This week our hopeless Labour council bowed to the inevitable by removing the posters it had ordered displayed last week, criticising the government over its funding reductions to local government.
This follows on from their high-profile u-turns over building on school playing fields (December) and the closure of Purley Pool (January).
Looking increasingly accident-prone, the Labour cabinet is also back-peddling on its Landlord Registration Scheme, better known as the tenant tax (where it seems set to charge a tax at ‘only’ one-third the level it initially proposed) and on its plans to remove councillors’ rights to insist that planning applications are heard by committee instead of being decided in secret by officers.
So the latest u-turn, on whether the council was right in spending your money on what is blatantly pre-election propaganda, is just the latest in a long line of foul-ups for this hapless Labour administration.
Here the issue was whether, in the light of the difficult financial climate that all public services are in, it can possibly be right to divert some of that money away from the delivery of services to the public by spending it on party-political advertising? Because of the impending Selhurst by-election, the council is quite restricted in what it can say and should avoid publicity designed to court controversy even more than usual. And the Code of Conduct for local authorities is quite clear about what are legitimate uses for a council’s publicity budget and what are not – and this one falls quite clearly on the side of ‘not’.
It is well worth a reading of the transcript in the Croydon Advertiser where Councillor Tony Newman attempts to justify this piece of lunacy and makes out that it was all his officers’ fault – nothing to do with him, guv…… You can read a full account of this interview, with all its half-truths and evasions, here.
Even more bizzarrely, at one point in the interview Cllr Newman points the finger at the MP for Croydon Central, Conservative Gavin Barwell, for 'stifling the political debate' by complaining about the offending posters. So it was political messaging then, Tony.....? Glad we've cleared that up.
Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Tim Pollard, says “We should give the Labour council a little credit for recognising that it made a mistake and reversing it. However, the money had already been wasted and, in any case, wouldn’t it be better if it didn’t make all these mistakes in the first place?
“By announcing it was happy to build on school playing fields but later recanting, it angered and distressed a lot of residents. It did the same by announcing the closure of Purley Pool, and it was only through the collection of eight thousand signatures by the Purley Pool campaigners and our parliamentary candidate Chris Philp that the decision was reversed. Now it has wasted a lot of money by launching politically-motivated advertising at your expense, only to decide it was wrong to do so and take them down.
“The Labour Leader of the Council, Tony Newman, needs to get a grip and stop this endless stream of howlers and u-turns before he makes his administration look completely ridiculous”.