For the last thirty years, most of the money any council spends has been given to it in grants from the government. This has the drawback that councils can easily blame the government any time they are criticised for the quality of service they provide. The future for councils is that their income will be made up of what they raise in council tax and what they get in in business rates, so they will raise money local to spend locally – and be properly accountable for what they do. At the moment Croydon Labour’s leader takes credit for anything good that happens and blames the government for not giving him enough money when anything bad happens. As voters, you will be able to more clearly see how efficient your council is in spending the money you give it and inefficient councils will have nowhere to hide.
This year council tax is going up by 5% - that’s nearly double inflation. If the council was more efficient the rise needed could be less.
The Labour council has overspent its budgets for social care by a staggering £33 million over the last four years. That’s not budgets other people set for it, they’re the ones it set itself! Without those overspends, there would have been no need to raise council tax at all.
Labour often loudly complains that there isn’t enough money. Yes it has found the money for: a cycle race in the centre of Croydon; a ‘Fairness Commission’ which cost hundreds of thousands of pounds but has yielded virtually nothing; nearly £1M for 20mph signs; the money to (unsuccessfuly) bid to be a ‘Borough of Culture’; £3M to lend to Boxpark; £ millions to spend on agency staff and consultants instead of much less expensive permanent employees.
Getting the finances under control
The Council’s budget has spiralled out of control, as it always does when Labour is in charge. The Labour Council has overspent its budgets for social care by a staggering £33 million over the last four years. That’s not budgets other people set for it, they’re the ones it sets itself! Without those overspends, there would have been no need to increase council tax at all. Regeneration has stagnated in Croydon: there are sites in the centre of Croydon which have had planning permission for years but the landowner isn’t getting on with delivering the homes. This includes the council itself, which still hasn’t progressed a number of big sites it owns. Had those sites been built on, next year they would have given the council an extra £7 million in council tax. We will restore common-sense to the council’s finances by:
Not raising Council Tax by more than inflation, in any year of the next council administration.
Making a significant portion of the Council’s budget responsive to local needs by giving areas a budget that they can spend on local priorities. For example, they can choose which roads to resurface, how their parks are managed, which local voluntary groups get support and so on.
We will introduce a Band H Council Tax voluntary contribution, inviting the residents living in Croydon’s wealthiest areas to make an additional payment, the sum of which will be ring fenced to help reduce rough sleeping, social isolation amongst older residents and additional activities for young people. Although this is aimed at concerned residents living in the wealthier area it is, of course, open to anyone who wishes to help out in this way.
To reduce the politicisation of the council’s finance committees, we will offer the largest opposition party the opportunity to nominate the vice chair of the Audit Committee and the Pensions Committee.
We will not fritter away money like Labour has on vanity projects which have delivered little in the way of tangible benefits to residents. For example the town centre cycle race was supposed to 'put Croydon on the map'. Most people tell us this is not what they want their taxes spent on (or officers of the council to focus on). When money is tight you have to focus the money on things that matter most to residents: that's what we will do.
Since it took over in 2014 Labour has cost the average resident an extra £196 per year - and some residents in larger properties considerably more. Most people say they haven't seen anything to show for the extra outlay. Had Labour been able to control the council's spending, there would have been no need for any of this extra cost - or at the least you would have seen better services to show for it. We won't make those mistakes.