Conservative Mayor Perry loses 3 votes at Town Hall meeting

Full house (almost): last night’s council meeting, where all but two of the borough’s 70 councillors were in attendance

ANDREW PELLING reports from the Press Gallery on success for Labour, Green and LibDem councillors in opposing Tory moves to cut Council Tax benefits to old age pensioners and the poor

Jason Perry, the Conservative Mayor of Croydon, lost three votes at last night’s council meeting, including one which compromises his cruel cuts to Council Tax Support.

Senior Labour sources on the no-overall-control council have told Inside Croydon that they are “delighted” with the outcome of the latest Town Hall meeting.

For the first time since last May’s local elections, Labour, the Greens and the borough’s sole Liberal Democrat councillor got their acts together to use the Town Hall arithmetic to put a brake on Tory Mayor Jason Perry – and possibly force a change in the way the council conducts its budget business in the next few weeks.

Last May’s elections in Croydon returned 34 Labour councillors, two Greens and one LibDem, against 33 Tory councillors, plus Mayor Perry, who is also given a vote at council meetings.

Brake: Mayor Jason Perry has his proposals to save £425,000 on Council Tax Support blocked

Last night, Labour managed to improve on their poor recent attendance record, with only two councillors absent for a key vote on further cuts to Council Tax benefit. All other parties were fully present.

Under proposals from Mayor Perry and his cabinet member for finance, Jason Cummings, the Tories wanted to drop the inflation link to the borough’s Council Tax Support to save £425,000 that would otherwise go to Croydon’s working poor and pensioners.

Labour’s Callton Young formally proposed a deferral of the further cuts. This was passed by 35 votes to 34.

Past practice of the ceremonial Mayor, a councillor who chairs council meetings, being neutral and not voting was abandoned, with the 35 votes in favour of the proposal including one from Alisa Flemming.

Sherwan Chowdhury, one of Flemming’s predecessors as civic Mayor, was one of the Labour councillor absentees last night. Chowdhury had used his vote when civic Mayor last year to put through even bigger benefit cuts.

In last night’s proceedings, it took a while for Flemming to clarify matters, interrupting other business later on to state from the chair that the Tory Council Tax Support proposal had not been deferred but, in fact, just plain lost.

To get this cut through now, it is likely that Mayor Perry will need to resort to including the reduction in benefits within his budget, which he can get passed with just 33per cent plus one of the council, under powers that directly elected mayors hold.

That the council is now voting against the Mayor meant that there was also an announcement that an additional, second budget meeting will be scheduled, with one on March 1 and another on March 8.

That news might come as a bit of a disappointment to some councillors who had earlier in the evening sniggered as they voted to reduce the number of full council meetings.

Big bother: Jason Cummings warned that the improvement board would not be impressed

The extra meeting will allow the council to vote down the Mayor’s budget and then come back a week later where the 33per cent rule will be applied. Councils are obliged by law to pass budgets before the new financial year begins in April – although Mayor Perry has already said that his council will not be able to balance its 2023-2024 budget, having issued a Section 114 notice to that effect last November.

There had been a degree of threat and menace applied to councillors over how they might vote on this matter. Big Brother, in the form of Tory government-appointed officials, are watching.

Jason Cummings warned that the government’s improvement and assurance panel, imposed by Whitehall after Labour crashed the council’s finances in 2020, would be looking on disapprovingly at any attempts to axe the further cuts.

Cummings urged Croydon’s councillors to be as “mean” as neighbouring councils in Sutton and Bromley. Cummings also tried to pretend that the proposals were merely a technicality.

Other, less important, debating society-style motions on ULEZ, the Mayor of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, and the failed bid to the government’s Levelling Up fund, saw Mayor Perry suffer two further voting defeats.

Both were tied at 34 each, with the first vote delayed while Labour tried to find frontbencher Nina Degrads, without success.

Level-headed: Tory councillor Alasdair Stewart

Controversially, and outside Parliamentary practice not to progress tied votes, the ceremonial Mayor used a casting vote for a second time to get the Labour/Green/LibDem alliance across the line.

Mayor Perry had earlier in the meeting recorded his disappointment at the Conservative government rejecting his Levelling Up bid for £20million. But his party colleague, Jeet Bains, emphasised that at least the Conservative-run council applied for the fund this time, in this Round 2, unlike the previous Labour council in Round 1.

In any case, Bains asserted, after Labour departed last year, the council looked like the scene of a drunken party, leaving behind broken departments, traumatised staff and failed corporate practice.

Alasdair Stewart, one of the Conservatives’ new councillors, said Labour in office could not do basic arithmetic and were just not aware of the damage they did. “We could have levelled up ourselves if Labour had not bankrupted Croydon,” Stewart said.

Following that 2020 financial crash, it should be obvious that Croydon Labour, under opposition leader Stuart King, is always going to be on thin ice with any proposals or amendments regarding the council’s use of money. Chris Clark fluffing his lines when giving an over-long quote from Andy Street, the Tory Mayor in the West Midlands, did not help their cause either.

Rowenna Davis, however, managed to move the debate back to the question of why had Croydon failed in its bid. The Waddon councillor noted that the “solid” bid had been put together by council officials under Labour. She wanted to know why richer Sutton won a bid for public transport improvements to Belmont and wondered why there was a Tory government bias against Croydon that had led them to abandon its Tory Mayor.

Scarred: Amy Foster spoke of the damage air pollution is doing to her pupils

Davis wisely kept away from cash issues, and was starkly better than Labour group leaders King and Young, who both got a mauling from Mayor Perry on ill-considered questions. So much so that Perry was able to claim that Young is “the gift that just kept giving”.

It was a view shared by a disappointed Labour supporter in the public gallery, who told Inside Croydon, “Who is approving these questions?

“They are just gifting Perry the opportunity to wack them. They even gave him to stick with which to do it.”

On ULEZ, Mayor Perry had previously said that the council would not allow Sadiq Khan to use council infrastructure for the expansion of the zone. He still thought that the Mayor of London would get his way. “Pollution won’t go down but Croydon residents’ pockets will be emptied,” Perry pronounced.

King said that 200 Croydon residents were dying every year from air pollutants. Labour’s Amy Foster, a teacher, spoke of children she taught whose lungs were scarred by traffic pollution.

Mario Creatura, the Tories’ failed 2019 General Election candidate who these days is spending rather a lot of time in Reigate – where a more winnable seat will soon be vacated – was allowed to grandstand on the issue as it affected people living outside the M25, expressing concern about the £12.50 per day charge somehow dissuading wealthy Surrey residents from driving to the shops in Coulsdon.

Unable to speak: LibDem councillor Claire Bonham

The Tory motion moaning about ULEZ was lost, again on the Mayor’s casting vote, and with no one looking for Councillor Degrads this time.

The continuing absence of an agreed council constitution to cope with the revised, mayoral circumstances is likely to become an increasing issue with each passing meeting, as Claire Bonham, the LibDem councillor elected in Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, highlighted to Inside Croydon after she left the council chamber.

“If Croydon Council is serious about changing its political culture, it needs to recognise that there are more than two political parties in the chamber.

“The current situation, where I am unable to speak on motions, is unacceptable and not sustainable. My residents need to hear why I am voting for and against certain issues.

“Croydon still has a long way to go before it is a properly functioning democratic body,” Bonham said.

Delighted: opposition leader Stuart King

For King and the Labour group, though, winning three votes while in opposition was the first sign of any political success for many months.

“Croydon Labour listened and responded to the voice of disabled residents who took part in the council’s consultation over Council Tax Support,” he told Inside Croydon.

“The proposal by Mayor Perry to make savings off the back of some of our poorest households, and to do so in the depth of a Conservative cost of living crisis, was unacceptable.

“We are delighted that our votes stopped this regressive proposal in its tracks last night.”

Read more: Council forced to issue 3rd bankruptcy notice in just two years
Read more: Mayor Perry has ‘second thoughts’ about investing in Croydon
Read more: This is the stark human cost of the borough going bankrupt
Read more: ‘We’re not teetering on the brink of bankruptcy’ claims Kerswell

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 Conservative Mayor Perry loses 3 votes at Town Hall meeting

  1. Thank you Andrew for a great report

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    Yes thanks to Andrew – (may you be elected again soon and do what you do best) and a welcome article. I do raise the fact of silent/absent Councillors (I am sure Mr Choudery had something very important to do instead of voting) but when they get together mountains are if not moved at least rumbled.
    As a resident though – I would like to thank all those who turned up to vote from the three parties of the Liberals, Greens and Labour. It is noted and very much appreciated.

    Yes Mr Perry may put his/others proposals for cuts through again. but that Councillors turned up and registered that this was improper and wrong is very important to this Community and will become even more important they continue to do so as we move into more difficult times.

    I would suggest to every Censervative Councillor to think very long about supporting those measures if and when Mr Perry presents them again under Executive powers.

    I hope they consider deeply and think of their constituents who will be affected. I would ask them to consider those people consciously and vote accordingly irrespective of the whip.
    They will find that caring thoughfullness will be reciprocated by voters moving forward especially those with elderly/ or otherwise vulnerable family members and friends.

  3. Peter Underwood says:

    The hypocrisy of the Conservatives is sickening. They have been claiming that they oppose the ULEZ because they care about poor people but at the very same meeting they are pushing through cuts to Council Tax benefit.

    The Conservatives have never cared about poorer people and their opposition to the ULEZ is just a cynical attempt to win votes from those who are foolish enough to believe their lies.

  4. derekthrower says:

    Another round of deckchair repositioning on the decks of the Croydon Titanic are required by Part-Time.

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