CROYDON COMMENTARY: Just what work does your councillor do for the generous allowances they get paid? Editor STEVEN DOWNES says that residents deserve to be told – just as they are in many other London boroughs
Croydon is a funny old place. With 70 councillors elected every four years, we should be one of the best-represented boroughs in all England.
Instead, our council has become a laughing stock, a seemingly constant presence in the Rotten Boroughs column of Private Eye, for a series of poor appointments and bad decisions, some taken long before the latest Labour administration, while housing scandals and Fairfield fiascos have been heaped on top of the bankrupting of the borough.
Each councillor receives a minimum of £11,000 each year in publicly funded allowances to represent us. It is fair to say that we are fortunate to be served by some very good, diligent councillors. It is equally fair to state that there are some who are simply, utterly, useless.
Outside of the Town Hall elections, which are coming up on May 5, how are ordinary residents able to tell whether their elected representatives are doing their job of raising the issues that matter with the council’s professional staff to ensure a better place for us all?
To many, it appears that our councillors’ priority most of the time is just to argue with each other in the Town Hall. It’s worth highlighting that right now we’re in the middle of a period of almost two months when there’s not even any Town Hall arguments going on.
Instead, the Croydon political duopoly has adopted their other favourite pastime, when they all become members of a leafleting cult. There’s little real council work being done by many.
Our wannabe politicians instead indulge their egos by stuffing leaflets through countless letterboxes, carrying messages that will rarely be read, let alone result in a single voter changing where they place their X on May 5. And then they do a spot of inane virtue-signalling by posting gormless selfies on social media: Labour candidates are required, under a “contract”, to post at least four such tweets each and every week of the campaign.
For the party machines, it is the pursuit of power, and another four years’ worth of allowances, which has become their distorted priority, not serving the people they ostensibly claim to want to represent.
This is a disservice not just to the electors of Croydon, but also to some of the better councillors we have, regardless of political persuasion, who really are diligent and who endeavour to conduct casework for residents.
Every councillor has the opportunity to submit casework through the council’s case management system. Elsewhere in London, it is common for authorities to release information each year on the volume of casework each member handles, just as they publish each councillor’s attendance record at Town Hall meetings.
While not a conclusive guide, the casework record gives a great indication for which councillors are pulling their weight. And it can also show which chancers are taking us for a ride.
Of course, it is possible to submit Freedom of Information requests for this data, as well as for the number of planning applications each councillor has referred to the planning committee. It is clear from other boroughs that there is no legal reason to hide this information.
All Mayoral candidates could commit today to publishing this information, on a rolling basis.
Likewise, they should be demanding that it becomes a part of routine council business to have a page on the official council website which carries every adverse ruling from the Local Government Ombudsman – as an object lesson to council staff and councillors alike. Croydon should be learning from its mistakes, not repeating them.
This is a great opportunity for Croydon to become a more open and transparent borough under new leadership.
Let’s not waste this chance.
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 email@example.com, or post your comment to an Inside Croydon article that has caught your attention
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- By having a comment section, we provide all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content. Details of how this works can be read by clicking here
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- Inside Croydon: 3.3million page views in 2021. Seen by 1.6million unique visitors in that 12-month period