CROYDON COMMENTARY: One question which continues to be raised across social media platforms over the collapse of the council’s finances is, ‘When will someone be held to account?’ Reader STEPHEN BLYTHMAN has an idea to turn outrage into action
Am I alone in being outraged, not just at what has been happening in Croydon, but that no one is being held properly to account?
A lot of people say that they are cross about the council’s financial collapse, the job cuts and the closed facilities and axed services. But most are apathetic to the idea of finding a solution. This is exactly what those clinging to their positions rely on.
Should we find a way to stage a non-party-political petition, to the government, the council and the police, to make certain that the matter is properly investigated and that if necessary, legal action can be taken, perhaps even criminal prosecutions?
Because if this sort of action is not taken in an absolutely serious way, then we residents of Croydon, who have been treated with contempt, and swindled in various ways, could stage a Council Tax strike.
Most members of the council, be they elected councillors or employees, belong to professional bodies where correct conduct is not just expected but is a requirement and an obligation. Where their position within the council and their professions are linked, should they not be brought before those bodies with a request for an investigation of their suitability to continue as members of those organisations?
Once this has been achieved, perhaps we could demand that salaries for council directors are capped at a nevertheless generous £150,000 per year, and that the people selected to head departments are presented to the full council and have their appointments approved by that body. Failure to succeed in a position, and their subsequent removal, should not be rewarded.
We also have a right and a need to know whether there was some kind of legal obligation on the council to make the £440,000 pay-off to the former chief executive, Jo Negrini. If that payment was made because the council was legally required to do so, then the contracts given out by the council need to be reviewed and revised to ensure that that never happens again.
But if there was no legal requirement, then why was this vast sum paid out? Who sanctioned it, and why? And who is going to repay it to the Council Tax-payers of Croydon?
Many hundreds of millions of pounds of Croydon residents’ money has been wasted on property purchases. No one goes into such transactions without taking full professional advice, and those professional advisors should be well aware of what was happening in the market at the time of such deals. Was the advice the council received over the purchase of the Croydon Park Hotel wrong? Or was it ignored?
I certainly recall expressing my concerns at the time. So why did our councillors vote the deal through?
If the professional advice was patently wrong, can the council not sue? If the council went against advice, then surely those who pushed that through should be subject to investigation – and the path of the money traced. Nothing is done without a reason.
We pay very high Council Tax. I live in “comfortable” Shirley, where we get very little for our money, and now risk losing our library. I understand that our Council Tax helps other, less-fortunate parts of the borough. However, Croydon Council has royally screwed all residents of Croydon, be they Council Tax-payers or those who the council assists.
We are all victims.
The council has accumulated a mountain of debt – £1.5billion.
What do we have to show for it? A town centre that is run-down, derelict and spoiled, and which many of us now avoid because there is just no good reason to go there except through absolute necessity. Council services are being run down, essential staff being sacked while a lot of highly-paid managers appear to be laughing all the way to the bank.
Croydon has for too long been the butt of jokes, most of which now appear benign, perhaps even apt. Croydon has much that is good despite the council, we ought to be able to say we live in Croydon with pride, and not have to apologise.
Our councillors meanwhile appear frightened, sitting on their hands, acquiescent and submissive in following instructions. To be a councillor was a position one sought, not for an allowance, but to serve the community in which you live. If the present council had even a modicum of basic decency, moral sense and conscience, the councillors would resign now en bloc.
I think residents should start to organise now, not on political lines, but with common objectives.
We don’t need professional, career politicians just seeking a sinecure and a safe seat or ward. We need experienced and successful people from different fields who want to give something back to the community.
Read more: ‘One of the biggest casualties of council crisis is our trust’
Read more: Council Tax-payers pay for politicians’ game of cat-and-mouse
Read more: ‘Not good enough’ chair of scrutiny could yet stay in post
Read more: Officials to investigate possible wrong-doing at council
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