The council will have only its second full meeting since March, with an Extraordinary Council Meeting being staged on September 28, called as a result of a motion of no confidence in council leader Tony Newman and his finance chief Simon Hall.
Having used coronavirus as an excuse for not staging scheduled meetings of the full council, even virtually, except once in July, the no confidence motion from the borough’s opposition Conservatives was submitted 10 days ago.
It took Newman (£56,000 per year in council allowances) and the Labour group a whole week to think up a response, which was finally released on Friday evening with an emergency motion of his own, but one which takes no responsibility whatsoever for the parlous state of the cash-strapped council’s finances.
Jason Perry, the new leader of Croydon Tories, had submitted his party’s requisition for the special meeting on September 4, in which he called for the immediate resignation of Newman and Hall.
Under the council’s constitution, the borough’s (ceremonial) mayor is supposed to arrange a date for such a meeting within seven days. Eventually, the response came on Friday evening, with a Labour counter-motion.
Labour’s motion suggests that the shortfall in funding facing Croydon has now reached £70million.
The wording from Newman and his Labour group is notable for failing to take any responsibility whatsoever, after being in power at the Town Hall since 2014, in which time they have doubled the borough’s debt to £1.5billion. According to Tony and his cronies, it’s all the government’s fault. And coronavirus. And demographic shift.
Newman’s motion reads:
This council notes that 10 years of austerity, the freezing of funding formulae and welfare reform has had a dramatic impact on the council’s funding, with a reduction of over £100million per year in that funding. It calls on government to honour its pledge to fund in full our covid-19 costs, direct and indirect, where there is currently a shortfall in excess of £70million. Further, it calls on government to work with us to ensure a fair funding deal for Croydon that recognises the huge demographic shift over the last decade which means that, although we are an outer London borough, our needs are akin to a traditional inner London borough.
Notably, when the motion was first circulated, it listed as signatories Newman, Alison Butler and Stuart Collins, the two deputy leaders, plus cabinet members Hamida Ali and Janet Campbell.
Barely 10 minutes later, Stephen Rowan, the council official who is the head of democratic services and scrutiny, was issuing an amendment to clarify that the Labour motion had in fact been signed by 11 councillors – the whole of Newman’s cabinet, most of whom are on at least £44,000 in allowances per year.
“If Tony’s going down, he’s taking the whole of his cabinet with him,” a Katharine Street source said.
“This is him getting them all to dip their hands in the blood, to try to provide him and Simon with some cover over the call for their resignations.
“He knows he’s facing what could be an angry group meeting on Wednesday – the first one he’s called since July – and then there’s the vote of no confidence on the table against him. His game now is to shore up his support among his cabinet.
“Given the parlous state of the borough’s finances, with the council running out of money by the end of this month, silly little political games like this will be seen as just that by the public.
“Through all this, Tony hasn’t once stepped up and said he’s going to fix things, he’s never said sorry – to the borough’s residents, to the council workers who are about to lose their jobs.
“It could all rebound very badly for Tony and his cabinet.”
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