WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, on what could happen next if Mayor Perry gets his way over his unbalanced budget
A senior source connected to the local trades union movement is predicting that if – or when – the 15per cent Council Tax increase is pushed through, despite massive public opposition, the “Fund Croydon Fairly” people’s petition campaign will quickly evolve into a version of the “Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay” poll tax demonstrations which did so much to bring down Margaret Thatcher’s premiership in the late 1980s.
The widely respected figure believes that some Labour councillors will, eventually, perhaps at some point very late in the proceedings at the Town Hall budget-setting meeting tonight, decide that they have no choice but to abstain and so allow Perry’s Council Tax hike to pass, with support from the votes of Conservative councillors.
“The only way to defeat the 15per cent Council Tax rise and millions of pounds of more service cuts is through public pressure,” the campaigner told Inside Croydon.
“A fantastic campaign has already started, thanks in no small measure to your efforts. The ‘Fund Croydon Fairly’ campaign should continue to involve trade unions, community groups, residents’ associations and the wider public. If the government continues to dig in, it is likely there will be calls for a ‘Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay’ campaign.
“Croydon residents should not have to pay for a financial crisis which is not of their making.”
And the veteran campaigner was clear about who is really in charge at Croydon Council.
“Croydon’s major decisions at the moment are effectively controlled by the government. The improvement and assurance panel is operating very much as government-appointed commissioners would. Mayor Perry and the councillors are just ciphers. That’s been clear since December 2020.
“The council has virtually no leeway so far as its budget is concerned. The legal requirement to have a ‘balanced budget’ leaves very little room to manoeuvre.
“The further capital funds from the government are clearly welcome, but it’s dependent on the council continuing with severe austerity measures. These include the 15per cent Council Tax hike.
“Unless something totally unforeseen happens, then Labour, the Greens and the LibDem will not be able to stop Perry’s budget getting through. Labour hasn’t tabled an alternative budget, but even if they did, they would never get the two-thirds majority this is required for such an amendment.
“They can keep voting down Perry’s budget. But as a decision needs to be made at this meeting, they will have a choice of sitting there for hours or even days and if no budget is agreed the only end result is that the government commissioners come in or, after a lot of huffing and puffing, abstaining and allowing Perry’s budget through.”
And today, Perry dug in his heels by issuing a stubborn response which denied that he has ever had any Plan B.
Admitting that any 15per cent Council Tax rise will be embedded into Croydon residents’ bills for years to come, Perry wrote, “It is not a case of choices…This is not a choice we are making because we want to raise Council Tax. It is a necessity resulting from the years of historic mismanagement which have left this authority with hundreds of millions of pounds of budget gap and over £1.6billion of toxic debt.
“The only other possible solution would be to borrow another £66million over the coming three years. That would saddle the council with even more debt, even higher yearly payments to service the debt and repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Perry, who clearly doesn’t like “unsustainable” council borrowing, last week received a letter from a government minister who said he “is minded” to agree to Perry’s request for £224.6million of borrowing…
The £224.6million extra borrowing is even included in Perry’s little “budget to-do list”.
The Tories have rejected all possible suggestions from the opposition, including a proposal from the Greens which looks to use levies from developers to meet some of the budget gap. If Perry had included the Green proposal in a revised budget, he may have secured their two votes tonight and got his budget passed.
Instead, it will be presented as an amendment to Perry’s budget, and therefore require a two-thirds majority to pass, which ain’t going to happen.
THE PERRY PLAN: How Tory Mayor wants you to pay much more for much less
Read more: Councillors ready to vote against Perry’s 15% tax hike again
Read more: The solution to Perry’s finance problem: Fund Croydon Fairly
SIGN THE PETITIONS HERE
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The Council Tax payers made none of the decisions which led to the Council’s debts, but we are to be punished for the errors made by others. If those who generated this mess had been shamed or penalised, it might be less painful, but the worst offenders have no conscience, and some have benefitted financially. This hurts a lot more than the increased tax bills will. How can we ensure that the sins of Newman, Butler, Scott, Negrini and others can never be committed again in our town?
Don’t you mean the sins of Part Time Perry too. He hired Negrini in the first place.
When a government breaks its own democratic laws. Its now a dictatorship. The wording is must have referendum and must produce alternative budget without excessive hike. Both musts were arrogantly ignored. What alternative do people have if this happens
Well Part time Perry’s hike has gone through after the opposition bottled it with warnings of personal responsibility and legal action recovery if they wouldn’t set the budget.
The era of solidarity required to make a can’t pay, won’t pay play is long gone. Obliterated by the four decades of Thatcherite consensus politics that have run the country and ruined Croydon.
A far more likely outcome is that this desperate Budget won’t work as receipts dwindle due to falling collection rates and incomers being put off by the high council taxes and blighted mess that Croydon has become.
Perry has to pray that the old boys in the network are very generous in delivering a favourable rescheduling of debts otherwise whatever his kowtowing to Tory Central Office has achieved in the short term will still fail to solve the perilous financial state and centrally appointed Commissioners have to come in anyway.
Had cancelled my direct debit last week feeling the vote would swings the pigs in the trough avoid losing their cosy perks if central government were called in to settle this and may only pay a small extra maybe 2.99% in line with other boroughs rises.
If they cannot put blatant crooks in the Council behind bars let them come after me who has done nothing wrong.
Let them lock us all us. How shameful would that make them look.
Conservatives love money and hold those who vote for them in contempt. Labour have always been scammers looking for for bits.
Me too. I propose to pay by Standing Order from April and will only be paying the Council last year’s amount + 5%. The additional 10% they want will be paid into a separate account to earn interest (for me). OK, I may (just) be able to afford the additional amount, but thousands in the Borough won’t be able to.
I still believe there needs to be a local Referendum to ask whether local tax payers are prepared to pay this 15% increase. OK, it will cost, but it’s the principle that’s important here, especially as Mayor Perry ran for office on the promise to “fix” our finances. He didn’t mention anything about “stuffing” the populus. It is iniquitous that the Secretary of State (Gove) has allowed this increase without reference to the good people of Croydon and I can’t find the legislation that he’s allowed to do it. Anyone else have an opinion?
If I get summoned for the balance, so be it…….
…….and today I receive a letter from Council Finance Department confirming the cancellation of my DD and demanding payment for……£0.00……or they will be taking action against me to recover the monies outstanding. I’d like to see them try!! Awaiting the summons!
What a complete and utter waste of time and money!
The problem with our councilors and politicians is they are rarely have experience of their positions. No other plans have been put forward except tax the public.
The downside is that Croydon residents who can afford to leave will. The borough will not get the revenue they are expecting and it is a turn-off for those who were planning to move here. Those remaining will be stuck in an empty ghost town of a place and Kerswell will land in another bankrupt council to collect more rich pickings.
Have long known we are in a dictatorship, maybe this will finally open those who call us conspiracy theorists over depopulating covid jabs etc to finally open their eyes.
Central government can always find money for wars, for private flights, for funding track and trace systems that don’t work, for paying their mates for pointless contracts. Croydon’s debt can and should be totally written off, but that’s not happening. There’s no glory, no profit and nothing exciting in it for the Tories. We are nothing to them and Perry does nowt to convince us otherwise – he’s a ventriloquist dummy spouting Tory central’s words.
Cancelling the debt is the only right thing to do.