Labour is delivering more with less

By - Friday 10th March, 2017

Simon Hall, Croydon Labour’s cabinet member for finance and treasury, sets out his party’s record since 2014

In 2014, we won the council on a platform of an ambitious vision for our town. A Croydon with cleaner streets, with better-paid jobs and more affordable housing. A Croydon with tight control of taxpayers’ money and an administration with the community at its heart. The outgoing Tory leader at the time sniped that he was leaving a £100million black hole in the town’s finances and that we wouldn’t be able to deliver on our promises.

Since then, and under a Tory government, funding to Croydon has been cut significantly and will stand at 75% by 2020.

From 2015/16 to 2019/20, the government has calculated that our overall spend per head will have to reduce by 15%. And that is making the Conservative government’s assumption that we will raise the maximum council tax allowed, as well as the adult social care precept increase.

We are delivering the ambitious vision for Croydon we put to you in 2014

At the same time, there is massive extra pressure on services. Some of this is due to population growth, and demographic changes, such as an ageing population. But a lot is due to government decisions, such as:

  • welfare benefit reform, with many families pushed into crisis
  • failure to ensure adequate new housing, notably affordable housing
  • failure to fund the need for school places
  • failure to fund adult social care properly, abandoning our elderly and disabled
  • massive historic underfunding. For example, if we got government funding equal to the lowest ranked Inner London borough, we would have £30 million more every year to spend on front line services

Faced with all of these challenges, what are we doing?

We are getting a firm grip of the council’s finances and delivering the ambitious vision for Croydon we put to you in 2014. The council’s finances are now on a solid footing, which is why, for example, we were able to present a three year budget, the first time this has happened in Croydon. We have taken cost out of the back-office and enabling services, including through use of new technologies.

We have made the most of our assets. Renting out parts of our new Town Hall building, which the Tories spent £140 million on during a recession. We have also consolidated into fewer buildings and better financial management arrangements which will, together, deliver more than £5million per year.

We are investing over £300 million in much-needed housing

We have overhauled commissioning and contract management to provide better value for money, ensure better services and keep more of our spend in Croydon. This is saving us another £5 million per year, as well as improving services.

We have changed how we deliver services. Creating the People Department has ensured a much-more joined-up approach with prevention no longer an afterthought or dirty word. Our Gateway service is award-winning and is seen as a flagship programme by a Parliamentary Select Committee. Our ‘Think Family’ approach is transforming people’s lives and saving money.

We are investing in this town. We are investing capital and revenue to increase enforcement and double down on our efforts to clean up Croydon’s streets. We are investing over £300 million in much-needed housing and over £300 million more for the growth zone. Both of these have, of course, got their own income streams.

We are now a London Living Wage administration

We are investing over £80 million in new school places, £30 million for the Fairfield Halls, £24 million on a fantastic New Addington Leisure and Community Centre, and £3 million on the Onside Youth Zone.

Our budget had another important element, on devolution. Being an administration for the whole borough, despite all the financial challenges, we have doubled the community ward budgets meaning there is £24,000 for councillors to invest directly in community projects. We are now a London Living Wage administration and have put local employment, local sourcing and social value at the heart of what we are doing.

As a direct result of the huge 75% cuts our town are receiving from a Tory party who don’t seem to care about Croydon, we have been forced to increase council tax by 47p per week, still a below-inflation increase over our four year term. And due to the collapsing social care sector, we are implementing Theresa May’s adult social care precept, like 97% of all local authorities, meaning an extra 70p per week increase. It is not a step we want to take, but we will not abandon our elderly or disabled citizens, who have paid taxes all their lives, to the crisis in social care.

The Croydon Tories would have to take over £20 million per year out of frontline services to balance the books

In contrast to these plans the Croydon Tories have not come up with any alternative budget and have decided instead to grandstand and oppose. In concrete terms, that means they would have to take over £20 million per year out of frontline services to balance the books, which would have a devastating impact on local services. It would mean the introduction of policies such as monthly waste collection, library closures, backtracking on the London Living Wage, swingeing cuts to services for the old and vulnerable… and more. Our town simply cannot afford to have a Tory administration that would make those kind of choices and risk the progress being made under Labour.

When we took over, less than three years ago, this council was in crisis and the town was struggling. Since then, we have continued to weather an onslaught from Tory central government.

Despite the challenges, and in contrast to the protestation of the Croydon Tories, this Labour administration has continued to deliver the ambitious vision for our town that we all share. That means our finances are solid, the services that matter to residents are protected, and the exciting and necessary investments in the future of our town are being made. There is lots of work still to be done, but Labour is delivering for Croydon.

Simon Hall

Simon Hall

Councillor Simon Hall is a New Addington resident and has represented the New Addington Ward of Fieldway since 2006, where he has worked to get much-needed investment in the community. He is Labour’s Cabinet Member for Finance & Treasury and is a Chartered Accountant by trade.

More Posts