Earlier today Croydon Council Leader Tony Newman resigned, but not before appointing Calton Young as the new Cabinet member for Finance & Resources to replace Simon Hall who resigned last week. Tonight the full Council meeting will set up a new set of Committees to involve ordinary Councillors more in the discussion prior to decision making. It remains to be seen who will be the new Leader and whether Alison Butler and Paul Scott remain in their Cabinet posts.
The Appointment of Calton Young
Calton Young’s appointment as Cabinet member for Finance and Resources can be seen as an astute move by the outgoing Leader Tony Newman. Young has been on the edge of the Labour Group and therefore is not a member of the close knit team that Newman has liked to surrounded himself with like Hall, Alison Butler and Paul Scott.
Young has an experienced track record. He worked at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). He also headed the team which worked on the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.
Then he was director of sustainability for the Food and Drink Federation in 2006. He was awarded an OBE in 2008 for his work at Defra. He may well be now well placed to be a serious candidate for the vacant Leader post.
Two front line contenders are likely to be two Stuarts: Collins and King. Collins comes over well publicly. The fact that the problem of litter and fly-tipping cannot be ended is nothing to do with the work he has led – it is a national problem because of people. Like all those in the summer who left the beaches covered. But he was part of the Newman inner circle, which could stand against him. King is relatively new but learnt about being a Councillor in Wandsworth where he was well regarded.
The challenge for Labour Councillors will be whether they can agree a new Leader who can genuinely unite the increasingly fractious group, have the imagination to see ways through the current financial crisis aggravated by COVID.
As in all organisations there are the usual range of personality conflicts based on past histories, and different personal and issue agendas. What is important is to put these to one side and choose a new Leader who can see a positive way forward and inspire a new confidence that is much needed in Croydon.
The new Leader needs to be someone who understands about environmental sustainability, greening the local economy, racial equality and social justice, meaningful Councillor and public engagement, and real devolution of resources and decisions to the neighbourhoods, and who will regard the advice of the new Advisory Committees as decisions to be accepted and not advice that will be ignored. The first acts of the new Leader must be to remove Alison Butler and Paul Scott from their Cabinet posts. If he or she does not then they will lack credibility.
The Advisory Committees
In future Councillors will have an advisory role before major decisions are taken by the Leadership with the through a new set of Advisory Committees. These result from the first stage of the work of the cross-party Implementation Working Group set up to oversee progress in implementing the Governance Review. The proposals have been sprung on the public by only being posted up on the website late for this evening’s full Council meeting.
During the first stage of the Governance Review both political parties rejected abandoning the executive Leader model and returning to a decision making Committee structure. There will be four Advisory Committees but they will only meet four times year. The package is therefore a tokenistic move that will not satisfy backbenchers or those residents and organisations engaged in trying to influence the Council’s decision making.
The member Cabinet Member Advisory Committees ‘aim to increase backbench Members’ ability to debate and influence forthcoming decisions before they are taken by the Cabinet.’
They will advise the relevant Cabinet Members in relation to the following Cabinet Portfolios:
- Health, Social Care and Community: Families, Health and Social Care; Safer Croydon and Communities (9 members)
- Regeneration, Housing and Environment: Homes and Gateway Services, Clean Green Croydon, Environment, Transport and Regeneration (11 members)
- Resources and Economy: Finance and Resources, Economy and Jobs (9 members)
- Young People Services and Leisure: Children Young People and Learning, Culture Leisure and Sport (9 members)
‘They will work collaboratively with Cabinet Members and Scrutiny’.
‘It is anticipated that up to one meeting of each CMAC will take place between January and May 2021 depending on capacity.’
It is likely that other reforms to the current Committee structure to reduce other meetings will take place.
- Merger of General Purposes and Audit Committee and Ethics.
- Conflate the work of the Adult Social Services Review Panel into the remit of the HSCC CMAC
- Merger of Public Transport Liaison Panel and Cycle Forum as a coordinated sustainable transport forum
The full report to Council can be read at
These changes are tokenistic as the Committees will only be advisory, and with massive agendas will not be able to undertake serious review of proposed policies. They will not start meeting until January, at a time when a new Leader and Cabinet team will be setting new directions. There will only be four meetings a year. If ordinary Councillors want to have more influence then they should demand to work much harder with each Committee meeting every month, bar August.
The tokenism will simply increase the friction between the new leadership and ordinary Councillors.
It should be remembered that the Working Group met in secret with the public having no opportunity to submit views and comment on emerging proposals.
While there are pros and cons to every system it would be interesting to know why:
- the Committees are not going to meet every month?
- there are not more Committees with smaller subject matters to ensure they can consider the detail properly?
- they are not cross policy and service themed like Equalities and Social Justice, Economic Renewal, Building Civil Society and Greening Croydon and Meeting the Climate Change Challenge?
For previous discussion see: