Our local residents’ associations correspondent, SANDRA STEAD, on the latest moves over the borough-wide referendum
Just when Croydon’s residents might have thought it was safe to approach their letterboxes once again now that the elections are over, so the borough’s leafleting cult has been out and about armed with their latest glossy pamphlets.
This time, the messaging being imposed on long-suffering residents is about the borough-wide referendum, due to take place in October.
There’s been barely a pause for breath since the end of the latest political campaign last week, with DEMOC, the Democratically Elected Mayor of Croydon group, anxious that they have a mere five months in which to get their message across: that having a directly-elected mayor is a bit less shit than the current “strong” leader model that runs the council.
DEMOC is launching its campaign towards the referendum this Wednesday, May 12, at 8pm with a Zoom meeting which can be signed up for by clicking on this link to Eventbrite.
DEMOC already has the support of residents’ associations from across the borough, and if all goes according to plan – after they managed to collect more than 20,000 signatures in favour of having the referendum during the first covid lockdown period – and they achieve the simple majority vote in favour of change on October 7, then in May 2022 Croydon will elect its first executive mayor, as well as the usual 70 councillors.
The call for change has been very much inspired by outrage across neighbourhoods at some of the planning consents that have been granted by Croydon Council, together with the growing realisation – before he was forced to resign last October – that council leader Tony Newman and his little Labour clique were out of control and answerable to no one.
With Newman gone and the referendum on the horizon, Croydon Labour’s outright opposition to the proposition has been dropped, and the latest leaflets reflect that, featuring three senior Labour Party figures, including Amy Foster, the secretary of the party’s South Norwood branch who narrowly missed selection for last week’s council by-election, as well as Stella Nabukeera, the secretary of Croydon South Constituency Labour Party, and Jamie Audsley, the councillor for Bensham Manor ward.
“This referendum will be about the best system for our town – not about whether you support Labour or Conservatives,” Audsley is quoted in the latest DEMOC leaflets.
“As a Labour councillor, I support changing the system to have a directly-elected mayor.” It is an open secret, having organised his own campaign group already, that Audsley wants to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor next May.
On Wednesday night, there will be speakers from residents’ associations and from across the political divide, including Gerry Meredith-Smith, the chair of DEMOC, Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, Jo Milligan, the vice-chair of Croydon South CLP, and Geoff James, the planning expert from Kenley RA.
The previously implacable opposition to a mayoral system that existed in the Town Hall Labour group under discredited Newman and his cabal has switched of late.
Some councillors are realising that a democratically-elected mayor, with the backing of a vote from across the whole borough, from Upper Norwood to Coulsdon, Broad Green to New Addington, would have more democratic authority to take control of the borough from Tory government-backed council officials who currently dominate policy-setting.
Given the wake-up call from the by-election results last week, others have reached the conclusion that it might be easier for Labour to maintain control of the borough through the mayoral system, thanks to the party’s dominance in the north of the borough.
DEMOC supporters have also taken encouragement from election day last week, too.
Two London boroughs which already have directly-elected mayors staged referendums of their own on Thursday, and both saw overwhelming majorities in favour of keeping their mayor.
In Newham, 56 per cent voted against replacing their mayor with a committee system, while in Tower Hamlets – which is still stalked by the shadow of the return to politics of Lutfur Rahman – 77.8 per cent voted against the recommendations of all the major parties in favour of sticking with the mayor (Mayor Rahman was removed from office in 2015 after being found guilty of electoral fraud; he was disbarred from holding public office until 2021).
Read more: Vote swings to Tories could see Labour lose 15 council seats
Read more: Ali agrees to meet with DEMOC for referendum discussions
Read more: Collins under fire for ‘right-wing dictator’ jibe at residents
Read more: Newman gives ‘manifesto pledge’ to ignore referendum vote
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