The local Green Party have selected their candidate to stand for election as the first directly-elected Croydon Mayor, and have managed to choose someone who opposed switching to a Town Hall system run by a directly-elected mayor.
Peter Underwood is without doubt the highest-profile figure in the Green Party in this part of London, and has been his party’s candidate in multiple parliamentary, Town Hall and London Assembly elections over the past decade.
The Greens have never before come close to winning any elected office in Croydon, although Sian Berry, their candidate for London Mayor earlier this year, did manage to repeat the Greens’ 2016 performance and finish in third place in the capital-wide ballot, behind Labour’s winner, Sadiq Khan, and the Tories.
Underwood is understood to have been selected as Croydon Greens’ mayoral candidate by 55 per cent to 45 per cent of a membership vote, beating Tracey Hague.
Underwood’s key aims as Mayor are to “Make Croydon happier” and “Give power back to people”.
Underwood told Inside Croydon this morning, “I was against changing to a directly elected Mayor because I think it’s wrong to give all that power to just one person. That’s why I am standing to be your Mayor so I can put that power back in your hands.
“I also want to end the political bickering that has done no one any good. If people are willing to put their differences aside and work for the good of everyone in Croydon, then I will gladly work with them as part of my team.”
Underwood says that if elected, he would bring in citizens’ assemblies and “genuine consultations”, so people have a real say in what happens. He is also offering “to work across political parties so that everyone in Croydon knows their representatives can be involved in running the council”.
An Oxford graduate and former senior civil servant, Underwood, now works as a manager for The Conservation Volunteers. He has been a leading figure in a number of local campaigns on issues such as tackling racism, banning toxic weed killers from our parks, and supporting the campaign for justice for the residents of Regina Road. During the pandemic he was also one of the many volunteers delivering medicines and food to Croydon residents who were isolating.
He is critical of all sides involved in the slow but inevitable financial collapse of Croydon Council. “Croydon is in a dreadful state,” he said. “Vital services are being cut or stopped altogether, and we are all suffering.
“Instead of tackling the problems we just get given endless excuses. There have been failures by officials employed at the council and failures by politicians of both parties who just nodded along instead of doing their job.
“We still don’t know all the details of how bad Council finances are because of the culture of secrecy and people trying to hide their failings.
“For too long it has felt like Croydon Council only works for the benefit of overpaid executives and incompetent politicians. It’s time it worked for you.
“We know that Croydon has been left with no money and I’m not going to promise you miracles. But I can promise you I will review the way the council works from the bottom right to the top to make sure everyone is focused on doing the best they can for you.”
And that “Make Croydon happier” pledge? “My reason for being active in politics has always been to make people’s lives better.
“We all know it will take time to clear up the mess we’ve been left with in Croydon and I’m not going to claim I will sort everything out straight away. But I will spend all of my time as Mayor trying to make things better.
“My number one aim as your new Mayor is to make Croydon happier.”
The Croydon mayoral election will take place on May 5 2022, the same day that the local elections are due to be staged.
Croydon Tories have selected Councillor Jason Perry, the leader of the Conservative opposition at the Town Hall, as their candidate. Labour might get round to selecting their candidate in time for Christmas.
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