REFERENDUM COUNTDOWN: Yesterday, we reported MP Steve Reed’s Labour Conference speech, where he made a strong case of devolving power – just not in his own constituency, where he has been arguing against a directly-elected mayor over the past few months.
Here, LEILA BEN-HASSEL (pictured), a Labour councillor, makes the case for voting against change in the Oct 7 referendum
Weren’t the people who signed the petition calling for a referendum on the change to a directly elected mayor misled by south Croydon Tories? They were seen getting people to sign their DEMOC petition telling them to sign “to stop flatted developments”.
There are 385,000 people in Croydon – I would trust them if I knew most would even turn up for the referendum being held on October 7.
But this vote has been something the Tories have wanted since ex-MP Gavin Barwell talked about having a democratically elected mayor, as they know it’s their best chance to get back control of the council.
Stop making it sound that the Tories are doing this in the interest of the people of Croydon. You can hate Steve Reed or the Croydon Labour group all you want, but it is clouding the real reporting on the true Tory motives behind this vote.
Governance of the council has been poor, but regardless of the model in place, it still would have been poor, mostly down to the lack of competent corporate management and poor political and organisational culture.
The law restricts what is on next week’s referendum ballot – so people can only vote for what was the subject of the petition (an elected mayor) versus the existing system. And to say voting for the existing system is a vote for the status quo is misleading.
If the mayoral system is introduced, it cannot be changed for 10 years. Under the current system, we can implement the recommendations of our governance review, including the hybrid of cabinet and committees, or change to a full committee system.
Personally, I am fed up with personality politics, and an elected mayor brings more of that, rather than opening up power.
I will continue to advocate for collaborative forms of decision-making.
If the mayoral system passes, we would need to ensure that it is a mayor that sees it as an opportunity to drive a community-focused agenda, and I’m sure many would agree that that wouldn’t be the case under a Tory mayor.
At no point in your reporting do you reference the council’s governance review which was cross-party – Tory councillors, including their leader, approved it. So why not call out their hypocrisy to support something just six months ago, and then now say a mayor system is best..?
Overly focusing on the systems also distracts from other processes which are important aspects of local democracy – lowering the threshold of key decisions so more are made in public and not under delegated authority, the development of an Access to Information protocol – all these things I am pushing for. These matter, too, for good democracy.
Lastly, patronage… why don’t you think that a mayoral system would be just that – an open door for good old-fashioned patronage. Under a Tory mayor, it would be a good, old white man, boys’ club (have you not seen their candidate list of mostly men?).
I have advocated for election of cabinet by the Labour group, to move away from the old patronage system – we don’t want to go back to that because it was a real contributing factor to some of the failures in some of the bad decisions that were made.
Read more: Reed goes video ga-ga as Labour campaign gets desperate
Read more: Town Hall leadership hatched plan to break election budget
Read more: Reed group fined for slow declaration of £800,000 donations
- Leila Ben-Hassel has been a Labour councillor for Norbury and Pollards Hill since March 2019. This is an edited version of a comment she has posted to the Inside Croydon Facebook page
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