In November we held our 3rd My tuppenceworth event giving you the opportunity to speak to those assembled on an issue that really matters to you.
Mike Swadling gave an update on Croydon Council and his speech is below.
We are the Croydon Constitutionalists. Constitutionalists signifies that we believe in the principles of English constitutional government through electoral politics, and the Croydon part is self-evident we are a local organisation. So, 18 months into a new Croydon council led by a new executive mayor what’s happening in our town?
Firstly, let’s take a little step back in time. The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) has published data showing that of the 450 local authorities that have continually existed since the Council Tax was first introduced in 1993, Croydon is 29th on the list of highest real terms increase at 114%. We are paying well over double the real terms rate we were 1993. We are still de facto bankrupt and we are paying through the nose for it.
In an interview in August Croydon’s chief executive, Katherine Kerswell, gave some encouraging words when she said:
“Our ambition is to become an efficient council – to deliver essential services well, offer value for money, to listen to the people of Croydon, and simply do what we say we will do.
So how do we get there? We must do less, better”
Fine words, but what have we seen in practice. To quote: “Croydon council in South London paid 21 staff six-figure salaries last year. Its top earner was chief executive Katherine Kerswell on £192,474.”
I took this information from a June article in the Daily Express. Not able to take it from the TPA’s Town Hall Rich list report as Croydon was one of 47 councils, about 10%, who failed to submit accounts on time. I get that this is doing less, but can it really be called better?
I tried to verify this data on the council’s website as I should be able to. If anyone cares to search it and can find a decent list, please send me the link. Eventually I found a list of job titles listed in an unclear format in a PDF file on the site which is I suppose meeting their statutory requirement.
Again, I get that this is Croydon Council doing less but is it really doing it better? Worse still whist 21 is down on the 29 roles paid over £100K the council had last year; it is up on the 19 roles the year before. Last year was a year of transition and I believe not all these roles overlapped, so it appears, and the lack of clear publications make this hard to see, that top end spending at the council is back on the increase.
Croydon is the London Borough of Culture for 2023. As part of this they are committed to spending £522,500 in 2022/23, and £452,500 in 2023/24. Additionally, £1,350,000 will come from the GLA, and £1,900,000 is expected from Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage.
I believe spending public funds on arts that are not viable commercially or via voluntary donations as the council has been doing for years, is no less of a waste of money when it comes from someone else’s funding stream.
As part of this in the last 4 months Croydon Council has published figures of Borough of Culture spending which include £113K that went to Think Events (London) Ltd, £75K went to Stanley Arts, £67K to White Label Publishing Ltd, £42K to Theatre – Rites, and £39K to London Mozart Players, I could go on and on. Of the £623,000 spent on the London Borough of Culture in that time, £34K went to Redacted, what are they hiding from us?
May I remind you this is in the last 4 months that data has been published for, May to July. This is 4 months, not one year, not over the two-year programme. That is in 4 months £623,000 of taxpayers’ money spent not feeding needy families, not boosting our town centre, not providing social services for the most vulnerable, but on painted Giraffes and non-commercially viable arts.
Yes, things are better than 18 months ago. We are no longer haemorrhaging money through Brick by Brick, and we are slowly unwinding the commercial property failures of the last administration. But when it comes to transparency and wise use of public funds, it’s hard to argue they are doing things better at Croydon Council.