From part-time to powerless: Perry’s first year under scrutiny

WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on how the public are already seeing through Croydon’s failing Tory Mayor

Jason Perry, Croydon’s £82,000 per year elected Mayor, is likely to be given a “Must Do Better” rating when he presents his report on his first year in office to the council’s scrutiny committee at the Town Hall tonight.

Rowenna Davis, the Labour councillor who chairs the scrutiny committee, has publicly stated that, “After one year in office, we’re looking forward to questioning the Mayor on his record.”

But with a litany of failures to deliver on even the most modest of his pre-election promises from a year ago, part-time Perry (he continues to hold directorships in private business) is already attracting another moniker among his Katharine Street colleagues: Piss-poor Perry.

There could yet be another nickname, too: Powerless Perry.

The government has stepped in to give greater powers of intervention to its improvement panel, headed by chair Tony McArdle, who will be in attendance for tonight’s meeting. Much as Perry tries to deny it, it was his Conservative masters at Westminster who have utterly undermined his position before he had served out even the first year of what was supposed to be a four-year term.

Top of Perry’s list of failings has been the 15per cent Council Tax hike inflicted on the borough’s residents, who will be paying more and receiving reduced services for many years yet, despite the Tory Mayor’s pre-election promise that he would “fix” the cash-strapped council’s finances.

Perry’s first council budget, which was passed only with the acquiescence of most of the borough’s Labour councillors, included another £33million-worth of service cuts.

Paint job: Jason Perry has had few real achievements in his first year in office

But as a letter included in the paperwork for tonight’s meeting demonstrates, Perry has failed to get the multi-million-pound write-off from Government that he and McArdle agreed would be essential to rid the borough of its “toxic” and “unsustainable” burden of debt, which sees Croydon Council Tax-payers spending £50million per year just to service its loans.

It means that among other things, Croydon’s Mayor is now also Pot-less Perry.

The majority of the borough’s public libraries remain closed for most of the week, Purley Pool, a flagship Perry election pledge, won’t be opening any time soon, and even the Mayor’s promise of “meanwhile use” for the Allders building in a half-arsed attempt to revive the ailing town centre, remains undelivered.

The introduction of a graffiti “flying squad”, in which Perry invested much credibility at a photo shoot dressed in a hi-viz jacket, was something which had been included in the previous administration’s last budget.

Meanwhile, Perry’s cuts have seen 22 NSOs – neighbourhood safety officers – removed from the borough’s crime-ridden streets.

Promises to “bring to account” those responsible for crashing the council’s finances have also been all-but-abandoned, a letter from Perry to Michael Gove last month admitting, instead, that he and his council are powerless to act against former senior managers who were in charge in the months and years leading to the borough’s bankruptcy in 2020.

Perry’s six-page report on his first year reads like the struggling efforts of a out-of-his-depth 12-year-old, attempting to convince their teacher that they really don’t deserve a detention.

“My Administration and I have worked to make progress on the key issues residents elected me to deliver,” Perry begins.

Perry resorts to bullet point lists rather than his usual low-grade rhetoric to outline what these “key issues” might be, though for the most part his listings are often repetitive, like someone desperately padding out their homework, and short of any real, headline-grabbing initiatives.

Even on his very first point, Perry makes claims that he has proved unable to deliver, saying that he would “balance the council’s books”, listen to residents and deliver good sustainable services.

What follows is much aspirational piffle and waffle. “Croydon is a place of opportunity for business, earning and learning”… “Croydon is a cleaner, safer and healthier place, a borough we’re proud to call home”, the usual vacuous sort of stuff.

None of it is Perry’s fault, of course. His “opening the books” review found some more steaming turds left by the previous Labour council, including what Perry calls “£161million of historic financial failures” and “£49million of unresolved ongoing accounting issues”.

Perry’s solution for this, despite his oft-claimed “unsustainable” debts at the authority, is to do exactly what the previous bunch of bunglers did, and borrow more – £224million more. This, according to the Mayor, is one of his “key achievements” of his first year in office.

He then says, “Begun discussions with Government about a long-term solution to Croydon’s toxic level of £1.6billion debt.” Note that: “begun”.

Among his “achievements” is to flog off £50million-worth of public property. And he also lists: “Introduced Mayor’s Question time events”. Perry’s staged two such events in a whole year…

Oversight: Tony McArdle has increased powers over Croydon

The desperation from Perry in trying to justify his existence is evident in some of the more mundane claims of “achievement”, often over matters on which he had vanishingly little involvement, or which will have been something that had been well underway long before his scrambled election win.

“Successful roll-out of new telephony system,” Perry boasts. Just a shame that he has done nothing to extend the service hours or improve council staff’s facility for answering the phones.

“Scrutiny chaired by Opposition,” he claims as a success, even though, with Labour having more councillors than Perry’s Tories, he really had little choice.

Perry’s report has either been poorly proofed or just badly written. As if he couldn’t give a shit. “Successfully introduction [sic] of the new Executive Mayoral Governance model,” he claims, despite Croydon Council still having no updated constitution for being run by a mayor, some two years since that course of action had been decided.

Perry’s report is not without a few out-and-out porkies, too.

“Begun process of delivering a new swimming pool and leisure facilities in Purley.” Because he really has not.

“Distributed over £17million in Government energy rebates through Council Tax to residents,” which again is something over which Perry will have negligible to zero influence over.

“Launched a successful London Borough of Culture.” Seriously? By what measure? The launch came almost three months into 2023 and Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, who is footing the bill for the junketing, didn’t even bother to show up.

“Over 40 funded events planned for the year.” He fails to specify what “over 40” actually means. Perhaps it is 41. But that’s still a lot less than one new event for each week of the year.

Of his other claims of achievement, Mayor Perry includes, “Preparing for upcoming Ofsted and other inspections.”

And “Developing a new Youth Safety Delivery Plan to make Croydon safer for young people on our streets.” One source has described this “delivery plan” to tackle rising levels of knife crime as, “Giving insignificant amounts of public money to the same people to do much the same things as has been done, without success, for several years.”

Perry’s other claimed achievements include on planning, “Revoked the SPD2 Design Guide”, although Heather Cheesbrough, the planning director who implemented SPD2 and was its most enthusiastic enforcer, remains in her job.

Scrutiny: Rowenna Davis

On housing, again Perry takes credit for much work that was already in motion before he took office, such as the housing transformation plan and the estate ballot at Regina Road.

Davis, the scrutiny chair, is her typical ebullient self, urging the public to join in with the committee meeting – despite there being only limited, if any, capacity for Council Tax-payers to participate in the questioning.

Davis told Inside Croydon: “We will acknowledge successes and challenge the Mayor on where he could be doing more for Croydon.

“We’re pleased that the improvement panel will be joining us. With their proposed new powers of direction over the council, it’s a chance for us to publicly explore how that relationship will work in practice.

“We all know there will be more difficult decisions ahead, so it’s important for residents to know where power and accountability lies.

“Our aim is to focus relentlessly on three things: looking out for the public’s money, the public’s services and the public’s voice.”

Read more: Perry admits he can’t take action against council’s bankrupters
Read more: Councillors agree to chase Negrini for golden handshake cash
Read more: Penn Report wanted police probe into possible misconduct
Read more: Cover-ups and denial over Brick by Brick failure

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12 Responses to From part-time to powerless: Perry’s first year under scrutiny

  1. David Wickens says:

    “Ofsted” for Councils?

    • We understood that to be a reference to an Ofsted inspection for the council’s children’s services department, David.

      It is six years since the council was placed in special measures when children in its care were being placed at significant risk of harm. After £30million was thrown at the problem, Ofsted gave Croydon children’s services the all-clear in 2020.

      Given that there was a coroner’s inquest conducted only last week into the suicide of a 17-year-old who was under Croydon Council care, it probably won’t be too soon for Ofsted, or other independent inspectors, to take another look at the work of the council’s children’s services.

      Whether “preparing” for an Ofsted inspection is a notable achievement for the Mayor, we leave you to decide.

      • David Wickens says:

        I was thinking of an “Ofsted” equivalent for Councils as a whole. The Children’s Services findings would be part of that. The audit function also covers it but has been shown to be ineffective given the state of Croydon.

        • It’s a wonderful idea, David.

          Just a shame that Eric Pickles and the “anti-red tape” Tories did away with the district auditor system a decade ago, with predictable results.

          • Ian Kierans says:

            Would that be becausethe auditor would have forbidden the high risk loans being taken by councils and therefore undermined the cuts to Council funding and that flagship Conservative program of austerity?

  2. David White says:

    Mayor Perry and the councillors should be knocking on Government’s door each day. Their demand should be a write-off of Croydon Council’s debts and restoration of Government grants to all councils which have been cut so severely in recent years.

  3. derekthrower says:

    Leave Part Time alone Inside Croydon.

    He is actively delivering. It might be complete and utter failure, but no one can have it all.

    See how he is working in cohoots with his pals in Central Government. This month saw the biggest drop in new housing builds since the first lockdown of the Pandemic. Who needs a planning department when there is nothing to approve?

    One of the reasons the South Croydon Lobby Groups wanted DEMOC was to reduce development and look here he is undelivering. In their eyes he must be the Lard himself.

  4. Sally says:

    Perry was only a warm fart on a cold Croydon morning. The sun is now up, it’s time to move on without him.

  5. D McNair says:

    Don’t try criticising part time Perry on his lacklustre performance or weekly email updates of ribbon cuttings, you will be blocked!

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