I am Croydon born and raised – and although I don’t see the place through rose-tinted glasses, I will always defend it to those who like to knock it.
Over the past few years there have been far too many reasons to knock Croydon: a flagship shopping development that’s sunk without trace, the revamp of the jewel in our cultural crown that went eye-wateringly over budget, and of course the bankruptcy of the council. Frankly, I’ve had enough.
That doesn’t mean I’m packing my bags and heading off to a different borough – it means I’ve had enough of just accepting the status quo. Something has to change, and radically, for our town, my town, to fulfil its potential.
Croydon needs leadership and vision. It needs someone to look at the needs of the borough as a whole, to bring us together, not try to play one end off against the other. In short, Croydon needs a directly elected mayor.
Unlike the existing system, where around 40 councillors get to choose who’s in charge, every single one of us on the electoral register would have a say in who is mayor. That doesn’t just matter for democracy.
For too long, we’ve seen the power pendulum swing from the Conservatives to Labour and back again, with the south of the borough getting their moment in the sun under the Tories and the north under Labour. What about working for the whole of Croydon? Isn’t that what our town deserves?
A directly elected mayor gives the supporters of all parties, and none, the opportunity to shape the leadership of the borough in a way that the current system doesn’t. In reality, there are only a few wards – in Waddon, Addiscombe East and New Addington – where voters can genuinely make a difference to who runs Croydon. With a mayor, Tory voters in Pollards Hill and Labour voters in Coulsdon will have as much say as their opposite numbers.
I should declare an interest. As well as being “of the borough”, I’m also a Labour Party member – something which, of late, has provided as much ammunition to people as saying that I’m from Croydon. The Labour leadership at Croydon Council has let us all down – residents, those working in the borough, and the vulnerable who are already seeing their services pared back to the bone.
They’ve also let down the fellow Labour Party members who helped get them elected, who put their trust in them to deliver the best for our borough. Croydon deserves better, and so does the Croydon Labour Party.
There are those within the local Labour Party who are keen to keep the status quo, the set-up that has brought Croydon to its knees, but there are many others who see a directly elected mayor as an opportunity to breathe new life into the borough and into local democracy. A mayor offers a fresh start for the borough, but also for the Labour Party, a chance to show that we have the vision for our town that lifts everyone, regardless of where they live.
I don’t want my town to be defined by failed leadership, dodgy deals and zero scrutiny. I want Croydon to offer the people who live and work here a vision for the future, and I want the Labour Party to deliver it.
Every party member has a choice on October 7: to stick with what we’ve got and hope it gets better, or to choose a fresh start.
I know what gets my vote.
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