Croydon’s Labour Council on Monday once again made a mockery of its stated ambition to be an 'open and transparent' Council. In a naked power grab which was strongly opposed by Croydon’s Conservative Councillors, Labour voted to remove many representatives from the voluntary sector from the previously independent Health and Wellbeing Board.
Originally set up in 2011 under a Conservative administration and co-chaired by a Conservative and the current Labour Mayor, the apolitical organisation brought Councillors together with experts from the local voluntary sector. It helps to commission and provide many of the services Croydon’s most vulnerable residents rely on, and was seen by many as a model for its engagement of the voluntary sector in the decision making process.
At Monday's Council meeting, Labour chose to remove the vote on this body from 19 voluntary sector members, including representatives from the Black and Minority Ethnic Forum, Age UK, Croydon Voluntary Action, mental health charity ‘Off the Record’ and many more. Instead, Labour will add five of its own Councillors to the committee to control the vote.
One of the current members Labour is sacking has said: “the board is being politicised by excluding voluntary organisations… You cannot say that you want more community involvement and at the same time disenfranchise those very organisations who sit on the board… in many cases the backbone of our communities.”
An outraged Councillor Tim Pollard, the Leader of Croydon's Conservative Councillors, said on the night:
“This is nothing short of a naked money-grab by Croydon Labour. If council approves these changes then Croydon Labour can formally outvote every other voting stakeholder put together, including the NHS!
The voluntary sector is not happy with the way it is being treated. To me it looks as though the sector as a whole is being treated with contempt. Age UK is a critical part of the newly signed Alliance Care Partnership. But critical partner or not, they will henceforth get no formal say in the Health and Wellbeing Board.”
“If this council is serious about partnership working, it needs to take its partnerships seriously. It’s not too late for Cllr Newman [leader of the Council] to think again and establish a structure for the Health & Wellbeing Board which promotes genuine partnership, rather than asserting the dominance of the Labour council.”
You can watch Cllr Pollard speaking against Labour's plans here.