Our Labour Council hit a new low recently, with the publication of a report into fairness and equality in the borough demonstrating that the council only hit 3 of almost 40 targets it set itself four years ago, writes Cllr Robert Ward, Conservative Vice Chair of the influential Scrutiny Committee.
Croydon’s Labour Council set new records at the recent Cabinet meeting. We have become inured to incompetence, that is now routine, but the publication and, staggeringly, the approval of the 2019 Equalities Report reached Olympic standard. Perhaps only bronze medal level, they did not miss every single target, so there is, sadly, still room for them to get worse.
The report is a requirement for the Council to show progress against the “Opportunity and Fairness Plan 2016-2020” published in April of 2016. This plan, signed by Councillor Tony Newman as Leader of the Council, set almost forty targets under seven headings: Employment, Child Poverty, Attainment, Community Safety, Social Isolation, Community Cohesion and Health.
To be fair, the report was quite good. It sought to address issues of importance to the people of Croydon: employment for disabled people, looked after children, over 50s and lone parents; the academic performance of vulnerable groups; domestic violence; sexual offences against children and variations in life expectancy. Better still it set targets and was clear about what success looked like.
From that great start, things started to go wrong almost immediately. The reports in 2017 and 2018 showed little progress. Now in 2019 the progress has been abysmal. Of the original almost forty targets, the report claims to have met just three. Worse, most of the targets are not even mentioned.
To cap it all there is no data whatsoever to show progress on any of the targets, not even the three that it is claimed were met. It is best summed up by the performance on reducing the rate of child poverty in the six most deprived wards: child poverty improved in every area except those that the Council targeted.
Was there any shame, an apology to the people of Croydon for money spent with no result, perhaps? Was there an admission that their much-repeated claim for transparency was transparently false? Of course not. Labour doubled down and treated us to long speeches from a succession of their councillors. They congratulated each other on their passion, their achievements, and even criticised the government for a lack of data and transparency.
This is where they reached gold medal standard. The shear brass neck required to indulge in such vigorous self-congratulation when they have spent three years spending a great deal of time and money in an area of critical importance for Croydon and beyond, whilst achieving almost nothing, and then trying to hide it, surpasses anything in my long experience. As the meeting finished I thought that will be record that will never be beaten. On reflection, with this Labour Council, I fear it may not be long before they will surpass even this disaster.