We all know that Croydon Council is useless. On Thursday, we are being offered the chance to change the way it is governed to a directly elected mayor, but it’s a change in the wrong direction and will only make things even worse. That’s why you should vote No to a directly elected mayor on October 7.
It makes sense to look at why the Council has been so useless in the first place and there are three main reasons we are in this mess:
- The national government has made drastic cuts to the funding given to councils and removed most of the powers councils used to have (for example, to stop developers building whatever and wherever they want)
- Croydon Labour allowed everything to be run by just three or four people who were incompetent and who refused to listen to anyone who disagreed with them
- Croydon Conservatives completely failed to act as an effective opposition and just went along with the dreadful strategies being put forward. They even voted to agree Labour’s dodgy budgets, instead of challenging them and coming up with better ideas
So what difference would having a directly elected mayor make?
Well, changing to a directly elected mayor would have no effect at all on point 1. A mayor would have no more money or powers than the current council. So a mayor wouldn’t be able to restore all of the services that have been cut and they wouldn’t have any more power than the current council to stop bad planning decisions.
On point 2, we know that leaving everything in the hands of just a few people was a really bad idea. Giving all that power to just one person would surely be even worse. We should be trying to get more people involved in decision-making to make sure that decisions reflect the different views of Croydon residents. Instead, a mayor would just be a four year dictator.
On the third point, even though the Conservatives have been a useless opposition, the system at least allows there to be some opposition. If we moved to a directly elected mayor then there will be no opposition at all. The mayor would have the power to make all the decisions and could ignore what anyone else might say.
Despite these points, some people arguing for a directly elected mayor say that it would be a better system because the mayor would have to listen to everyone in Croydon. But we know that this simply isn’t true.
We already have someone elected to represent the whole of Croydon and that is our representative on the London Assembly. Do you remember them ever asking for your opinion on anything? Do you remember them trying to find out what you want to happen? Do you even know who they are? If we moved to a directly elected mayor, it would be exactly the same.
We know that if there was an election for a mayor of Croydon, Labour would try to get their supporters to vote for their candidate and the Conservatives would try to get their supporters to vote for theirs – and they wouldn’t bother to listen to anybody else.
There is also a mistaken idea that a mayor would need the support of a majority of votes. But they don’t, they just need the biggest number. For example, Sadiq Khan didn’t get the support of the majority of voters to be Mayor of London even when the second choice votes were added on. There is no reason to believe a Croydon mayor would be any different. So we will most likely end up with a mayor supported by way less than half the people in Croydon.
And if the mayor was Labour or Conservative, they would most likely just do things to please their own supporters and ignore everyone else – just like council leaders in Croydon have always done.
So if we don’t change to a directly elected mayor, what can we do?
Well the answer is quite simple. If we want a better council then we need to elect better councillors. If you just keep voting for the same old parties then you will just get the same old politics. If you want something better, then you have to vote for it.
Next May, we get to elect a whole new council. Before you cast your vote, ask yourself is this person going to work hard for me and my area or are they just going to do whatever their party tells them to do? Are they interested in dealing with the real problems or just repeating tired old slogans?
Next May we have the chance to break the stranglehold of the two old parties. We have the opportunity to get some new people elected. People who won’t be afraid to ask questions. People who won’t be afraid to come up with new ideas. People who fight for the residents in their area and not just sit on the backbenches and collect their councillor allowances.
So on October 7, vote no to directly elected mayor. And in May next year vote for councillors who will sort this mess out and start making Croydon a better place to live.
Read more: Reed tells nation what he won’t tell Croydon: trust the people
Read more: Town Hall leadership hatched plan to break election budget
Read more: 21,000 residents petition for elected mayor referendum
- Peter Underwood is a Green Party politician and serial election candidate. Croydon Commentary is a platform for all our readers to offer their personal views about what matters to them in and around the borough. To submit an article for publication, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your comment to an Inside Croydon article that has caught your attention
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