Town Hall reporter KEN LEE reports from last night’s business-lite council meeting, safe in the knowledge that there’s just two further full councils and a Christmas get-together to be held in 2019
Croydon councillors, having only recently voted themselves a pay rise, will now work shorter hours. That was among the first announcements of Humayan Kabir, the councillor for Bensham Manor ward who donned the chains and robes of office as Mayor of Croydon last night.
Speaking at the annual mayor-making ceremony in the Town Hall chamber, Kabir said that in these modern times, three-and-a-half-hour meetings of the full council are just too long. According to new Mayor, this is because Croydon’s 70 councillors have “short attention spans”. Poor lambs.
The new Mayor said he would work with the Labour and Conservative leaders to deliver shorter meetings “through the constitution”. Jo Negrini, Croydon’s £220,000 per year chief executive, sitting alongside the Mayor all done up in her ceremonial robe and bright-white collar for the pompous occasion, may have allowed herself a little smirk at the prospect.
Because for senior councillors and the council’s executives, less time in public Town Hall meetings means less time for irksome accountability and awkward questions.
And this in what Tony Newman, Labour’s council leader, once promised would be “the most open and accountable council” in the borough’s history.
Croydon’s full council met only six times during the last municipal year, excluding the usual annual Trumptonesque Mayor-making flummery witnessed again yesterday evening.
Having shorter meetings will further limit the questioning of councillors. Not that there’s many opportunities for real scrutiny of councillors, and the council’s officials, anyway.
Because for half the year, there are no full council meetings at all.
The last full council meeting was held on April 1.
There were no debates or public questions held during last night’s meeting. The council felt it had far more important things to do, as Councillor Bernadette Khan handed over the ceremonial trappings of mayordom to Kabir.
The next full meeting of Croydon Council now won’t be until July 15 – a full eight weeks away.
After that, Croydon’s 70 councillors will not gather again in the Town Hall chamber for a full council meeting until … October 7, a further 12 weeks later.
July 15 and October 7.
There’s no full council meeting in the Town Hall calendar for November, and after that there’s just the ho-ho-ho and seasonal jollity with sherry and mince pies in the Mayor’s Parlour for selected friends and guests, and before you know it… we’re in 2020.
So that’s it for this year: July 15 and October 7.
Those will be the first, and last, opportunities before the New Year for the Labour-run council leadership to be asked questions about, just for example, radioactive waste and the Viridor incinerator, or the piss-poor performance of council house-builders Brick by Brick and the borough’s still-growing homelessness list, or the controversial car parking consultation, or the real prospects of Westfield ever happening, or fly-tipping and the state of our streets, or Fairfield Halls’ delays and mounting costs, or the consultants’ report on library closures in some councillors’ wards. The list goes on…
In last night’s announcement, no one dared to make the very reasonable and somewhat obvious suggestion that having more meetings, more frequently, might help to reduce the need for full council meetings to run on for so long on the rare occasions that they are held, as presently happens.
Tony Newman, as council leader, gets £55,000 per year in council allowances – more than a grand each week. Or, in terms of full council meetings in the year, very nearly £10,000 a pop.
In total, Croydon Council tax-payers fork out £1.56million a year in council allowances to the borough’s 70 councillors, all of whom paid full attention when voting themselves a pay rise last year, and none of whom ever mentioned their short attention spans when knocking on your door asking for your vote…
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