What Labour has done wrong
Labour has bankrupted Croydon, hiked borrowing up to an eye watering £1.6bn at a rate of £16,000 an hour since 2014. They wasted millions buying a hotel that went bust and then sold it at a loss. They lent over £200m to their failed development company Brick by Brick with many of these loans now in default. All the while pushing up our Council tax by the maximum each year and failing to control costs.
This failing Labour Council has had to issue two S114 bankruptcy notices and gone cap in hand to central government to be allowed to borrow another £150m just to balance the books. The external auditors have now published two reports which are damning of how Labour acted. Their refit of the Fairfield Halls was supposed to be cost nothing but has ended up being £67.5m! As residents we are having to pick up the bill for all these costs. Labour are not fit to manage our money.
What would we do differently
I run a successful family business in Croydon. I know how important it is to balance a budget, to only spend what you can afford, and how to create jobs in a difficult economic environment. That’s why as Mayor I want to bring back stability to Croydon’s finances. I will push down on overspends and ensure that our external contracts are managed effectively. I will not risk public money on dodgy property deals or speculative investments. Every penny matters and the council tax payers of Croydon have a right to expect value for money from the Council. I will deliver Council services on budget to a good standard.
This will require us to:
- Have a rigorous and continuous pressure on in-year departmental spending. The days of overspending by departments are over and we will return to a culture of meeting budgets. To this end the reporting of performance vs budget coming to Cabinet every meeting will continue, providing opportunity for regular scrutiny of what is happening.
- Review and manage our contracts better. We need value for money in the agreement of contracts and then a no-nonsense approach to the delivery of those contracts. If the taxpayers of Croydon are funding a service that is being provided by an external contractor, then they must keep to the terms and performance levels associated with that agreement. This must be strictly enforced.
- We must ensure value for money. With resources stretched as tightly as they are there is no room for unnecessary spending. By properly assessing what impact every pound spent will have and understanding why it is needed we can remove those things that do not add value to what the council is doing. In short, if it isn’t really needed, it isn’t happening.
- Look to deliver services in partnership with other councils and organisation to benefit from economies of scale. There are many back office services now that do not need to be just provided for by one Council. We will look to team up with other suppliers to deliver these jointly and save money.
- Long term debt reduction. Debt is too high in Croydon. We will look to keep the capital program within available capital spend monies so that our overall debt burden reduces. You cannot keep borrowing for ever as it reduces the amount you have each year to spend. Our aim will be to bring overall debt back down to below the £1bn mark. Thereby releasing more money each year from interest for services. This will be achieved through debt repayment and careful asset management.
- Encouraging business to flourish, improve employment and make our residents less dependent on the council. Croydon town centre needs to be regenerated. The missed opportunity by Labour of not progressing the Westfield Shopping Centre has left a huge hole in Croydon’s business prospects. We will bring forward a new plan which is sustainable in current retail and leisure industry circumstances. This needs to happen at pace so we can benefit from the increased employment and higher business rate payments it will bring. The better off our residents are and the more successful our local businesses are the easier it becomes to support those more in need.
- Dealing with national government to ensure a fairer deal for Croydon. All of local government has felt the pinch over recent years and Croydon is no different. Resolving the historic issue of unaccompanied asylum seeking children and their funding will help with Croydon’s overall position. We will work WITH central government on this to bring a long term sustainable settlement that provides for those we need to support whilst not adversely impacting the local residents.
- Only rewarding success. It cannot be right that someone can come to Croydon, fail horrendously, and then be financially rewarded. This practice ends now.
- Public involvement. Politicians don’t have all the answers! The political leadership of the council will come out into the community and face the public. There will be opportunity both to question what is happening but also to suggest alternative apporaches and ideas. Croydon possesses the knowledge and innovation to rebuild our Borough and make us proud to live in Croydon again. We have to harness and respect our residents and work in partnership with the many fantastic community and faith groups across the Borough.
- Listening. Consultation needs to be backed up by actual change and action based on the feedback of our residents. Labour have held many consultations but not actually listened to what has been said. We are all part of Croydon and all our voices need to be heard. By doing so we will perform better and make better decisions. This will help manage our finances going forward.
Croydon’s financial position is precarious but not terminal. We can and will get through this and make our Borough a place to be proud of once again.