Making the case for councillors’ casework to be made public

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

Accountable: It’s time to reform the information available on our councillors

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.

Constant presence: Croydon is a regular in Private Eye’s  Rotten Boroughs column

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.

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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
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4 Responses to Making the case for councillors’ casework to be made public

  1. Paul Ainscough says:

    A good way forward

  2. Tony Reiss says:

    Agree 100% – this will help root out the useless councillors – we know who they are.

  3. Peter Underwood says:

    I have already said at hustings that I would bring this in as mayor. I believe that I should be held accountable for what I do in public office and so should everyone elected on to the council

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    Politics in Croydon is like a match weekend at Stanley Park – Blue one side, red the other. Liberals and Democrats caught a boat across the pond at least two centuries ago, the only Green is the battlegrounds grass that turns a nasty claret at times and the Independents are the officials who blow a whistle or flap a flag crying foul play.

    And in the background no matter what the administration is sucking in all the peoples money and spitting out sod all.

    So I totally agree with the points made in this article.
    Although casework is not the whole picture it is a reasonable measure. Councillors do give reports back to their local party meetings and they can be questioned at those also, but what about the majority that are not paid up party members?
    Too often Councillors take the attitude that ”well they should join” and that has mileage. But it ignores that Councillors are there to represent everyone despite it being a first past the post party system.

    There was a time that Councillors were unpaid and what they did was voluntary with only expenses and not much of that. Our 70 Councillors should take note that the £11,000 also covers communicating with constituents – All of them.

    I do have some amusement when I do get to attend some meetings and listen to those reports. Sadly a few pointed questions and the ”report message” is suddenly a bit like an aspiration with more holes than a sieve.

    I would suggest that all 70 + 1 Mayor do a report and send to IC editor for posting in a monthly section but that might get quite a few sacked as they might be deemed to have communicated with a proscribed publication, but more importantly it would be scrutinised a lot harder than the last few attempts by said Councillors.

    I like the FOI idea though would not hold my breath waiting for this administration to comply as you would probably hit both Red and Blue in quick succession!

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