Croydon votes 4-to-1 in favour of having directly elected mayor

CROYDON IN CRISIS: After a disastrously run, high-spending campaign by Labour opposing change, every ward in the borough voted for a new way of running the council. By STEVEN DOWNES

X marks the spot: Croydon voted for #ABitLessShit

Katherine Kerswell took to the low stage at Trinity School just after 2.30am, a couple of sheets of paper in hand, to read the results. Steve Reed OBE, the Labour MP who had driven his party’s opposition campaign against having a directly elected mayor, hadn’t even bothered to turn up for the count.

The turnout had been 21 per cent, Kerswell announced, which was, at least, a little better than feared, even though she had failed to distribute poll cards to all who expected them.

The council chief exec, serving as the official counting officer for the referendum, then got to the figures that really mattered.

11,519

voted to stay with the “strong leader” model of governance.

47,165

voted for change to a directly elected mayor, or something that is #ABitLessShit.

Kerswell’s announcement was drowned out in cheers from the large number of DEMOC supporters and campaigners in the hall, some of whom had spent more than two years working towards this goal. “As always, it has been a privilege to see local democracy in action,” Kerswell said.

Light work: the ballot boxes brought into the count did’t have too many voting papers

Having made the referendum a vote on the record of the Labour council, Reed and the council leader, Hamida Ali, got the answer they deserved.

After all the poor judgement and “corporate blindness” of the previous five years, they and the remaining Newman numpties had somehow managed to compound all that with a nasty campaign and displays of bad faith with the electorate.

Even as the count was getting underway, some in the local Labour party felt it necessary to issue apologies on social media “on behalf of our party” for the attacks made against the DEMOC campaign by one of discredited ex-leader Tony Newman’s favoured councillors. “Please bear with us,” they wrote. “We need your votes next May.”

And those local elections in seven months’ time could get very messy for Labour.

Quick count: council CEO Katherine Kerswell announces the result

In the end, 80 per cent of those who voted yesterday chose to change from the system that had bankrupted the council (Inside Croydon’s entirely unscientific poll had got it terribly wrong; our polling suggested 82.8 per cent would be in favour. We have already sacked the staff psephologist).

The most damning statistic of the night, though, came in the sampling conducted at the count: every one of Croydon’s 28 wards voted in favour of a switch to a directly elected mayor, including all 11 in Reed’s “Labour stronghold” of Croydon North.

Given Reed is Labour’s shadow spokesman for local government, and the party’s policy nationally supports introducing directly elected mayors, there were some this morning who were openly suggesting a resignation is in order. After a campaign that smeared Labour mayors such as Sadiq Khan in London, Manchester’s Andy Burnham and Damien Egan, of Lewisham, as “fat cats”, on leaflets that pictured burning £20 notes, Reed appears to have made his position in Westminster untenable.

The council’s official announcement of the result said Croydon “had chosen overwhelmingly” to switch to having a directly elected mayor.

Red-faced: Steve Reed didn’t turn up for the referendum count

An Extraordinary Council Meeting will be held to pass the resolution required to put the public vote into effect.

The current leader and cabinet system of governance will remain in place until the May 2022 elections,  when as well as electing 70 councillors from across the borough, residents will then be asked to vote for a directly elected mayor who will lead the cash-strapped council through to 2026.

Hamida “Apologetic” Ali took over as leader after Newman’s resignation one year ago this week.

But even this morning, she could not shake off the dissembling, dishonest culture she had inherited from her former mentor.

She tried to claim, “I listened to local people and ensured the council held this referendum”, but the truth is that she had no choice: 21,000 people had signed a petition,  organised by residents’ associations and the Croydon South Constituency Labour Party,  to trigger the referendum. Under the law.

Ali’s time in charge is almost up.

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: Nothing adds up as Labour plays numbers game over mayor
Read more: Leader apologises for six years of misrule


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2021 Mayor Referendum, 2022 council elections, Croydon Council, Croydon North, Hamida Ali, Katherine Kerswell, Steve Reed MP, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Croydon votes 4-to-1 in favour of having directly elected mayor

  1. Extraordinary – despite IC’s insight I didn’t expect all wards to vote for change. Now we must surely all pray that we get some quality candidates who put Croydon, and not their party if they have one, first.

    • derekthrower says:

      Yes one in five eligible people decided to express a choice on this matter. This is not an overwhelming mandate, but an expression of complete indifference.

  2. Geoff James says:

    Well done everybody. The voters of Croydon have spoken.

    What this is saying is that the voters of Croydon expect much better than we have seen, and we are fed up with no one listening to us.

    Labour is totally on the wrong side of this. Even someone limited to just two brain-cells could have managed the Labour response to DEMOC proposal (even before the petition was running) in a much better manner. Instead Labour went for a bunker mentality and tried to block everything that DEMOC did – Labour just dug themselves in deeper at every opportunity.

    It will be interesting to see how the current leadership react to this resounding poke in both eyes. I suspect they will wordsmith something that blames anyone but themselves.

    • Steve Reed has shown his true colours through every stage of this campaign; failing to gauge public opinion, failing to muster support, failing to organise the local Labour Party – Steve Reed OBE MP is clearly #ABitMoreShit than we all realised.

    • derekthrower says:

      No they haven’t. Only one in five eligible voters bothered to turn out. An underwhelming mandate for change.

  3. Anita Smith says:

    I was lucky enough to be at last nights count and it was apparent early on which way the vote was going. It is to the credit of labour councillors, one of their two MPs and supporters that they stayed to the bitter end – it would have been so easy to cut and run.

    But it is even more impressive that the reason the DEMOC campaign was so successful is because both main parties and the people of Croydon came together in common cause. It was a campaign run not along party lines, despite what the opposing side claimed, but by people with a common goal. to try and make Croydon a better place to live.

    The next 7 months will not be easy as all political parties jostle for position but we must choose the right mayoral candidate with the vision to make Croydon great again. It must be a candidate who can understand the concerns of both the North and South of the Borough, will listen to the voice of the people and local communities, and above all, not make the same mistakes as the past. And importantly, let’s make this a campaign free of the lies and misinformation that has so defined the last one. Croydon deserves better.

  4. Ali says:

    We can live in hope but almost inevitably the Mayor will be affiliated with one of the two major political parties – and the primacy of their party will be at the forefront of their thinking. See current Mayoral position incumbents.

  5. We can thank Cllr Tony Newman, Cllr Paul Scott, Steve Reed MP and from the Planning Department, Heather Cheesbrough and Pete Smith (retired) for this shitty next stage Croydon has to go through.

    Thanks guys.

  6. Ciaran Murtagh says:

    Looking forward to a Labour mayor to go with our two Labour MPs, our Labour majority council and our Labour Mayor of London.

    • Chris Flynn says:

      But of course the referendum was purely about a political system, and not a political party. Of course.

  7. David Simons says:

    Let us hope for an independent mayor who works genuinely for the people of the Borough. It is important that the newly elected Mayor uses IC as a mouthpiece and ignores the instructions of the Council press team to state No Comment whenever asked a question.

  8. Ian Kierans says:

    It is good to know that at least this Statutory requirement will be met. It may not go as may hope and wish but at least it will be different and a golden opportunity to bring the borough back from ruination. One would hope that it is also a lesson learned about ethics, honesty and open communication in Local Government.

    All I can say is a big thank you to all who voted, no matter what for. It is now up to everyone to elect a person be it Councillor or Mayor in May next year who will put ALL Croydon residents and their needs first and is willing to work with others pragmatically.

    People will vote in CLPs across the Wards in the next few weeks. It is now up to those to elect a person, be it Councillor or Mayor in May next year who will put ALL Croydon residents and their needs first and is willing to work with others pragmatically.

    It is also up to us as voters to be realistic in our expectations of what can be done in this environment irrespective of fault.

    • Before the election in May, Steve Reed MP must cease his involvement in the mayoral election or explain why he disagreed with 80% of Croydon residents who voted.

      There is clearly a mismatch here. Or double standards?

      It raises the question ‘who exactly does Steve Reed OBE MP represent (other than himself)?

  9. miapawz says:

    I hope the mayor is not tarnished by being too closely associated with either parties but represents the people of Croydon’s views.

  10. It’s bewildering that Steve Reed and colleagues felt their “disastrously run” campaign made more strategic sense than remaining neutral. Their leaflet said “Croydon Conservatives have forced a public vote”, a claim that appeared laughable when the DEMOC leaflet that also came through my letterbox prominently featured quotes from a supportive Labour councillor (Jamie Audsley) and two Labour Croydon branch secretaries. If Labour now prevent Cllr Audsley standing again in Bensham Manor next May, that will surely enrage supporters and risk further rebellion.

  11. Ursicles says:

    Pitiful party, with pitiful councillors who bankrupted a council and still believe they have done a good job. Lined their pockets, and those of their friends whilst pretending to be the party of the people.

    Criminal proceedings should be brought against those who were in charge.

  12. Let’s hope we don’t follow our US cousins and nominate a couple of senile candidates who struggle to string together a simple sentence. Let’s hope we have some real leaders in the running.

  13. Lewis White says:

    That is a good clear result– far from the Brexit 52% – 48% fiasco.

    Whilst the polling station was empty when I voted in the afternoon, it was good to see people coming away after voting, and walking towards the polling station to vote. I could somehow detect who was a “voter”, and it gave me a democratic good vibe that people had got out to vote, what ever their views.

    I was just wondering if an elected Mayor would have a public meeting like the US president “State of the Union” address, each year. Or even better, every 6 months. Or even better, topic meetings to allow discussion on things like Housing, Parks and Environment, Highways, Youth, Education, Refuse and Recycling, et al.

    I really hope so.

    Thinking of Public meetings, the Council used to stage regular meetings in every area which I recall were called “neighbourhood partnership meetings”. These were very useful as the public could attend and ask questions of senior councillors and officers about hot topics–whether local or borough wide.

    I recall that they were abolished on a ridiclulous premise — that the meetings were dominated by attendees of white ethnic background. Never mind that even in Coulsdon, an area where the majority of the attendees were then indeed of this description, there were also many attendees of other ethnic backgrounds. Today, there would be greater numbers of people from Asian and Afro-Caribbean backgrounds and other European countries, as the local population profile has changed, which for me and many others is one of the joys of Coulsdon.

    The abolition of the meetings ensured that no-one of any ethnic background could attend and hold the council to account.

    The reality, no doubt , the real reason for abolition, was that the meetings really did put the councillors and ofdficers and their policies, actions and inactions in the public spotlight.

    So……. I hope that an elected Mayor would be a believer in responsive and transparent local government, and would have the courage to reinstate these neighbourhood partnerships.

    It is clear that we desperately need a sensible revision of the Local Plan, striking the right balance for the ratio of bulk/height/ width etc of development to plot size, on residential sites, to avoid over-development and “paved desert” style of developments where the trees, planting and green space are all but ( or totally) eliminated from the frontages and sides of the new buildings. These were exposed in the excellent recent article in Inside Croydon by Steve Whiteside.

    I wonder if an elected Mayor would have the power and strength to hold both the nimbies, and the town crammers, in check ?

  14. A few hundred thousand pounds and a twenty percent turnout to get “change to a directly elected mayor, or something that is #ABitLessShit”.
    The whole problem with this glass half broken argument is that a Directly Elected Mayor does not mean governance will be improved. It does nothing to tackle chronic local authority underfunding and has indeed drained the pool of resources a little bit to get something a bit less #*#*.
    If anyone thinks this is a solution to the problems of Croydon they are completely deluded.

  15. Ruth Hubbard says:

    As a keen Croydon-watcher from Sheffield – where, last May, we voted resoundingly for a modern committee system (from “strong” Leader and Cabinet governance)…..

    I’ve never really understood – in democratic terms – why anyone would want to replace one so-called strong leader with another, it’s all power in the hands of the few (or one). It is indeed #ABitLessShit as IC says. That’s why, in Sheffield, we wanted to make sure every one of the 84 councillors we elect across our communities (whatever party they are in) has the right to play a role in decision-making on behalf of their communities. I mean people either have democratic representation, or they do not. Under “strong leadership” (mayor, or L and C) the vast majority of voters are effectively disenfranchised (it’s a helluva stretch to say one directly elected mayor will ‘represent’ all electors in any meaningful sense).

    However, what I do understand is that Croydon was always going to vote for change in the face of a chronically failing local politics, local democracy and local leadership, alongside its toxic, tribal party politics. (And so much there, in as far as I have understood it through the fab reporting of Inside Croydon, has reminded me so much of the chronically failing local politics, leadership and democracy, plus toxic party politics, of Sheffield.). Indeed, councils are advised by the relevant advisory bodies that, in the face of well organised campaigns for change, the council should strongly consider simply changing governance itself – without the need to spend council tax-payers money on a referendum. Like Sheffield, your council ‘leaders’ dug in and doubled down. Like Sheffield a vote for ‘change’ (whatever that change was) was inevitable.

    Whatever, I think it’s important to understand what a governance referendum does. In removing the right of a council to decide for itself the way it works, it temporarily suspends ‘politics as usual’. Just for a moment it circumvents these. But it cannot replace local politics. At the end of the day, we all need our local politics and democracies to work…somehow.

    The broken local politics of Croydon (and of Sheffield) will have to be somehow repaired. The biggest job of a new mayor – and, crucially, the key players in both the main political parties there – will be to try to restore some basic legitimacy to local politics for Croydon voters. Without this the council as a whole – and whoever the mayor is – will never be able to play the important role that all local voters need it to play. This building of some basic legitimacy is as important (I’d say more important actually) than (the toxic) party stuff. Party acolytes tend not to get this at all – but politics is far bigger than their, or any, party.

    Coming out of any situation of chronic broken local politics, the prospects aren’t that great, even after a well-won referendum. We all need our local politics to work. Best of luck.

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