Croydon council leader and finance chief survive vote of no confidence

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

A motion of no confidence accused Croydon’s council leader of bringing the borough into decline at an extraordinary council meeting this week.

The meeting, on Monday night, was called by the Croydon Conservatives, who demanded the resignation of Councillor Tony Newman as well as cabinet member for finance, Councillor Simon Hall.

Both survived the call to step down, with 40 votes backing them and 28 in favour of the motion.

Opposition leader, Cllr Jason Perry, argued that the two councillors could have prevented the financial crisis the council now finds itself in.

It is facing a £50.3 million forecasted overspend and has £1.6 billion worth of debt, which it spends £26 million a year repaying.

The financial problems have been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, which at the moment has had a net impact of £42 million on the council.

Cllr Perry said: “As our town is brought to bankruptcy and our green spaces are destroyed, the look and feel of a town in decline is evident throughout the borough, a decline brought about by councillors Newman and Hall.

“If they will not accept responsibility for the dire state our town is in, and will not do the honourable thing and resign, then they need to be removed from office.

“They cannot be trusted to deliver, they suddenly talk about acting now and reviewing everything, yet they could have done this months or years ago.

“We should not accept this mismanagement of our town any longer.”

He criticised decisions to invest in The Collonades retail park, and Croydon Park Hotel – which the council spent £31.4m on in 2018, but which went into administration in June this year.

Labour members defended the two councillors at the meeting, before voting against the motion.

Councillor Jerry Fitzpatrick pointed out that the council has faced a “huge historical legacy of underfunding”, contributing to today’s financial problems.

He added: “On top of an unfair funding base and austerity, our financial pressures have been compounded by economic and demographic factors.

“We’ve experienced the effects of the exodus from central London of people priced out of housing by welfare cuts.

“Need, disadvantage and outright poverty have increased year-on-year.

“We haven’t had the luxury of paying off historical debt, we’ve made sensible investments, we focussed on delivering services.”

On top of these pressures, Cllr Fitzpatrick said the government had “not kept its promise” in making sure councils were not out of pocket after dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “Councillors Newman and Hall have been acting in good faith in the most difficult circumstances it would be possible to imagine.

“The vote of no confidence is a cheap shot of a new opposition leadership trying to make a pathetic little mark in the sand. They would make a better mark if they provided realistic alternatives.”

Pictured top: Croydon Town Hall

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