‘If you want something better, then you have to vote for it’

REFERENDUM COUNTDOWN: With just days to go before the borough-wide ballot, PETER UNDERWOOD, pictured right, offers a Green Party perspective on the governance of the council

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Campaigning: Peter Underwood, here with the Greens’ Sian Berry at East Croydon Station, seeking votes  for the last London elections

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com, or post your comment to an Inside Croydon article that has caught your attention

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8 Responses to ‘If you want something better, then you have to vote for it’

  1. Peter Annetts says:

    The whole system’s a mess. Nobody’s been brought to justice but all Croydon Citizens will have to pay the cost.

  2. Geoff James says:

    Peter has some interesting ideas – but he is basically saying the residents of Croydon deserve the mess the that we have brought upon ourselves – we voted them in, so tough.

    Peter is asking, in his roundabout way, that we say “keep what we have” at the referendum on Thursday then “hope” that lots of better quality councillors arise in the local election next May and we are able to spot them.

    it is clear that if we say “No Change” at the referendum on Thursday then we are very likely get more of what we already have at the local elections in May. The other parties such as the Green Party might have a few competent candidates, but they would be very challenged to make sure we know who they are, and to field more than 10 highly competent councillors.

    Where as, by saying “WE WANT CHANGE” at the referendum on Thursday we are assured that things will change in Croydon at the next local election. Is this the answer to all Croydon’s problems? – well “no” because the mess that has been created by old/new Labour will take around 10 years to resolve (even if the Green Party could field 50 competent councillors).

    What we get with an Elected Mayor is a someone that truly has the mandate of Croydon residents because they need to be voted in by people right across the borough. The Elected Mayor MUST listen and be accountable to all – and that is certainly something that we lack now, and would not gain even if the Green Party was in charge.

    If the residents of Croydon want to tell all parties that the state of Croydon is no good enough and we expect better then we must “VOTE FOR CHANGE” in the referendum on Thursday.

    if Croydon votes for an Elected Mayor then this would not stop the Green Party fielding competent candidates to be a Councillor or the Elected Mayor for next May . if the Green Party has such talent then they should bring them forward in the election next May because the result of this referendum (whatever it is) does nothing to stop or hinder Peter from doing just that.

    • Chris Flynn says:

      “because they need to be voted in by people right across the borough”

      They need to get more votes than the other candidates. Which is similar to the current system. A mayor is not going to unite everyone to the same way of thinking. There is no mayoral candidate who represents everyone.

      It’s clear the current Labour council is in pretty dire straits. And even if DEMOC lose, I think we all know there is no chance the current Labour council will be in place after the next election ‘as is’, given the scandals they’ve faced. We don’t need the sledgehammer of a referendum to crack that nut.

      “The Elected Mayor MUST listen and be accountable to all”

      Not really. They’ll have the job for a fixed number of years, and poor leadership won’t replace them mid-term (as happened _even_ with Newman, eventually). And if they’re independent (now a greater likelihood), they won’t have a party influencing them. Like Trump (or Hangus the Monkey, mayor of Hartlepool), we could get someone bigger than a party.

      There seem to be so many parallels to Brexit – a stay/change referendum, being used to vent displeasure with the current regime, by changing the entire system to something unknown (no one knows who the mayor(s) will be), in a long-term move that’d be difficult to reverse (minimum of 10 years). Interesting times.

      I am certain DEMOC will win this referendum (I plan to spoil my ballot). But I’m still pinning my hopes on a great silver-lining of Stormzy putting his name forward. I can’t say how much I would relish seeing the posh, old, right-leaning NIMBYs in the south of the borough go out of the frying pan and into the fire if he took control with an agenda they didn’t like, and all thanks to them. Careful what you wish for, now.

      • Geoff James says:

        Hi Chris,

        Your limited logic appears to be based on prejudice and assumption.

        Assumption that the referendum will “VOTE FOR CHANGE”. I would never presume to tell the voters the result of any election until after the count is known.

        Assumption that Labour will lose the local election in May – why? – Labour continues to have a healthy base.

        Comparison of DEMOC to Brexit is like comparing an oil tanker to a plastic bottle– they both “float”, but there is little more to glean from any further comparison.

        Now, we can all paint worst case scenarios if the referendum decides for CHANGE – But a scenario that is very credible is that in the Referendum we decide to stick with the “Strong Leader model”, and then in May we get a repeat of exactly what we have today – for another 4 years. By voting “FOR CHANGE” in the referendum on Thursday we are certain that the political system is Croydon will be changed. My only assumption is that the voters of Croydon can decide what it best for our borough and I believe they are fed up with being told what they should do.

        I note that you skipped over what I think was the most important point I raised – if you, or any talented person, cares to step forward, then you can be a candidate to be the first Democratically Elected Mayor of Croydon.

        Finally, there is something malevolent when someone encourages voters to spoil their ballot paper in a fair and democratic process.


  3. Anita Smith says:

    what we have in Peter Underwood’s piece is a party political on behalf of the Greens. The Lib Dems are against a democratically elected mayor because they want proportional representation at elections. What neither have done is campaign for another way forward along their own party’s beliefs. At least DEMOC got off their backsides and actively campaigned for which is essentially a new way forward to replace the current status quo.

    No one else did.

    Geoff James in his measured response spells out the risk of doing nothing, This Thursday gives us the opportunity to do something. So be bold, if we do nothing come next May, we will have more of the same.

  4. Is a Green seat in Croydon even on the Green Party’s agenda?

    If so, they need the right candidates; singularly unimpressed with who they ‘offered up’ in my ward.

  5. BGH says:

    Reading Underwood’s arguments for not having a mayor for Croydon. Should not a mayor have no political affiliation with any political party, so that person can / will, be completely impartial?

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