Speech on the 'Croydon: Our Time is Now' bid
02/12/2014 12:26:00......Posted by Mario Creatura
This Council fully supports the Croydon ‘Our Time is Now’ ask to central government on behalf of the people of Croydon. Croydon is set to create thousands of new jobs and homes and the time has come for central government to truly devolve more powers to local people and allow Councils with ambitions such as Croydon, to keep more of the money generated from economic growth to reinvest in our borough.
It’s an absolute pleasure to speak on the subject of the Council’s ‘Our Time Is Now’ document, just as it was a pleasure to attend the launch at the House of Commons last week. Whilst I agree and fully support the bid, Madam Mayor it would be a very irresponsible Opposition not to scrutinise and try to gently encourage the governing party to be more ambitious still for Croydon.
Many funding formulae have already been adjusted to help us here in Croydon. Due in large part to lobbying by our fantastic Croydon Central MP, basic need funding for our schools went up by 2,994% since the General Election. More money for vital school places to cater to our growing population than anywhere else in London.
Due in no small part to the work of our excellent GLA member, the Met Police’s Allocation Formula has been changed and greatly benefits Croydon. Richard Wood once interim Croydon Borough Commander has said: “Under the plans, Croydon will see an increase of 117 officers from the current levels giving us 740 officers by 2015.”
While these hard won funding changes will benefit tens of thousands of Croydon residents, and whilst the proposals in the Croydon ‘Our Time Is Now’ ask are welcome, I believe there is still more that could be done.
I want to focus on one area where I believe this document is sorely lacking - damping – a vital area of reform needed yet seemingly missing from this document.
The Government sets a ‘floor’ amount of core grant each council receives - a worst case scenario in terms of the percentage change in a council’s grant. This damping has the effect of limiting the impact of demographic change on councils’ funding - if one council’s population was growing very quickly, for example, it wouldn’t get all of the extra grant it would theoretically be entitled to because some of this money would be diverted to protect councils that would otherwise be below the floor. This directly affects the level of Council Tax we as residents must pay.
In 2013/14, inner London boroughs benefited from damping to the tune of £236 million. Outer London boroughs lost out in net terms to the tune of around £55m - we in Croydon lost £10.7m.
- Islington and Southwark have found the money to provide free school meals for all primary school children.
- Camden is able to afford 25 hours of free childcare for three and four year-olds instead of the statutory 15 hours.
- Greenwich has found £8 million to invest in a scheme to increase local employment and is able to afford to publish a weekly Council paper.
- Tower Hamlets has found £1 million for repairs to local churches, mosques and other faith buildings and another £1 million for a bursary fund for adult education.
Imagine what we in Croydon could have spent nearly £11m on?
The evidence is incontrovertible: damping has huge consequences both for the Council Tax bills Croydon residents pay and the quality of council services around the capital.
We need to lobby to address the unfairness in the funding of councils so people living in outer London enjoy similar public services and pay similar Council Tax bills to those in inner London.
I support the motion as it stands, but hope in the coming years the present administration will push for more powers to help more of our people and be yet more ambitious for Croydon.