Newman plenty to think about.
White made his remarks responding to an article on Inside Croydon from Simon Hall, the Labour-run council’s cabinet member for finance, who outlined how the Tory Chancellor’s unfair treatment of local authority grants. Gideon Osborne is cutting £45 million from the central Government grant to Croydon Council.
“They’re hitting essential services and damaging the fabric of society,” White said of the Tory cuts. “As Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have said, ‘austerity is a political choice’.
“There is no economic case for the swingeing cuts the Tories are making. It is all about the Tories’ desire to reduce the public sector.”
But on the basis of “If you’re given lemons, make lemonade”, White used his comment to suggest additional financial changes for Croydon to those provided in Hall’s article. One of White’s suggestions echoed a proposal from Croydon trade unions – a reduction in the amount paid in “allowances” to councillors.
A total of £1.5 million is paid annually to the borough’s 70 part-time councillors. Newman, as the council leader, is paid the most, at £54,000. Despite the austerity policies imposed since 2010 by the ConDem coalition government and now Tories, Croydon’s local politicians, red and blue, have never once suggested reducing the overall total of their own allowances, nor reducing the number of councillors returned to the Town Hall.At least one reason for that Con-Lab consensus is undoubtedly the secret public subsidy which Council Tax-payers provide to Croydon’s political parties.
It’s almost like “protection money”, paid over by councillors for inclusion in the political group. Members of Croydon’s Labour group, for instance, are expected to hand over 7 per cent of their council allowances to party campaign funds. The Tories, too, have an “impost” on their 30 councillors’ allowances, though it is believed to be at a lesser rate because they have usually been more successful in fund-raising from businesses and members.
Reducing councillors’ allowances will, inevitably, reduce the amount that the councillors then hand over to their local parties.
In his comment, White said, “When the council has no alternative but to make cuts, they should include a reduction to their own benefits. A 10 per cent cut in councillors’ allowances would be symbolic but would show solidarity.”
White also called on Croydon’s Labour leadership to campaign “… against the austerity agenda as a whole, not just the settlement which Croydon has received”. Reading between the lines, that may be a call to oppose the Tory cuts and abandon the policies of the previous Tory council administration.
But White also suggested that the council should steal the Tory opposition’s thunder by organising “… petitions when particular services are cut, calling for the Government to restore grant to enable them to continue. An example of this is the ending of the free green waste collection”.
Over to you, Councillor Newman…
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