Gove holds back panel’s key report until after budget deadline

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The government appointed a panel of experts in early 2021 to oversee the operation of the ‘dysfunctional’ council. But after a delay of more than a year, they won’t publish their ‘assurance’ report until after the Tory Mayor’s budget has been passed.

Croydon Says No: but Tory Mayor Perry and Michael Gove say: ‘Yes!’

Michael Gove’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is planning to publish a report by its Croydon “improvement and assurance panel” on March 13 – 48 hours after the government-set deadline for local authorities to submit their balanced budgets for the 2023-2024 financial year.

The last report from the improvement and assurance panel on the management of Croydon Council to be published was in December 2021.

The panel, which is chaired by Tony McArdle, had been installed to oversee the running of the dysfunctional council in February 2021, and they were supposed to submit reports every three months.

“This delay, holding back the report until after the budget-setting process is supposed to be finished, is as cynical as it looks,” a Katharine Street source said today.

“It just adds further suspicion that Michael Gove and Mayor Perry are conspiring in some local government stitch-up over Croydon’s finances.”

‘Punishment beating’: government minister Michael Gove is allowing the 15% Council Tax increase

“We’ve gone 15 months now without seeing what the government’s own experts think of the state of Croydon’s finances.

“Jason Perry went to Gove and asked to impose a 15per cent Council Tax increase on Croydon residents in the middle of the worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation – and it is obvious that this is all part of some kind of perverse ‘political punishment beating’ from the Tories for all the people of Croydon.

“And that will include Conservative voters.”

Twice as many voters in Croydon South than in Croydon North have signed the parliamentary petition opposing Gove’s decision to allow Mayor Perry to hike Council Tax by 15per cent without the need of a borough-wide referendum.

Another experienced Town Hall figure told Inside Croydon today, “Jason Perry stood for election last May saying he would fix the finances. But he’s failed. He admitted he’d failed in November, when they issued the latest Section 114 notice – admitting he could not balance the budget for the next financial year.

“But enough details have emerged of his negotiations with government – the massive debt write-off, the additional emergency loans – to suggest that this has been in the planning for almost six months. Delaying reports from independent government experts looks very dodgy.”

Not listening: £82,000 per year Mayor Jason Perry

On Friday, in his weekly homily to the borough, Mayor Perry proved that even his own catchphrase of “Listening to Croydon” is a lie.

Having lost a democratic vote in the Town Hall Chamber over his unpopular 15per cent Council Tax hike, and having ignored a petition signed by 25,000 people in just a couple of weeks, the Mayor suggested that he will be presenting his budget, with the tax hike, all over again at tomorrow night’s Town Hall showdown.

Saying that he was doing his utmost to get a deal with the government to fix the borough’s finances, Perry said, “We need to meet them part way.”

Perry, who owns a £1million house near Lloyd Park, is probably better able to “meet them part way” than many of the borough’s poorer residents, its nurses and teachers and low-paid council workers, the vulnerable and pensioners.

Perry looks set to see his own Council Tax bill on his Band H home on Castlemaine Avenue increase to £4,479.12 per year under his proposals for a 15per cent hike. But then, such hardships are cushioned by the £82,000 per year he is being paid as Mayor by Croydon Council.

“There’s something very wrong,” said a Town Hall source, “when an administration can boast about introducing a ‘hardship fund’ when they realise the amount of hardship they are going to cause for the people they are supposed to represent.”

The missing improvement board’s report is not the first piece of budget-linked documentation to be delayed or simply never to appear.

The Mayor’s budget papers – all 500 pages of them – were published after the legal deadline, reducing the opportunity for opposition councillors to go over the paperwork and draft alternative proposals.

A letter dated March 1 from Lee Rowley, a junior minister at the DLUHC, announcing how he “was minded” to approve Mayor Perry’s begging bowl appeal for more government loans – bringing the total to £224million –  was not released until March 2, the day after the first council budget meeting. Perry will have had a copy of that reassuring letter tucked in his papers at the budget meeting, yet he failed to mention it through the three-and-a-half-hour meeting.

The legally required equalities impact assessment report on the budget proposals was not made available until after the council’s influential scrutiny committee had held its budget meeting.

And by 5pm today – little more than a day before the second budget-setting meeting – the council had still not published its papers for tomorrow night’s meeting.

“There’s a pattern here,” said one source. “Often, the incompetence of council officials might be the obvious explanation. But this is looking like it’s a deliberate strategy.”

Read more: No Council Tax hike without seeing the assurance panel reports
Read more: 15% tax hike sends council hurtling into constitutional crisis
Read more: ‘Stand up for the people and get fair funding for Croydon’
Read more: 37-34: Mayor’s 15% Council Tax hike rejected in budget vote
Read more: The solution to Perry’s finance problem: Fund Croydon Fairly


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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1 Response to Gove holds back panel’s key report until after budget deadline

  1. Sammi says:

    …..nobody is accepting Perry’s 15% hike so Gove can fuck right off. If the report is ever issued to Croydon for release, we’ll then have Katherine Kerswell sit on it like some enormous broody chicken for the next 2 years.

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