Perry is now asking Croydon public how to fix financial mess

CROYDON IN CRISIS: After issuing the first pre-emptive S114 Notice in British history, the borough’s £81,000 per year Mayor is using a budget survey to justify future cuts to services. By WALTER CRONXITE, political editor

Something missing: the council propaganda department has airbrushed Mayor Perry from their latest press release

Bereft of ideas – beyond increasing Council Tax well above the 5per cent per year cap, and seeking another £100million-plus government bail-out – Jason Perry, elected as Mayor of Croydon just six months ago when he claimed to have all the answers, is now asking the borough’s residents if they have any bright ideas for fixing the council’s finances.

The £81,000 per year Mayor effectively admitted defeat last month when he agreed to the issuing of a Section 114 Notice, saying the borough couldn’t balance its budget. The S114 Notice was not issued for this financial year, however, but for next year, 2023-2024.

It is Croydon’s third S114 Notice in two years, but it is the first pre-emptive S114 Notice ever to be issued by a local authority in England and Wales.

The Conservative Mayor and his cabinet stooges have been quick to admit defeat over the cash-strapped council’s finances and have been keen to pin the blame on the bullies and buffoons in the previous Labour-run administration.

Yet even the council’s appeal to the public for bright ideas to be able to deliver a balanced budget in 2023-2024 – which they say they cannot do – confirms that it was the previous Tory administration that left debts of £1billion which began the rot, as 12 years of Conservative austerity have pushed so many councils to the brink of bankruptcy, and beyond.

On Monday, Perry and his Conservative council will hold a special meeting to consider the latest Section 114 Notice, as is required by law.

The press release issued from the propaganda bunker at Fisher’s Folly to confirm the meeting was unusual in that it never mentioned the Conservative Mayor once. Since he was elected in May, barely a day is allowed to pass without the council’s press office issuing some statement or another which has, shoe-horned into it, some drivel from Perry, however tenuous a role the Mayor might actually have with the matter at hand.

Yet here was a rare official council PR in that it failed to include any cheery comment from part-time Perry in which he promised to listen to residents and take any kind of decisive action.

“The Extraordinary Council Meeting will take place on Monday 12 December at 6.30pm, with a live public webcast. The papers for the meeting have been published on the council’s website,” the council’s spin doctors announced – the agenda and reports can be found by clicking here.

“Croydon Council has already set out a broad range of actions it is taking to tackle its challenges in its medium-term financial strategy, which went before the council’s cabinet on November 30,” the press release said.

“Local people are being asked to give their views on the council’s plans in a budget engagement.”

In presenting the council’s “budget engagement”, the council says, “Croydon Council has been facing serious financial challenges. Last month, the council said it would be asking the government for a new package of support because without extra help, it would be unable to set a balanced budget in 2023-2024 or for the next four years…

“To balance its budget, the council would need to reduce its spending by £130million next financial year alone – which is just not realistic out of a budget of £300million.” In that statement alone, Perry’s Tories offer an admission that Croydon is vastly underfunded by central government.

And those debts? “We also have extraordinary levels of debt – Croydon borrowed £545million over three years from 2017 and now owes £1.6billion.”

Do the sums: £1.6billion minus £545million equals… £1.05billion. Very close to the debt left in 2014 by the previous Tory council administration in which Perry was a cabinet member.

“This,” the council has now discovered, “costs us £47million a year to service before we can spend any money on services for local people.” One of the suggestions that Croydon has made to Michael Gove’s Levelling Up department is that they should write-off all the borough’s debts.

The council’s budget “survey” is full of loaded questions – such as asking residents to rank the council’s services in order of importance, to help the Tories justify their cuts to statutory provision including libraries, adult social care and children’s services when they happen.

Leading questions: the budget engagement will be used to justify Tory cuts to services. But are there other areas where costs might be cut?

There are questions such as: “Is there anything that we currently spend money on that you think we shouldn’t, or anything that you think we could do differently?”

Hmmm… well, there is the £81,000 a year paid to the part-time Mayor (who has managed to take on additional directorships since being elected). And what is it exactly that the chief executive does? And what about all that money squandered on external lawyers and legal advice that is then ignored and left unactioned..?

If you want to participate in Mayor Perry’s sham budget consultation, you can do so by clicking here.

Read more: Council forced to issue 3rd bankruptcy notice in just two years
Read more: ‘There is no solution in sight’ warns council’s finance chief
Read more: Tory blame game over bankruptcy points finger at Westminster
Read more: ‘Uncertainty faced by all local authorities is unprecedented’


 

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
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13 Responses to Perry is now asking Croydon public how to fix financial mess

  1. derekthrower says:

    Is part-time going to take a pitch outside East Croydon station with a handwritten sign of one big hungry Council to feed, while shaking a plastic coffee cup in the public’s face? It does seem a bit too hard work for him though.

  2. David Simons says:

    Perry wont listen, it’s a PR exercise. He knows what needs to be done but is too gutless to over rule the Council Officers that are actually the leaders of the Council. Sadly our ‘local’ politicians don’t have the drive, the passion or experience (possibly the intelligence, but appreciate that could be offensive!) to lead and make decisive decisions. Utter shambles.

  3. Croydon’s bankruptcies can be summarised as due mainly to them borrowing significantly more money than they can afford to repay.

    The magnitude of the problem is such that a number of persons could be prosecuted for misconduct in public office.

    To seek further loans (capital directions) would seem to just increase the existing problem. Were Croydon to be a limited company, their Directors would probably be disqualified from acting as Directors following a public examination at Court.

    I can see a way forward but it doesn’t involve retaining Croydon Council in any form as it continually demonstrates itself incapable of managing itself.

    • What is your way forward David?

      • My suggestion would be to look at how the bankruptcy of Northamptonshire CC was resolved. Basically it was disbanded. In Croydons case the neighbouring Boroughs would acquire parts of Croydon and be given financial support to deal with the financial implications. There would be economies of scale and a reduction in senior staff.

        • Ian Kierans says:

          Northamtonshire was not interlinked like Croydon is. Not with one of the two main points of entry for migration and asylum (the other being Dover).
          Splitting the Borough albeit something I would go with would affect disproportionately one other area and likely force them into S114 status. Unless all areas actually contributed OR Central Government take that cost as they should. But then there would be a lesser need to split Croydon up. How does one unravel the SWL Waste partnership for example? one less place paying into the pot? the rest paying more?

          This might be alleviated if just the administrative duties were removed to other Neighbouring areas with Croydon remaining as a shell Borough but contracting in services from other boroughs. A real minimal Council. Disenfranchised Disadvantaged and Discarded.

          But this and other solutions still require
          1. Defaulting on debt permanently
          or
          2. Paying the debt

          Neither option is clearly palatable to this Council or this Government.
          So their preference is to muddle on and obfuscate the fact that we will pay ever increasing taxes that other Boroughs will not and receive in return a skeleton service in return – if that.

          Does anyone have any doubts that this is a politically induced situation?
          It is already very detrimental to the health and welfare of all who live in this Borough but in time it will spill over into neighbouring areas.
          Even those well insulated by wealth will be adversely affected but they can at least leave or rent out their houses to this Council for high market prices and live elsewhere.
          But those in the Borough will increasingly be exposed to sub standard health care, education and other essential services including Law enforcement.

          So again what the Improvement Board are failing to state is that it is not just next year or last year – it was and will be unable to balance the books – it is for many years longer than that.
          If in doubt ask for their plan for the next decade of how this will be remedied.

          What also becomes apparent is that as it has in the past is that the minority in the Borough requiring financial support from the public purse and other support will eventually be at best a larger minority and bigger cost as there will be less people resident contributing to the public purse. That creates a tipping point that becomes irreversible without

          1. Defaulting on Debt
          or
          2. Paying the Debt

          Only now it is years later and as history shows the cost is financially higher and the social impact incredibly deep that leaves scars for at least two generations along with deep enmity against those in power.
          If you think this is way off ask how many people like Newman and think he did his best or Fisher
          Magnify to England and how many liked Scargill and Thatcher? And how long that scar has lasted.
          What about Shirley Porter and Westminster or Ted Knight in Lambeth Hatton in Liverpool.
          Love or hate the fact is those failures left huge scars on Communities.
          So it would be nice if for once our politicians actually learned the vivid and in your face lessons before recreating yet again a wasteland of a Community and a blight on the lives of a generation..

        • derekthrower says:

          Have you have noticed the difference between a London Borough & County Council and the functions they are responsible for? You are living in a fantasy world with such glib and superficial drivel as a solution, which would require major costly local authority re-organisation far in excess of the costs that could ever be saved. This is complete babble.

          • Essex County Council have this year been handed Thurrock to supervise, and Kent County Council is looking after Medway.

            This government prefers to spread the burden among others, rather than provide the necessary financial support.

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    Here is a few to save money
    1. stop taking IC to Court
    2. Stop paying additional executives that add no value.
    3. Stop funding all those referred for Asylum and just pay for a fair pro rata amount.
    4. Stop paying for flea hotels to house people and utilise other means like hostels and renovate old Army barracks or other disused buildings.

    Ways to get better returns
    1. Compulsory purchase empty buildings, add to stock and use to move people from temporary private places to those and charge a fair rent. This can be done by setting up an independent vehicle run by people in this Borough and totally open books.
    2. Stop selling assets and use to earn money.
    3. start chasing companies leaving damage to pavements to pay for said damage and that includes developers HGV deliveries that wreck kerbs and pavements.
    4. Charge Viridor a pollution toll for each lorry entering this Borough.
    5. Actually start funding Charities that directly add to Croydon and help Croydon residents and resource Volunteers who can improve the Borough even if just litter picking or general gardening. But mainly those who can bring skills to assist residents to get better jobs or just a job.
    6. Set up a group with representatives from each public service in Croydon and residents to look at ways the Community can improve the draw on resource with all savings from their budgets going into continually improving all services Police, Health Libraries etc. and get a bank of Volunteers that can be called to staff areas of need where they have competetence and ability with some being trained whilst on an intern basis also to develop into roles that would be paid in the near future.
    7. Companies that hire residents in the Borough who are receiving a Council tax discount and that enables them to pay tax can receive a Business rate discount. might take a bit of working out to do this but the benefits are magnified.
    8. Train residents in parking enforcement and allow those trained (a few per ward) to issue parking tickets from 17.00 – 07.am
    9. Issue rewards for information leading to fines for fly tippers. Does not have to be money a couple of VUE tickets or something else within the Borough.

    Larger sums
    1. Get this sorry Government to cough up
    2. Get the interest loan from the Government and pay them £30m per year for 50 years with £3m interest. Separate this from the Council funding and make that a priority debt. At the same time put in laws making what has happened illegal in future so those miscreants know they will face jail time.
    3. Re think the town centre and develop it internally to provide a modern one stop shop not just in Croydon but also satellites in each ward. making hubs where a person can see a GP, order in virtual stores for delivery to home or a storage lockers have social activity venues alongside inc leisure and sports but make those affordable in short create what people really want to do and see.

    And that is just before breakfast.
    Come on here are a lot of clever people around throw a few ideas out and see what we can work with.

  5. Sarah Bird says:

    What exactly is Jason Perry paid to do as the leader and elected Mayor? He is in receipt of numerous reports that go the very heart of the problems at the council . Why cannot he not act on those reports and ensure the appalling attitude of the council and its officers does not prevail? ?The council has statutory duties in numerous areas such as social care and housing. If this was the private sector heads would roll and undoubtedly court actions .Enough is enough of the ineptitude and bullying of the council and its officers. What has happened to the Police investigation into the over spend? Has Jason Perry started to “chase the money “?If not why not ? Given his position , where is the evidence of any change? Yet to see any change . I am far from alone

  6. Ralph Dent says:

    Save some money: reduce Councillors allowances.

    You can go to the council website to see who is in work and who isn’t. I would suggest if a councillor is out of work without good reason they are encouraged to step down and devote their time to getting a job.

  7. Lewis White says:

    Croydon is a historic entity– a long-established town – with a pedigree going back much longer than Sutton. Croydon was a town -albeit at times, a grimy one- with an Archbishop’s Palace, large church and the Whitgift Almshouses, and probably a school, plus a high street, and market, when most of Merton borough was fields, surrounding the Abbey. Bromley was a smaller version of Croydon.
    Lambeth? Well, a lot of villages– and Southwark– well, that was an important place, second in Surrey, to Croydon’s third, and Guildford’s first, but it was miles to the North, clustered around the south end of London Bridge.

    The idea of strips of Croydon being hived off to the next door boroughs would result in a long, thin splinter to Southwark, a big chunk to Bromly, a smaller one to Tandridge, another to Reigate and Banstead, to Sutton, Merton and Lambeth.

    Wadda mess!

    Unthinkable.

    Admittedly, some time between the old days and now, the Urban District of Coulsdon and Purley was carved off , when the rural South of Croydon became urbanised. The new Surrey Urban District of Coulsdon and Purley included Sanderstead. It lasted from 1915 to 1965– 50 years ……a nice round number.

    If another idea is taken up, some services would go to other boroughs to manage.

    So, someone would have to decide how to carve the cake– Education, Parks and open spaces (inc allotments)– Cems and Crems– Highways– Refuse- Street sweeping and fly tip clearance- Trees– Libraries– Housing– Chidren’s and other Social services– Libraries- Trading Standards, Environmental Health, Licencing, Registry of Births Marriages, Civil Partnerships , Deaths.

    All of these would require the adjacent boroughs to employ enough managers and staff to run the services effectively –and Croydon is bigger or more populous than many of the “host” boroughs. “Tail wagging the dog” and all that.

    What I want to see is some kind of chart that shows all the London Boroughs and all the services they carry out, their income and funding, and the budgets (for projects, for maintenance and for staff ) they all have. It would need to be presented in tow forms– both actual and adjusted per head or per 1000 of popultaion.Figures alonwo are of no use. I want to see what all the boroughs spend, serving populations of varying sizes, and a standardised one.

    That would show up glaring lower spending in some areas and higher in others.
    Even then, local circumstances vary.

    As to central government support, that seems to vary widely, in terms of £’s per head of population.

    Rather than a shallow analysis, and an “It’s all broken” attitude, is it not possible to see which bits are funded adequately or well below average, which services are broken, which bits about to break, and which bits are working well and which bits really well ?

    One thing is certain–its can’t all be down to Brick by Brick, or individuals such as Jo Negrini. Or the stock market fall.

    Croydon Council needs to go under the microscope, under good management, not under the dissectionnist’s knife, and a carve-up by municipal asset strippers.

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