Town Hall meetings halved as new Mayor dodges questioning

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Tonight’s cabinet meeting has on its agenda the borough’s underperforming schools, the Westfield failure, Council Tax Support and council rents… in all, 24 items need to be considered at a meeting where opposition councillors will barely be able to ask a question.

Empty promises: there’s less accountability under the elected Mayor than there was before

Tonight’s council cabinet meeting has to contend with an over-stuffed agenda, when Jason Perry, Croydon’s misinformed Mayor, and his eight hand-picked closest political colleagues, will be expected to plough through 24 separate items.

It is, according to one Katharine Street source, “a recipe for disaster… another one”.

According to the senior council figure, “Croydon’s catastrophic financial collapse in 2020 was blamed fairly and squarely on poor governance, on the council failing to discuss and debate some serious business properly.

“Yet looking at tonight’s meeting, nothing has been learned. The dysfunctional council is expecting elected councillors to consider properly all the paperwork that goes with reports and appendices for 24 items.

“They will be no scope for any interventions or observations from the borough’s elected Labour, Liberal Democrat or Green councillors. There never is at cabinet. So it’ll just be Perry and his mates congratulating each other on what a terrific job they are all doing, and reminding anyone what a crap job the previous lot did…

“But things will be missed. Big deals will be overlooked. And you know what, that’s probably exactly how the council’s directors and professional officials want it.”

Today is the 25th day of January. Tonight’s cabinet meeting is the first of 2023.

There has been no meeting of the full council in the whole of January. There has been no full council meeting since December 14. With the next full council meeting due on February 1, it will mean that the 70 elected councillors in cash-strapped, crisis-hit Croydon Council have failed to hold a full meeting for seven weeks.

Misinformed: Mayor Jason Perry is to hold fewer full council meetings

With important council business still to be come such as the 2023-2024 budget and setting Council Tax, the lack of any full council meetings is a big factor in overloading tonight’s cabinet discussions.

Once the meeting has got through the more routine stuff, the minutes, apologies, and scrutiny committee recommendations (11 pages of reports, 12 separate appendices), they then get into the financial performance report (44 pages to be considered), Council Tax Support (19 pages, plus three separate appendices) and the setting of council rents for 2023-2024, none of it particularly good news, as you have come to expect (11 pages, plus 26 pages of appendix material).

And all that gets us only as far as agenda item 10. Not even halfway.

If Mayor Perry, who chairs cabinet meetings, allocates equivalent time to each agenda item tonight, each one can only be discussed for a bit more than 12 minutes.

“Things will be missed,” as the Katharine Street source warned.

“The government inspectors, and the external auditors in their Reports in the Public Interest, all agreed that a large part of the problem that allowed the council to crash its finances was that matters were not being discussed properly and openly. It was a failure of governance.

“And that’s exactly what they risk doing again with meetings like this.”

All on the agenda tonight as significant issues to be covered include Croydon schools being the 31st worst for attainment out of London’s 32 boroughs.

Too many places: over-provision of academy and new schools has seen two large Croydon secondaries closed in the past four years

Then there’s the poor planning and over-provision of new school buildings that has led to huge numbers of surplus school places.

There’s also the multi-million pound sale of public assets.

A report (six pages, plus two versions of a 13-page appendix) on the efforts to change the council’s failed culture.

There’s the decision to “punish” the failed developers of the Whitgift Centre.

Anyone ever think that Croydon fails to take adverse rulings from the Local Government Ombudsman seriously? They’re probably right: the latest Ombudsman’s scathing findings of Croydon’s scandalous treatment of a vulnerable person is pushed all the way down the agenda to item 14, allowing Katherine Kerswell, the council chief exec, and her staff to be able to tell the Ombudsman that the council has given his report “proper consideration”, and then move on…

Also on the agenda is the provision of children’s homes. Or the lack thereof.

And the revelation that Mayor Perry has failed to meet 21 of 58 council performance targets. Yeah, the misinformed Mayor probably won’t want to spend too long considering that particular revelation.

But this over-bloated agenda is something that is likely to be repeated, all too often.

Just this week the council agreed that there will only be 128 meetings of the council and its committees during the next municipal year. Perry’s cosy cabinet, where he is not open to scrutiny or any real questioning, will continue to meet most months.

Extraordinarily, less than a year after the borough voted for its first directly elected Mayor, there’s now less accountability than there was under the discredited, previous “strong leader” system.

Cabinet meetings only include councillors of the ruling administration. Opposition councillors are merely guests and have no votes. Cabinet meeting votes do not have votes against a proposal.

Excluding the ceremonial Trumptonesque red-robed and be-chained mayor-making, the full council itself will reduce its number of meetings to just five in a 12-month period. From March 30 this year till February 27 2024, the council will meet just three times.

Jason Perry, the misinformed Mayor who uses council meetings to invent stories about how bad things were under the previous administration, is paid £81,000 per year in council allowances, and apparently is most indignant when he is described as “part-time”. There was a time not so long ago when the council leader was expected to attend 10 or even 11 meetings of full council each year.

The council’s 300,000-word constitution is not yet set up to deal with a Mayoralty. The council’s affairs are conducted in the spirit of the constitution, supposedly.

It’s a sign of the council’s continuing dysfunctionality that its rules of governance don’t apply.

The truth is that council officials regard councillors as getting in the way of their running the council. “For them it’s a matter of ‘the fewer meetings the better’,” according to one Town Hall veteran.

With so many serious concerns in the official papers, it’s inevitable that risks for the council and Council Tax-payers’ money will go unaddressed.

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 Town Hall meetings halved as new Mayor dodges questioning

  1. derekthrower says:

    Part time living up to his name.

    • You say that Delboy, but Perry Coma has found it in his heart. diary and political interests to launch his re-election bid 3 years early, with an American-style ‘town hall’ meeting in Waddon on Tuesday. No riff-raff mind, you’ve got to register to get in, a tactic he’s borrowed from the Croham Clucks Clan

      • Ian Kierans says:

        Have to admit it may be worth going to just to ask that poignant ULEZ question.
        I am ambivalent on the issue not because I care about ULEZ – I do not – it is unlikely to help my lungs or anyones and frankly we will all suffer the costs more than the £12.50.
        No it is because Perry blames Khan for introducing it.
        So lets face the elephant in the room for the Conservatives – if the boroughs get the wish and no ULEZ extension – what is the Conservative Government going to do with that financial hole of TfL that Johnson created. After all Khan is following Conservatives points in creating funds and income by extending ULEZ But local Conservative Perry told em to stuff it up the proverbial? Perhaps he can petition Sunak to fill the hole and sus[pend the conditions imposes on TfL to get back what should never have been taken away and all other railways get?

        Should one say Rock on Tommy!! Conservative internicine warfare is alive and kicking?

        • Extending the ULEZ will benefit Londoners.

          The Conservatives oppose it and propagandise about it because they hate Khan (because he’s successful Muslim politician and a Labour one at that) and they care more about driving than they do our health. They’d willingly sabotage TfL and the GLA if they could.

          The Tories’ crocodile tears about costs are despicable. They are happy to see people in fuel poverty and forced to use foodbanks. They let public transport fares rocket above inflation while services and service standards fall. That’s because they share Thatcher’s snobby selfish attitude about the people who use buses. Remember, Maggie couldn’t beat the GLC in elections so she abolished it.

          Fatty Arbuckle hasn’t got a mandate to oppose the ULEZ extension to Croydon, he’s simply doing what he’s been told by the London Tories

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