Leader's blog

News and thoughts from Croydon Town Hall

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Let local government get on with the job

Tony croppedWriting 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”

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First four weeks

Councillor Tony Newman

Leader of Croydon Council

As the newly elected leader of the council I’m sitting here tonight at nearly 10pm – still in the office, and tired at the end of another long day, but still running on the adrenalin that comes from winning such a significant election.

It’s a funny old game, politics – one minute you’re in opposition, and the next you’re the leader of London’s largest borough. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing for the past four weeks, the meetings are back to back, and the evenings and weekends are spent at community events. Don’t tell anyone, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. As someone once said, one day in government is worth a thousand in opposition, and they were right.

So I’m proud that, just four weeks into office, our Labour administration has hit the ground running here in Croydon.

That we’ve been able to do that is no accident, but down to a lot of hard work and planning prior to the election. Hard work from both our politicians and from officers of the council in ensuring everyone was ready for a change of administration if that’s what the public voted for, and thankfully they did.

Our manifesto is titled Ambitious for Croydon, and we are, for the whole borough. That’s why we’re not just focusing on the regeneration of our city centre, but also on district centres such as New Addington, Purley, and South Norwood. Further, we’re determined to ensure a good mix of affordable housing across the borough, and that we maximise the number of high-quality local jobs. All of these commitments run like a thread through our manifesto; in short, we’re determined to ensure every local resident in Croydon gets the chance to benefit from the increased investment that’s heading our way.

Croydon has been in grave danger in recent years of becoming just another sleepy dormitory suburb of London, a place where people sleep at night but travel elsewhere to work and spend their leisure time. However, this isn’t our administration’s vision for Croydon. So, once we’ve literally cleaned up the streets and ended the fly-tipping crisis left by the outgoing administration (and that work has already started) we’re determined to set about turning our vision into reality.

A massively increased leisure and cultural offer is vital, a celebration of our wonderful diversity equally so. Our successful tram network must be extended, first to Crystal Palace and then on into London and down to the south of the borough. The Croydon Partnership’s exciting plans for our town centre are well under way and help send a signal that Croydon is open for business. We’re the biggest economy in the south-east and one of the few places left, south of Watford, where affordable investment opportunities still exist.

So, tomorrow we begin our second month in office. The challenges of ongoing budget cuts and much more lie before us, but right now it’s time to go home and catch the highlights of today’s world cup action on TV.

Thanks for all your kind words and support, see you soon,