The biggest government bailout of a Council in history. A bankruptcy triggered not by Coronavirus, but by errors and incompetence over many years.
A cabal of bullies with big dreams and no sense of reality.
And this budget is the start of the payback. But not payback for Labour’s Councillors, who are yet to take the paycuts that all Councillors voted through back in November. It’s payback for Croydon’s residents who are being asked to pay higher taxes and see vital services cut to the bone or scrapped entirely.
Croydon does get less funding from Government than it should and we've heard that raised by Cllr. Flemming tonight. But Croydon therefore needs to be led with humility and pragmatism. Unfortunately the hard decisions Cllr. King referenced are so much harder because since 2014 the watchwords of Croydon Labour have been arrogance, bullying and incompetence.
I don’t have enough time to go over the incompetence involved in Brick by Brick or the Croydon Park Hotel, instead I will focus on the arrogance and bullying involved in Labour’s manipulation of the Council’s accounts in a desperate effort to make them balance.
At GPAC over several years we have asked the Council to accept that while the funding for UASC might not be what it should be, the budget gap cannot be simply wished away. Instead, Labour tried to do exactly that in the accounts. In the 2019/20 accounts it actually claimed that the gap between what Croydon received from Government and what it spent on UASC was unpaid revenue, and that the Government was a debtor, who would hand over a cheque as soon as it was asked.
Something similar happened in Q3 last year, when £7.7m of spending was shifted from the revenue account to the capital account. This is something which Councillor Cummings picked up on in Cabinet last February, only to be belittled by Councillor Newman. The reality though is that they were current spending, and a review of the risk register at last week’s meeting of GPAC made abundantly clear that the 2019/20 accounts would need to be adjusted to address movements such as this.
Labour’s bad decisions weren’t hard to spot. Brick by Brick has been a basket case almost from the point it was set up, and this side of the chamber has been pointing that out. Purchasing the Croydon Park Hotel was always an enormous risk, as I pointed out at the time. The accounting treatment to cover up their overspends were egregious, as pointed out by Councillor Cummings. But anyone questioning Labour’s decisions were at best, belittled, and, we’re led to believe, threatened and bullied behind closed doors.
How can the people who made these decisions keep their positions as Labour Councillors? How can the people who sat on their hands in Cabinet while these decisions were taken claim the moral authority to lead Croydon now?
This budget is punishment for the failings of Croydon Labour. But the punishment is for Croydon’s residents. Croydon Labour gets off scott-free.