Taxing conversations in Croydon

By - Thursday 16th August, 2018

Where does the council spend its money?

TaxPayers' Alliance

Photo author’s own.

On Saturday 18th August the TaxPayers’ Alliance will hold an Action Day in Croydon to promote its campaign for lower taxes and against government waste. This follows a public meeting in Purley, promoting the same campaign.

Focus on value for money in public finances is something we desperately need in Croydon. Council tax has gone up over 5% this year and 4.9% the previous year. At a time when wages are rising on average 2.6%, these increases make families poorer. If the services that people get for these payments are improving then these may be a reasonable increase, but I wonder if people in Croydon feel that they are getting value for money?

Croydon Council has just rolled out new wheelie bins. I have started to wonder if my council tax is paying exclusively for the privilege of having to use my front garden as a bin storage area. This is one of most basic services that all households get in Croydon, and yet it is a constant source of complaints.

I believe that the council isn’t clear what it spends on repairing potholes

I’ve found that potholes are second only to concerns about rubbish and refuge collection in the borough. I believe that the council is not clear about what it spends on repairing potholes, but it appears to be at an upper end of approximately £200,000 per year. Given the amount that we pay in council tax, people might be surprised to learn that only about £1.30 is spent on potholes for each of the 154,000 households in the borough. Would people who have spent money repairing their car after going over a bad pothole feel that better value for money might have been achieved if this budget was increased? Without putting up taxes, the budget could increase by 7.5% if the £15,000 (or more) paid to nine organisations in 2017 from the Cultural Growth Fund had gone into repairing our roads. Would better value be achieved by Boxpark squeaking by on half of the £160,000 that it received from the council in 2017, with the spare £80,000 giving a 40% increase in the pothole budget? In 2017, payments over £500 from the Cultural Growth Fund totalled £465,733.46 – almost twice the total spent on providing this basic-but-critical service repairing our roads.

Children’s services in Croydon are judged inadequate by Ofsted. The budget book for 2017/18 shows a ‘Children’s Social Care and Family Support’ budget of £50.5 million, with 481 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff. What if the £1,100,000 spent ‘improving‘ Surrey Street Market (the rate of loss of traders increased over the period of improvement) had been kept to basic repairs of, say, £100,000? This would allow for a 2% increase in the children’s services budget. Based on average spend per FTE, about nine extra social workers could have been employed to help some of the most vulnerable children in Croydon.

No doubt many councillors and council officers are doing their best, but the long term doesn’t look good. As of March 2017, Croydon council – and you as taxpayers – were £1.73 billion in debt. This has to be repaid at some point, and until it is the interest will continue to increase taxes and reduce services in the borough. Meanwhile, in 2015/16, the council had four staff paid more than the prime minister. In 2016/17 Croydon had the highest basic allowance for councillors in London. Yet this year they voted themselves a 2% pay increase for backbenchers and 4.4% for frontbenchers.

It’s your money – why shouldn’t you be entitled to it?

Conversations about tax and government waste require making value judgements. Often an item of waste being reduced may only make the average person £1–£2 better off, but it’s your money, so why shouldn’t you or a worthy cause be entitled to it?

If you’re interested in knowing more about tax in Croydon or the alliance’s national campaigns, come and see the TaxPayers’ Alliance at its street stall in Croydon on Saturday 18th August.

Michael Swadling

Michael Swadling

Michael works in the IT Industry for and has lived in Croydon all of his life. He has been a governor in local schools for over twelve years. During the referendum he was the Croydon Area Manager for Vote Leave, Now promoting Classical Liberalism and Freedom. Visit Croydon Constitutionalist for events and articles on Classical Liberalism in our area Former UKIP candidate for Croydon North and Croydon Council.

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  • Anne Giles

    We don’t use our front garden as a bin storage area, as we don’t want our home to look like a rubbish tip. We keep everything at the back and wheel it through the garage.

    • Michael Swadling

      Anne – this suggests you may be far better organised than me!

      • Anne Giles

        We have actually had concrete slabs put down behind the garage for the wheelie bins to stand on!

  • ArfurTowcrate

    Who funds the Taxpayers’ Alliance?

    Why don’t they tackle tax dodgers like Google and Amazon?

    Why hasn’t Swadling admitted to his connections to the far-right racist party known as UKIP?

    • Michael Swadling

      Always good to here from you. Even better it you were prepared to say you name.

  • Steve Russell

    Tax Payers Alliance = Right-wing pressure group see'_Alliance
    Has been seen as a Tory front masquerading as grass roots movement. Has connections with American far right groups such as Tea Party.

    • Michael Swadling

      Far from a Tory front. I ran for UKIP and at the public meeting last month we had people who hadn’t run for office for four different parties. Today that was down to three but the point holds.