CROYDON COMMENTARY: They say that the true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis. But in imposing a 15% Council Tax hike, Mayor Jason Perry could have made the cost-of-living crisis much worse for thousands of residents, writes PETER UNDERWOOD
Jason Perry, the Mayor of Croydon, is planning to raise Council Tax by 15per cent from April – in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. This is causing a lot of anger and anxiety.
But what can be done?
As the famous quote says, “’tis impossible to be sure of anything but Death and Taxes”. We may disagree on how much taxes people should pay and what public services should be provided, but we all know that our taxes are needed to help pay for public services.
While we accept that taxes are inevitable, one thing that does make us all angry, rightly, is when taxes are seen to be unfair. The Poll Tax protests in the early 1990s weren’t complaining that we all had to pay tax; people were furious about the unfair system used to collect them.
In Croydon, we are faced with a Mayor telling us that he wants to put up our taxes by 15per cent while he is still planning to cut services. This breaks the basic principle of fairness in taxes, so it’s understandable why we are all so angry.
We know we are in a bad situation, and as I’ve said before we need to start by being honest about the causes. Successive councils over the past 15 to 20 years, under Labour and the Conservatives, built up huge levels of debt. Incompetence and dishonesty amongst politicians and senior officials, combined with a culture of bullying and the silencing of whistle-blowers, have led to bad decisions being made and crucial details being hidden.
I believe that they all should be held to account for what they did. But that isn’t going to get us out of the situation we are in now.
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The background to all of this local mismanagement is the huge cut to council funding from central government. The government cut funding to councils like Croydon by more than 60per cent between 2010 and 2020. That isn’t just a one-off cut, that’s councils having billions cut from their budget every year. It’s no wonder that councils all over the country are struggling.
So instead of raising our Council Tax, the Government could just restore the funding to Croydon that they have cut. I firmly believe that this should happen and have been calling for it for a long time, but sadly I don’t think this Conservative government believes in properly funding public services and I doubt our Mayor is ever going to say anything that will criticise his own party in government.
Putting aside political decisions about the total amount of funding, I think the Mayor should be arguing far more strongly for Croydon to get a fairer share of the funding pot. If you look at government funding per resident, as reported in Inside Croydon and elsewhere, it is clear that Croydon receives far less per resident than other London boroughs. If Croydon received the same amount per person as some other boroughs, that would add millions to the budget and remove the need for the crushing tax rises.
This is a campaign that I believe all political parties and all residents should get behind so that we get fairer treatment from now on.
This will help in the future, but at the moment the Mayor is asking us to pay more for less. I completely disagree with that but even if he is going ahead with it there are two principles that I believe he should follow.
First, along with being honest about the causes of our situation, the Mayor should be open and honest about what is being cut – and what isn’t. Given Croydon’s history, many will believe that the decisions about what gets cut will be driven by political priorities, not necessarily by what’s in the best interest of Croydon residents.
If we have tough choices to make, then I believe we should all have a chance to have a say in those choices. We need to see full information about the council’s budgets and have the opportunity to conduct a people’s audit
Second, when it comes to raising taxes, we need to make sure that this reflects people’s ability to pay. We need to be collecting more from millionaires and less from those on minimum wage.
As part of the agreement to let Croydon implement the 15per cent rise, the government has said that the council must maintain support for the most vulnerable in the borough. This is very welcome given that we know that the Mayor has already put forward plans to cut support from the poorest people in Croydon. Hopefully, that will now be scrapped and pensioners and those on low incomes will be protected in future. I hope that we can go further and shift the Council Tax rise towards those who can afford to pay rather than those who are already struggling to get by.
Unfortunately, under the mayoral system, the Mayor has the power to do whatever he wants.
They say that the true test of leadership is how well you function in a crisis – the next few months will show whether Mayor Perry lives up to that. I hope at this time of crisis he will put away pathetic party bickering and try to be genuinely inclusive in trying to find a fair way forward for all of us.
- We should not be asked to pay more to get less. Sign the iC petition opposing Mayor Perry’s 15per cent Council Tax hike – click here
Read more: Perry to preside over record-breaking 15% Council Tax hike
Read more: The Perry Premium: Mayor fails to disclose he asked for 15%
- Peter Underwood, pictured right, was the Green Party’s candidate for Croydon Mayor in 2022
- For previous articles by Peter Underwood, click here
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this council tax increase should have been put to a vote by all Croydon’s residents,
with all the information on what the increase is to be used for.
A good reasoned article. I totally agree that all the officers at the Council should be held to account in Court .In my view, it is inconceivable that the council was not aware of the financial position. If not why not .Surely the opposition could have called for an investigation .The Nolan Principles are clear on integrity , openness to quote just two. Is that, not what the opposition is there, to do ? I do think cuts can be easily made in other areas ie the very well paid staff and Councilors many whom have been there for years. Everyone should join together . Enough is enough of the ineptitude of the Council.
What Peter Underwood doesn’t mention is the fact that Green Party policies are very, very expensive. With a Green Croydon Town Hall we’d be paying for costly wind-generated electricity, premium home insulation and recycling. And that’s not including vegan school meals and a quinoa allowance for all on the rates.
Onshore wind is the cheapest form of electricity. Home insulation not only saves people loads of money, it also improves health outcomes for everyone and education outcomes for children. Recycling materials is cheaper than not doing it because it saves money at both ends – resource extraction and waste disposal. A plant-based diet is also usually cheaper than one that includes meat.
If you would like to know more about how Green Party policies save money and save the planet, then please read our manifestos
Try not to be an annoying dick Christopher