CROYDON IN CRISIS: ‘It is clearly in the public interest for this petition to be heard before the budget is set,’ Jason Perry has said, clearing the way for the people’s petition opposing his 15% Council Tax hike to be presented before he sets his 2023-2024 budget.
By STEVEN DOWNES, Editor, Inside Croydon
The petition opposing the inflation-busting 15per cent Council Tax increase that was launched by this website just a week ago will now be presented at the Town Hall budget-setting meeting on March 1.
With more than 20,000 signatures so far, Mayor Jason Perry has been forced to listen to the overwhelming opposition of ordinary, hard-working Croydon residents, who have declared that enough is enough, and are demanding that the council’s Conservative leadership negotiate a better settlement with central government.
The council usually requires 2,000 signatures on paper before it is obliged to listen to the people that they are supposed to represent and serve. With time short, and this being the 21st, rather than the 19th Century, our petition has been online only.
Once we reached 12,000 signatures, well above the council-set threshold in order to emphasise the strength of feeling, we approached the democratic services department in Fisher’s Folly to advise them that this warranted being discussed at the next full council meeting, and certainly before the budget for 2023-2024 is set, which will include Perry’s proposed 15per cent Council Tax increase.
But senior council officials wanted to delay having the “No to 15% Council Tax hike. Fund Croydon fairly” petition considered until four weeks after the budget will have been set.
By that time the new Council Tax bills would have already been posted through the letterboxes of households across the borough.
In an email dated February 10, a council official replied to iC saying, “Unfortunately it will not be possible for council to receive this petition in advance of the budget meeting as there is no council meeting scheduled before then.
“The next council meeting where petitions are able to be received is Wednesday March 29.”
Despite referring in their email to the council’s constitution, the official made no mention of a provision contained in that same document which allows for five councillors to call in a petition. Nor to the part of the constitution whereby a civic Mayor is allowed to call an Extraordinary Council Meeting if they believe there is just cause.
Over the course of last weekend, Inside Croydon was in discussions with various groups, and had secured agreement from five councillors from across the political spectrum to call-in the petition ahead of the March 1 council meeting.
More people have signed the “No to 15% Council Tax hike. Fund Croydon fairly” people’s petition now than signed the petition which triggered the 2021 Mayoral referendum that ultimately led to Jason Perry’s election last May.
With the number of signatures on the petition clicking steadily upwards all the time, and with Perry aware that alternative options to get the petition heard before the budget-setting meeting were well advanced, this morning the executive Mayor sent an email to the civic Mayor, Alisa Flemming.
Facing a mass revolt around the whole borough over his 15per cent Council Tax increase, Mayor Perry moved to allow for the petition to be presented on March 1.
“Dear Cllr Flemming,” Perry wrote.
“There is understandably significant public interest in the council’s budget-setting this year. A petition has been submitted related to the proposed Council Tax level which currently has almost 20,000 signatures.” By the time he sent his email, Perry’s figures were already wrong.
“It is clearly in the public interest for this petition to be heard before the budget is set.
“Whilst the constitution does not normally allow for petitions to be heard at budget council meetings, given the level of public interest, I am writing to propose that we suspend Standing Orders to allow the petition to be heard at the beginning of the budget council meeting on March 1.
“I have discussed this with the Monitoring Officer and do not believe there would be an issue with this approach were council to agree to it.
“I would welcome your support for this as the chair of council.”
- If you haven’t done so already, click here to sign up to our petition to Croydon Council
- And click here to sign the separate, but just as important, petition to parliament
Read more: Perry to preside over record-breaking 15% Council Tax hike
Read more: Public’s furious reaction to Perry’s Premium Council Tax hike
Read more: Mayor Perry: ‘It’s going to get worse before it gets better’
Read more: Fixing our ‘home grown’ problems has to start right here
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It is good to know that Mr Perry is bowing to public interest at least publicly. There is little appetite in Croydon for an above 5% increase. Even to obtain a 7% – 10% would require some hard figures to be released as to how that sum will make any dent in the debt or services to obtain any buy in from the electorate.
We already know that even the 15% is not going to cover anything much
Lets face it we are at the bare bones now, and one will expect more cases to be brought to the regulators as more failures to meet statutory needs occur in Housing, Care in fact a raft of areas. There just is not enough resource, competence or integral structure left to avoid or minimise issues.
Everyone knows this but Central Government has no money to cover the crater it created in local public finances either.
But it will have even less after paying for all the very valid court cases it will lose by not properly funding the statutory services.
It may take longer with the barriers there are to taking them to Court but in these times many will have no other option but to do so
The question will become who gets named in Court for the Public failures which will not show this Council or Mr Gove’s department in any good light.
One thing few politicians can spin or escape responsibility for is when wrongdoing gets aired with evidence publicly and when Legal decisions go against them.
So perhaps now is the time for Councillors to grow a pair and Ministers to act with reason and fairness to all and seek more equitable solutions that many can acccept and work with if not in happiness at least knowing that it IS for everyones good and Everyone is in it together.