Labour council threatens £1m of cuts over mayor referendum

WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, watched Monday night’s full council meeting so you didn’t have to

Simon Hall threatened cuts to public services over the council’s spend on a mayor referendum at Monday’s budget meeting

Croydon Council will spend £1million on staging, and contestng, a referendum over whether the borough should have a mayor directly elected by all Croydon’s voters, instead of the current system under which the council leader can be picked by as few as 21 councillors.

Speaking at Monday night’s Town Hall meeting to set council budget for 2020-2021, Simon Hall, the cabinet member in charge of finance, said the council would make sure that “all the appropriate communications” would be sent to voters.

The message from Labour cabinet member Hall (£45,000 in allowances per year) was clear: if Croydon residents want better democracy, we’ll make them pay for it.

Hall estimated that the total cost of a council publicity campaign might be £1million as he speculated that such costs would force him to consider making cuts to children’s services or closing libraries.

Those supporting the referendum have described Hall’s £1million cuts threat as “scaremongering” and “spite and blight”.

The huge spend – far in excess of the usual expense for running a borough-wide ballot – reflects a determination by the Labour-run council and its leader, Tony Newman, to defeat any referendum, which would likely oust Newman and his chums Alison Butler and Paul Scott from their Town Hall positions, and allowances.

Patsy Cummings, backed by Newman (left): is she campaigning for more than the London Assembly?

Yet despite Newman and Croydon Labour’s official position being to oppose the idea of a directly elected mayor, some senior Labour figures in the council are already “on manoeuvres” to secure their party’s nomination as candidate for the new position.

On Monday, while Hall was seeking to shift responsibility for unbudgeted expenditure and council cuts on to the directly elected mayor campaign, his party’s members in Croydon South members were being told that Patsy Cummings will address them about “her fight for community, fairness and justice”.

Though presented as being about Cummings’ candidacy for election to the London Assembly, the meeting will inevitably help her to raise her profile among members ahead of any selection process for Labour’s candidate to stand for Croydon Mayor.

For it seems that the borough-wide referendum will happen, and sooner rather than later.

Organisers from the campaign, DEMOC, say that they now more than 11,000 signatures on the dotted line of their petition requiring a referendum on the issue.

Another packed public meeting took place last week, this time in Reedham, with residents’ associations, the chair of the DEMOC campaign Gerry Meredith-Smith and the Croydon South MP Chris Philp speaking.

Reedham last week was the venue for the latest standing-room-only meeting of DEMOC supporters

The number of signatures required to force the council to stage a referendum on the issue has just increased, with 5per cent of electors now calculated as being 13,788, up from 13,219.

Responding to Hall’s claim that it might all cost the council £1million, Meredith-Smith said today, “This referendum has been coming down the line for a good length of time, and I would have expected a prudent and professional organisation to have budgeted for expenditure on a referendum.

“We have 12,000 signatures and are securing 1,000 hard copy signatures each week, so we will have the required number this month. We will continue to secure signatures after March.”

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6 Responses to Labour council threatens £1m of cuts over mayor referendum

  1. derekthrower says:

    So the Whitgift Resident’s Association Chairman thinks this has been coming down the line for sometime. From what I can see this has been cooked up in under a year.(The Facebook page was only created in July, 2019) Don’t know what organisations he has ever worked for, but you can only budget for such a contingency when it looks like it has a reasonable chance of occurring. This certainly wasn’t the case this time last year.
    Well they certainly have engineered the discontent to provide a solution to a problem to which they will not have the answer. The demographic pressures will not go away and all the brownfield development they can contrive in Croydon will not provide a pressure valve. Funny how this group of people who are so free with public funds would be the first to cry about the misuse of public funds if any are used to deal with those in social and health needs. Tony’s Cronies are about to be replaced by Gerrymander’s Gang.

  2. derekthrower says:

    The first Democ meeting was in July 2019. A speculative poll in May 2018 with a concern about areas of London which have Labour Mayors is hardly a long time ago or even the defining moment when the momentum started for a Mayoral system to be installed in Croydon.

    • You’re wrong in your facts, Derek, and therefore wrong in the assumptions that flow from that false start.
      The May 2018 opinion poll was not about anything other than a democratically elected mayor in Croydon. It was conducted entirely in Croydon, and involved no other London boroughs. It’s outcome was indeed the starting point for the DEMOC campaign.

      You don’t appear too concerned, though, with this £1million figure which Tony and his cronies have started bandying about. Conducting a borough-wide poll in Croydon ought not cost much more than £300,000.

      Have you considered the scale of gerrymandering that Newman, Hall, Butler and Scott are considering undertaking at vast public expense to preserve their own positions?

      • derekthrower says:

        You have a lot of faith in a budgetary figure being put forward. If Tony and his Cronies are gerrymandering there are simple measures to seek redress in law, but funnily enough the proponents do not want justice they just want to alter the balance of power in a local authority. With regard to this pivotal poll which was conducted such a long time ago. Why don’t you just tell us who commissioned it ? Democ was formed in July 2019 or do you deny that too ?

        • I have no faith in any budgetary figures put forward by this administration, as it has demonstrated repeatedly that it can never meet its own budgets.
          It always over-spends.
          So the £1million threat – effectively threatening the Croydon public with their own money – could indeed end up costing Croydon more. And as you well know, the ombudsman and other systems of local government accountability are pretty feeble in most respects, but especially so in post-fact assessments of gerrymandering.

          You began this thread by claiming that the notion of having a directly elected mayor has not been foreseeable in order for the cost of any possible referendum to be included in this year’s council budget. Now you are saying that the Survation poll on the topic was “such a long time ago”. You can’t have it all ways, Del Boy.

          We reported the formation of DEMOC in July 2019, so we are hardly going to deny it. And even that should have been long enough ago for Simon Hall and Jo Negrini’s top team of number crunchers to be able to factor in the cost of a referendum into their budget. Oh, how they miss the quiet competence of Richard Simpson…

          Can’t tell you who commissioned the poll, because Survation keeps their client information confidential, though you really ought to have a look at some of the figures the poll came up with then – “such a long time ago”, according to you.
          As we reported at the time:
          “Only 16 per cent were against. There was support for the idea among all age groups. Support among younger voters (under 35s) was 64 per cent.
          And Labour voters were most likely to support the idea.”

          If there was a similar poll conducted today, it seems very likely that there would be even stronger support for having a more democratic system.

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