While council leader Tony Newman leads a pointless discussion at tonight’s council meeting on “Crexit” – the impact of Croydon’s unilateral withdrawal from the European Union – the Labour leader is squandering a perfect opportunity to debate an issue of far greater importance, and relevance, to the borough, its economy, business rate revenues and the future of hundreds of people who work here.
Because just up the road from Croydon Town Hall, a public service is under threat of privatisation by the Conservative Chancellor, with the risk of job cuts or even the closure of the head office of the Land Registry.
The Land Registry’s Croydon office is one of 14 around the country, which have nearly 4,500 staff working on the ownership records of all land and property in England and Wales.
Trafalgar House on Bedford Park in West Croydon has been the Land Registry’s head office since 2011.
The Tory sell-off of the Land Registry, another transfer of a public asset for private profits, could see fees increased or cost-cutting of the registry. Or probably both. The Land Registry is a public service that is self-funding and is not a drain on public finance. There’s no need to sell it off to the highest bidder.
In 2009, the last time that the Department for Business Innovation and Skills reviewed the Land Registry’s offices, Croydon was one of those scheduled to be axed. Any new owners might revisit those closure plans. Were the Croydon office to be closed, or its staff laid-off following privatisation, it would have a negative impact on the local economy.
Yet this matter, and what position the local council might take on the issue, is not being addressed at the Town Hall tonight.
Instead, there’s to be a Town Hall debate on EU membership, as proposed by the council’s Labour group, in another spectacular waste of the council’s time, and Council Tax-payers’ money, worthy of any lame stunt the Tories used to pull when grandstanding for an audience that doesn’t actually exist.
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