The Croydon Elected Mayor Debate

A Mayor and Planning

The rationale behind the campaign for an elected Mayor is that there will be greater influence over planning decisions. This is not the case because Planning Committees are legal decision making bodies made up of elected Councillors.

The Kensington & Chelsea Council Guide to the conduct of members with regard to planning applications states:

‘The Court of Appeal has held that Planning Committees are not acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial role when deciding planning applications but “in a situation of democratic accountability”. This means that Committee Members are not acting in the same way as judges or quasi-judges. The Court of Appeal recognised that Members are elected to formulate and pursue policies and therefore they are not required to cast aside views on planning policy they will have formed when seeking election or when acting as Councillors. Unlike judges, Committee Members are not required to be independent or impartial. They are required, however, to address the planning issues before them fairly and on their merits even though they may approach them with a predisposition in favour of one side of the argument or other.’ (Para 2.1)

‘The Committee must make planning decisions for justifiable planning reasons. Planning legislation requires that the determination of planning applications and other planning decisions must be made in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.’ (Para 2.2)

LGA Advice

One of the concerns in Croydon was the role of the former Planning Committee Chair, Paul Scott, especially when he became Cabinet member for planning. The Local Government Association guidance states:

‘Authorities will usually have a cabinet/executive member responsible for development and planning. This councillor is able to be a member of the planning committee. Leading members of a local authority, who have participated in the development of planning policies and proposals, need not and should not, on that ground and in the interests of the good conduct of business, normally exclude themselves from decision making committees.’

Another concern has been the fact that residents cannot speak to the Croydon Planning Committee on pre-application decisions. The Local Government Association guidance states:

‘The Statement of Community Involvement will set out the council’s approach to involving communities and other consulates in pre-application discussions. Some authorities have public planning forums to explore major pre-application proposals with the developer outlining their ideas and invited speakers to represent differing interests and consultees. As well as being transparent, these forums allow councillors and consultees to seek information and identify important issues for the proposal to address, although still bearing in mind the need to avoid pre-determination.’

The new Council Leadership should consider this as part of the creation of more open and transparent governance.

You can see the LGA guidance on its webbsite.

Cllr Stuart Collins Outlines The Case Against An Elected Mayor

Councillor Stuart Collins argues the case against a directly elected mayor.  Stuart has been a Councillor for 28 years.

Governance Systems

I have experienced the committee system and the strong leader model under both Labour and the Conservatives and whilst either system had its merits neither was perfect, however both involved taking collective responsibility and both systems offered the opportunity to hold multiple post holders to account, with the ability of each group of Cllrs to change Leaders or Cabinet members yearly if they wished.

Throughout all that time I learned that politics should not be about single personalities like an elected mayor. It should be about:

  • policies
  • integrity
  • collective decision making and accountability

Directly Elected Mayor Not Accountable

A directly elected mayor in no way meets that challenge, it puts all the power in one person’s hands for 4 years, with no recourse to those Cllrs they should work with.

An elected mayor would have no obligation:

  • to work with ward Cllrs,
  • to work with an elected majority group
  • to choose a Cabinet from the majority group

In short, they would have the ability to turn Croydon’s governance into a 4 year personality contest.

Quality Of Councillors & Council Staff

Personally, I don’t think goverance systems are the key factor in success or not, a lot depends on the quality of Cllrs party members select in their wards,

It depends on the training they get and the quality of Council staff they work with and seek advice from, and their collective work as group and team of Council officers.

Choose a directly elected mayor model of governance on a 4 year cycle it becomes all about the Mayor, all about the Mayor’s office and staff, collaborative working ends and there is no means to change that Mayor or team for 4 years

Council’s Cross Party Governance Review

Credit should go to the current labour group for running a cross party governance review, as requested by labour members in our manifesto meetings of 2017, the outcome of which I chaired a full Council meeting, at which we achieved cross-party agreement yet Croydon Conservatives still fight for individual power for one of their own.

That review has added Cabinet Member Advisory Committees for more cross-party accountability and now the Labour Group elects its Cabinet and Leader every AGM,

rather than a strong Leader select a Cabinet each year.

And we can continue to review and add more checks and balances.

The minute there is an elected mayor that all ends.

Boris Johnson As London Mayor

We need look no further than Boris Johnson’s London example of how a tory mayor would act, ignoring GLA members, creating cult personality politics which would lead to an inevitable Tory policy for a reduction of ward Cllrs.

Do Not Trust The Tories

Through out my time in politics and the trade union movement I have lived by the adage never trust a Tory.

The fact the Conservatives are 100% in support of this campaign for an elected mayor should ring alarm bells in every Labour Party members ears.

The Conservatives are opportunistic and this offers them an opportunity to take power.

Let us not hand them power on a plate.

Chris Philp & DEMOC?

And where did this DEMOC campaign start from?

It arose from South Croydon residents meetings with Tory MP Chris Philp annoyed because they didn’t like planning permission being given to new homes near their properties.

Chris Philp personally fed these campaigners with the falsehood that a directly mayor could pick and choose who or what gets planning permission.

He knew full well that planning is subject to strict legal rules and that his own government had relaxed those planning laws to encourage more house building

Tory Philp didn’t care that developers could appeal if planning permission was wrongly refused, costing Croydon Council, all he cares about is getting votes.

Financial Crisis Irrelevant

In DEMOC’s recent campaign they are now saying its all about the Labour Council’s supposed bankruptcy of the Council, again another falsehood. They started this campaign two years ago long before the Council’s section 114 notice and the 76% cut in our grant funding began to bite, like it has in 18 other UK Councils thanks to Tory austerity.

Labour’s Positive Record

Yes we have had difficulties with Brick by Brick,

but let’s not play to the Tory tune. This Labour Council got:

  • the recycling rate to 50%
  • introduced a London Living Wage
  • built new sports centres
  • created a legacy youth zone

things as socialists we can be proud of.

Is One Person Better?

But ask yourself seriously, how could one person with sole power for 4 years possibly be more accountable, or have avoided the difficulties we had? It’s a nonsense to suggest they could.

The Tories and DEMOC campaigners haven’t given one factual explanation of how one single person with complete power is going to reverse austerity, give Croydon fair funding and single handedly save Croydon Council.

Unlike other Boroughs or cities with Labour Mayors Croydon has always been a marginal council. Think of the very real nightmare of a directly elected Tory mayor and a majority of Labour Cllrs, the chaos in governance this would cause.

Croydon’s Political Future At Stake

Labour Cllrs and activists worked tirelessley on the last boundary review giving Labour a clear ward advantage and prospect of winning council majorities. For us to hand this advantage back to the Tories by supporting a Borough wide vote an elected mayor would be electoral suicide.

Defeatest talk of supporting this change because it will effect Labour’s vote for a mayoral candidate should it happen, is also a falsehood. Over the coming months to the Council election we will have thousands of doorstep conversations and we should be proud that however difficult a debate the Labour Party stands up for what is right, and a directly elected mayor isn’t right

We should not chicken out of arguing for what is right because we worry about the effect on the opinions of a tiny minority of voters that are interested in Croydon’s governance. 

The very future of the Labour Party in Croydon is at stake for a generation or more, we must not let that 20,000 minority who signed the petition slip this undemocratic change through the back door of a derisory referendum turnout and hand Croydon over to the Tories.

How Can You Help Prevent An Elected Mayor?

Please:

  • support a campaign against putting power into one person hands
  • help us defeat this Tory backed campaign
  • help us shape a Labour future for Croydon

About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy, housing and environment issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly. I am a member of the Love Norbury Residents Associations Planning & Transport Committees, and Chair of Nobury Community Land Trust. I write for Croydon Citizen at http://thecroydoncitizen.com. I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and edit the North East Popular Politics database. History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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1 Response to The Croydon Elected Mayor Debate

  1. Pingback: Croydon TUC Discusses Elected Mayor Issue Thursday 10 June | History & Social Action News and Events

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