It is the time of year when, as a council, we get to set Croydon’s budget for the next 12 months. Our aim, even in tough economic times for the country, is to ensure that we continue to deliver the services you have told us matter most to you, and ensure we deliver them to the highest standard possible.
The money we spend as a council comes, in part, from the collection of council tax, while the rest is essentially government grant directly from Westminster. As you might have read in the local media, Croydon Council has been hit hard by the cuts to the government-funded part of our budget.
To make things worse, when ministers began receiving complaints from across the country about the damage their cuts were doing, they introduced something called a ‘transitional fund’, but that has not gone to the councils most in need. How can anybody justify Croydon receiving £800k while neighbouring Surrey received £24.1m? Utterly indefensible.
However, as leader of Croydon Council, I am determined that we will not allow Croydon to become a victim of the government’s cuts, and that we will protect those frontline services – such as libraries, leisure centres and improved street cleaning – that you have told us you value so much.
To achieve this, and honour our commitment to keep council tax affordable, has, to be honest, involved some tough choices. As a council, we are doing more with less as we continue to have to lose staff and some services. One such casualty is the green garden waste-collection service; it has been necessary to introduce a small charge to those wishing to continue to have the service, amounting to £1.12 per week.
Despite these tough conditions, we intend to deliver value for money where we can. To achieve this, part of the council’s new headquarters building is to be let out to the private sector, more of our services will be accessible online, and we will continue to cut waste and red tape wherever we find it.
With regard to our council budget, we are proposing a council tax increase of 53p per week (band D property) following last year’s freeze in council tax bills. This is equivalent to 1.89% on your bill but, I hope you agree, it’s a relatively small price to pay to protect those vital frontline services from the cuts. Having said that, I am acutely aware that the council tax bill is still a major part of many household budgets and I give you my word we will do everything we can to keep delivering value for money, and keep your council tax bill as low as possible.
Croydon is on the up – we are now officially London’s Growth Borough. Companies like Body Shop are relocating hundreds of their staff and corporate HQs here; Westfield’s new retail centre will soon be on site; and Fairfield Halls is set for a major £30m refit with a new college for Croydon being built alongside it.
As you can see, there is much to be excited about, but we also have to ensure that, as our town is transformed, we protect those vital frontline services. That is the job of myself and my colleagues, and we will not let you down.
Leader, Croydon Council