Perry claims ‘progress’ and gets set to hike Council Tax again

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Typical households’ bills will have risen by £388 in less than two years under the Tory Mayor, who has still failed to get a Government deal to write off some of the borough’s debts

The borough’s Council Tax bills will have soared by an inflation-busting 20.7% in less than two years since Tory Jason Perry took over as elected Mayor, it was confirmed in an announcement from Fisher’s Folly this morning.

This, according to details released for the cash-strapped council’s 2024-2025 budget, is what passes for “strong progress” and “fixing the finances”, as the Conservative Mayor also prepares to make another £31million-worth of service cuts in the next financial year.

Mayor Perry was allowed by the Tory Government to hit Croydon residents with a 15% Council Tax hike in April this year. Next year, he’s proposing another 4.99% Council Tax increase on top of that.

A 2.99% Council Tax increase is proposed, together with the 2% adult social care precept that all councils are expected charge. “Despite the council’s challenges, Mayor Perry has been clear that he will not support an increase above the referendum cap next year or in future years,” the council said this morning. As if the residents who were hit by Perry’s 15% tax hike should somehow be grateful that he intends to compound that next spring.

It all means that a typical Band D household will have seen its annual Council Tax bill go up by £388.44 since Perry was elected Mayor in May 2022 – from £1,507.07 to £1,895.51.

Other households in different bands will have experienced a similar rate of increase in their Council Tax bills.

It leaves Croydon residents paying the second-highest Council Tax bills in the whole of London, while receiving ever-diminishing services from their local authority.

Busted flush: Jason Perry at last week’s council meeting. He will have increased Council Tax by 20% in less than two years

Perry was elected on a promise to “fix the finances”, but has so far failed to deliver any real, transformational deal with the Government to eliminate the toxic debt built up by Labour and the previous Tory administration, of which he was a leading member.

In the budget proposals released today, the need for a £540million debt write-off by Government is mentioned again. Failure by Mayor Perry to seal that deal led to him issuing a Section 114 notice in November last year – predicting that he would be unable to balance the budget in 2023-2024.

“Next year, Croydon will spend £64million of its budget on servicing debt,” the council said this morning.

Perry’s solution has been more massive cuts, massive Council Tax hikes, and flogging off anything that’s not nailed down, usually at a massive loss. And borrowing yet more money from Government to cover the black hole in the budget – another £38million debt to be incurred in 2024-2025. That won’t be the end of the emergency borrowing, either. “The council has requested continued government support over the next four years,” they said this morning (our italics).

And yet, in the next-but-one sentence, they add: “The council has been clear that more borrowing is not a solution.”

The self-congratulatory tone of today’s council announcement (headed: “Croydon continues to make strong progress in fixing its finances with 2024-2025 budget proposals”) is little different from the delusional attitude shown in the days when the council was being run by Negrini, Newman & Co.

The council statements appear to have been drafted in Pyongyang: “The government has noted Croydon’s strong progress in tackling its financial challenges under Mayor Perry’s leadership.”

Not best value: Perry and Katherine Kerswell take their orders from the improvement panel

The reality is that under Perry and chief exec Katherine Kerswell, the Government was sufficiently concerned that in July, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Down [sic], issued directions that put Croydon’s improvement and assurance panel on a statutory footing because the council was unable to meet its “Best Value Duty”. This was unmentioned in the council’s lengthy budget announcement today.

The Government-appointed improvement panel has issued its “exit strategy” today, but they look like they – and not Perry or Kerswell – will effectively be in charge of running Croydon Council until mid-2025.

The budget papers have been released ahead of upcoming scrutiny committee and cabinet meetings, before a lip-service public consultation process through November. Given the abject lack of opposition at the Town Hall – Labour councillors merely abstained over the 15% Council Tax hike back in March – it seems unlikely that much, if anything detailed in the “Medium Term Financial Strategy” (they have a strategy! Who knew??!) will undergo significant change.

Perry said today: “Government support is critical to balance our budget next year and more borrowing is a short-term fix, not a solution. I will be continuing to make the case for our borough and working with the government to secure the right support package for Croydon.”

But Gove, in the dying days of his Conservative Government, is unlikely to pony up half-a-billion for Croydon and create a precedent for all of the local authorities that have been bankrupted by 13 years of Tory austerity.

As piss-poor Perry said when he first took office, “Things are going to get worse.”

It remains the only promise Perry hasn’t broken.

Read more: ‘There is no solution in sight’ warns council’s finance chief
Read more: Town Hall staff braced for £31m more cuts and job losses
Read more: ‘Uncertainty faced by all local authorities is unprecedented’

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  • ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine

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6 Responses to Perry claims ‘progress’ and gets set to hike Council Tax again

  1. Ian Hobbs says:

    When is the vote of no confidence in this despicable man. How many more lies do we have to have. Mayor Perry is NO better than the atrocious Mayor of London who seems to be intentionally making it his job to make the working class suffer during this financial crisis.

  2. Sarah Bird says:

    At What level can any increase be justified ? The independent reports are very clear and yet I have to see any evidence of improvement. Instead huge cuts of appallingly criticized services . Why not cut from the bulging Councilors budgets ? There are far too many councilors .What exactly do they do ? Time for Croydon Council led by Jason Perry to be properly accountable to all residents . The most cursory review of the nonsensical decision to employ security staff to manage libraries when they are paid librarians . here are many more poor decisions

    • Andrew Pelling says:

      Cabinet members have support staff. One of these jobs was advertised in the summer at £37,000. Councillors should be able to run their own political activity. With power with the Mayor this is inappropriate spend.

      • Sarah Bird says:

        Totally agree with you. I have yet to ascertain what any of the councilors actually do ? My experience is dire ,as indeed are so many. There are far too many Councilors and cuts should start here .It is a nonsense .Croydon needs a mayor who has real expertise in both the private and public sector , so Andrew please stand again forthwith.

  3. Liam Johnson says:

    This is an absolute embarrassment. He simply cannot justify increasing council tax again until he has a deal with the government for a write off, any other increase is absolutely pointless and residents should be up in arms to make sure this doesn’t happen.

    Perry is a spineless pathetic Mayor who does not care about residents one bit. He said we would have a Westfield masterplan by the end of the year, but news is out today that Westfield haven’t even appointed a team to even start this yet.

    He has to go – what does he even do?

  4. Susie Harper says:

    Perry is a vacuous knob-head. He has no sense of value or the importance of maintaining basic services.

    A cretin and a prat of the highest order.

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