WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, on how a campaign based on the premise that there is ‘a serious and urgent need for a better democracy in the way Croydon Council is run’, has already got half the signatures it needs for a borough-wide referendum before next month’s launch event
It is a sign of how disliked and distrusted Croydon Labour leader Tony Newman and his council’s controversial planning policies have become that a mailshot sent to borough residents offering an alternative system got a response rate more than 10 times greater than similar lobbying exercises typically expect.
A petition calling for Croydon to have a directly elected mayor is now halfway towards the 15,000-signature target, which if achieved would force the council to stage a borough-wide referendum on the proposal – something which “man of the people” Newman has gone out of his way to block and frustrate.
And the formal “launch” of the directly elected mayor campaign has yet to be staged.
The meeting is being staged on Wednesday, February 5, at Christchurch Primary School, Montpelier Road, Purley, CR8 2QE, from 8.15pm.
The directly elected mayor campaign has already drawn support from a wide political range in the borough, including senior Labour figures, Tory MP Chris Philp, and even some from the far-right who still go into a blood vessel-busting frenzy whenever the word “referendum” gets a mention.
A Freepost mailshot sent out to thousands of residents before Christmas got an astonishing 25 per cent response rate – professional marketing organisations usually think they have surpassed themselves if they ever get a response rate of 2 per cent.
In a notice that went out early in the new year, the organisers of the campaign say, “This is a residents-led and -funded campaign supported by many Croydon residents, residents’ associations and community groups.
“We believe there is a serious and urgent need for a better democracy in the way Croydon Council is run.
“Residents have had enough of the council ignoring their concerns, in particular as regards planning decisions.
“The town should be run and decisions should be made with the general consent of the people and of local communities. This is our town, we pay the bills and we should be heard and our views should be properly taken into account.
“An elected mayor would have executive powers, replacing the role of leader of the council. An important benefit is that the Councillors can be challenged by the independently elected mayor to produce good outcomes for residents. This contrasts with the election of the ‘Leader of the Council’ by councillors of the majority party under the current system, which can lead to focus on outcomes that benefit councillors or groups of councillors rather than residents.
“So, whilst the current ‘Leader’ is chosen by a few councillors, an elected mayor will be chosen by all of the voters of Croydon – so an estimated 270,000 Croydon voters would each have an equal say in the choice of an elected mayor.
“An elected mayor will also provide a chance to lift the image and profile of Croydon. Our town is growing rapidly and deserves the enhanced status an elected Mayor will bring. Bedford, Bristol, Copeland, Doncaster, Leicester, Liverpool, Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, North Tyneside, Salford and Watford already have elected mayors.
“We need 15,500 voters to sign our petition if we are to force the council to hold a binding referendum that gives the people of Croydon the choice and the chance to have an elected mayor…
“Above all, an elected mayor will be the peoples’ choice and will be far more likely to listen to residents than a leader chosen by a few councillors. Under the current system the council is certainly not listening to local communities about planning decisions and they are approving developments that do not have the consent of local people.
“This is a critical moment for Croydon and the people of Croydon. We must not miss this chance for change.”
If you want to book a place at the launch of the directly elected mayor campaign, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to PO Box 3254, Purley CR8 9ER.
They may yet need to book a bigger hall…
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