Following the referendum in Scotland, every other part of our country is now discussing what political powers and decisions should be devolved from Westminster and taken closer to local people. In London we have an elected Mayor but, for a city of over eight million people, that is not good enough. Croydon, London’s largest borough, with a population heading towards 365,000, is effectively one of the 10 largest cities in the country. And we too are rightly seeking more control of our own destiny from central government to allow us, together with you the local community and local businesses, to shape our future together.
It cannot be right that what happens to some of our older, empty offices is decided by faceless civil servants in Whitehall, and it cannot be right that public services are given significantly higher funding in inner London than in outer London boroughs such as Croydon. It cannot be right that as Croydon plans to build more new homes than any other borough we are not allowed to keep more of the income those homes generate for the benefit of our own local economy.
So, six months into our Labour administration in Croydon we have taken a clear strategic decision; namely we will seek to be masters of our own destiny and not victims of central government diktats or funding cuts. Croydon is at the forefront of a new movement in urban revival, we are on course to see Croydon transformed from a sleepy suburb to a modern European city, with regeneration happening not just in our metropolitan centre but right across our many fantastic district centres as well.
Therefore, to help achieve our ambitions and deliver those new jobs, homes and opportunities, we are asking the current government, with cross party support locally and support from the Mayor of London, to grant Croydon ‘Growth Zone’ status. This would allow all locally generated taxes on new development to be retained by the borough, it would allow the council to borrow against this income and, in partnership with others, invest in much-needed infrastructure supporting housing, jobs, trams, roads and our commercial and cultural offer; all improving our town and, of course, generating further much-needed jobs.
In conclusion, national government cannot have it both ways. Having cut funding to local councils more than any other public services, they have, in my view, nothing less than a responsibility to support our innovative approach here in Croydon to generate our own growth and help deliver a strong, sustainable future for London’s largest and fastest growing borough.
Leader, Croydon Council