Writing today’s blog in a mild state of shock as, like the rest of the world, I’m still digesting last night’s amazing world cup match that saw the hosts, Brazil, lose by a staggering seven goals to one to Germany; a result which will resonate down the generations.
Global events, whether sporting or otherwise, clearly can still make an impact even in today’s fast-moving, often cynical twenty-four hour news cycle. Local government and what your local council is getting up to on the other hand, if we’re being honest, rarely troubles our regional TV news let alone makes the national headlines. Perhaps that’s as it should be, but increasingly I’m not so sure.
In Croydon we’re blessed with a vibrant and inquisitive local media that holds both the council and other public sector bodies to account, and for that we should be grateful.
However, many of the decisions that affect our quality of life in Croydon are still, wrongly in my view, taken by faceless, junior ministers sitting in Westminster, who assume they know best. They don’t, and we need to see these decisions devolved to us both as local people and as local councillors.
Croydon, like all councils, still only raises a proportion of the money we need to pay for local services from council tax. The rest is provided in the annual so-called ‘financial settlement’ from central government, and in Croydon’s case this amount is now woefully short.
The latest example of ‘Westminster knows best’ policy-making is seeing more and more people forced to move from central London to, in relative terms, more affordable places such as Croydon. This is however, placing unplanned and unfair pressures on our local services and we are seeing no extra financial support from national government to help pay for the demand that their policies, not ours, have created.
Our new council administration is ambitious for Croydon and we’ve made it crystal clear that we will work with anyone who shares our goal to see our town and district centres renewed and regenerated.
However, much of this work is often slowed down by the red tape and dead hands of Whitehall and Westminster. So, as strange as it may seem, the best thing national government can do in the absence of providing fair funding for the people of Croydon, is to get out of the way and let us get on with the job.
Perhaps the innovative solutions local councils like Croydon are coming up with do deserve more national media attention. But clearly in the final week of the World Cup that’s not going to happen. As Bill Shankly, the former Liverpool manager, once said: “football is not a matter of life and death it’s more important than that”