Tonight all Croydon's councillors will be participating in an Extraordinary Council Meeting.
It’s extraordinary because of the unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in:
- Before Covid, Croydon Council ran up over £1.5 billion of debt, the largest by far of any London Council
- That’s £15,000 debt per hour since your party took office in 2014
- £26 million alone is spent servicing that debt each year
- Croydon is the only London Borough on the verge of bankruptcy
- When looking at council’s with the worst finances, of the 343 councils Croydon is in the top five.
As a result the Labour Party has, quite rightly, produced an Emergency Budget. This Budget effectively asks the Conservative Government to give Croydon a bailout. We Conservatives will not support this while Cllrs Tony Newman and Simon Hall remain in their positions.
In every single budget that the Croydon Labour Party has produced in every single year of administration since 2014, Labour have failed to meet the targets they set themselves. That is a direct result of the lack of oversight and prudent financial management by Cllrs Newman and Hall. Their track record is one of demonstrable failure. How can anyone support that?
Cllrs Newman and Hall are the architects of Croydon’s bankruptcy. They are the Leader of the Council and the Cabinet Member for Finance. This avoidable financial crisis is of their making. Given their consistently poor performance, how can we trust that with them still at the helm this new Emergency Budget will go any other way but bust?
We all know the answer to that: we can’t trust them.
There are many talented and ambitious Labour councillors in the Council. It is likely that any of them would do a significantly better job of running our town (and the town’s finances) than the Council's current leadership.
I know that many Labour councillors believe that only a change of Leader and a change in their Cabinet member for Finance can fix the fundamentally poor decisions that are blighting our town. Indeed, many Labour councillors have been having active conversations to that effect. Tonight the Conservative Group wants to help Labour with that process. We have called for a poll vote on our motion:
“This Council has no confidence in Councillor Tony Newman and Councillor Simon Hall and calls for their immediate resignation.”
Usually when there's a vote at a Council meeting, all councillors shout ‘yes’ or ‘no’ en masse. A poll vote is different - it's a roll call of each councillor individually. You can vote ‘yes’, you can vote ‘no’ or you can ‘abstain’. It gives the opportunity to see properly what each councillor thinks, and therefore allows for greater individual freedom when it comes to deciding how to vote.
If tonight's motion passes, Cllrs Newman and Hall will have little choice but to resign from their positions. If this motion passes, Labour can elect fresh leadership from their Group and give Croydon its best possible chance of success.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still believe fundamentally that Labour’s vision for my hometown is wrong – and that only the Conservatives offer the strong leadership, experience and courage to build a town fit for the future. But as much as I would like to have a local election now, it is not due until 2022.
Until the people of Croydon speak in that election, it is the Labour Party that is in charge of our town. The path our borough takes is therefore entirely down to their choices.
Voting for or abstaining on our motion will take bravery. It will require Labour councillors standing up to the bullying, the hectoring and the demanded loyalty to their leaders. But if they do it, our residents will thank them. We will thank them. And Labour councillors will be able to rest easy, knowing they have done the right thing.
I urge my Labour colleagues to take the steps needed to make their Labour Administration the best it can possibly be. Our residents do not deserve to suffer from yet more poor decision-making at the hands of Cllrs Newman and Hall.
Only they have the ability to change their party Leadership – I urge them to seize the opportunity presented this evening and start the process of fixing our broken borough.
Croydon deserves better.