Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on the early moves by the new administration
Jason Perry’s first executive act as Croydon’s new Mayor was to start to wind-in the toxic legacy of Paul Scott’s time in charge of planning and development in the borough by ordering the removal of SPD2.
SPD2 is the planning design guide, introduced under the previous Labour-run council, that was used by the council’s planners to create what some councillors called “a 9-9-9 emergency” in Croydon: block-after-block of nine flats being built in place of family homes, rarely in keeping with the suburban streets where they were being built.
And with each planning application looking to build just nine homes, profit-hungry developers never had to provide any affordable housing, as they are legally required to do on developments of 10 units or more.
Government data also showed that in the same year (the last complete year for which figures are available) Croydon granted planning permission to more than four times as many applications as another neighbouring borough, Labour-controlled inner-city Lambeth.
Planning was a core reason for the calls from residents’ associations for a change in the way the council is run, and a shift to a mayoral system. And it was a key issue in the election campaign, too, with one candidate even calling for the dismissal of the council exec director who had presided over the planning regime.
The Mayor says that he will get rid of SPD2 through an immediate and urgent review of the Croydon Local Plan.
Mayor Perry also announced yesterday that he will be reintroducing the council’s graffiti removal service as “an additional immediate priority”.
The graffiti removal team at the council was a no-cost service to the council, because of the money the team raised from a contract with TfL to keep the tram network spic and span. Yet after the council went bust in November 2020, it was one of the first things to be axed.
Perry, until recently the Conservative leader of the opposition at the Town Hall, was elected as Croydon’s first executive Mayor last week, winning the borough-wide poll by fewer than 600 votes, bucking the trend across London where Tories were losing seats and councils.
Perry has appointed Conservative councillor Lynne Hale as Deputy Mayor.
Perry takes over a council that has been in financial special measures for 18 months, with most of its work overseen by a panel of outside specialists appointed by the government. The cash-strapped council has recently passed a budget which had £34million-worth of cuts. Perry already knows that he will be expected to deliver a balanced budget for 2023-2024 which will cut a further £30million from Croydon’s spending.
The first 100 days of his administration will, therefore, be key to demonstrate quite how he intends to create a silk purse from the pig’s ear that’s been left by the previous, Labour-run council.
In an emotional acceptance speech at the count, Perry had revealed that his mother had died during the election campaign.
“Croydon has been in a bad place and now it’s time for us to come together and move forwards,” Perry said. “I really want to try and make it positive now, move on and get better.
“Obviously in London we have had a couple of difficult results but this will be a shining light, I hope, and we can show people how it’s done because we bucked the trend. We’re here to deliver.”
And last night, he said, “I want to thank residents for trusting me to represent our great borough and am proud to be elected as Croydon’s first Mayor. I want to restore local pride and safeguard Croydon for generations to come. This is why I am taking immediate actions on issues that I know, through listening to residents, are so important to local people.
“Today, I took action to deliver on key commitments. I’ve announced that I will be restoring the graffiti removal team as an immediate priority. And I’ve started the process of removing Labour’s Planning Design Guide – unpopular with so many residents across Croydon.
“Although the Conservatives made fantastic gains on the council, residents chose to give no party a majority.
“Now is the time to come together and move forward – to make our Borough a better place for all.
“I am so proud to have been elected Mayor of this great Borough.
“There is hope for Croydon, and I am excited to get to work to deliver the change that residents have so clearly asked for.
“I want to thank my family, who stood by me and supported me throughout what has been a fantastic campaign.
“I also want to thank the Returning Officer and all of the counting agents for their hard work over what was such a gruelling count.”
In a Twitter thread, the new Mayor offered commiserations to the other candidates, especially Labour’s Val Shawcross. “Her campaign was positive and energetic, and her passion for Croydon could be seen by everyone,” he wrote.
The Mayor is expected to announce his appointments to his first cabinet in the next few days.
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