See updates at the end of the blog.
Over the next few months, you’re likely to see this poster on Council billboards around the borough.
The claim the Council is making - that the Government is cutting its funding by £100 million over the next three years - isn’t true. You don’t have to take my word for it: I have included at the end of this blog the response I received from the independent House of Commons Library when I asked them for the facts. The truth is the Government hasn’t even decided how much funding it will give to Croydon Council for the next three years! It has announced what is known as the Settlement Funding Assessment for 2015/16 and that involves a cut of £21 million, but it hasn’t yet announced all of the other specific and special grants the Council will get next year and it hasn’t announced any figures for 2016/17 and 2017/18, so who knows how the Council came up with this figure. Contrary to all the talk about cuts, Croydon Council’s total service expenditure has increased under this Government from £577 million in 2010/11 to £615 million this year (if you allow for inflation, it has fallen but only by £7 million or just one per cent).
Leaving aside the accuracy of their claims, it’s rather bemusing for our Labour Council to be attacking the Government for something the Labour Party nationally says it supports. Ed Balls has made it clear that if Labour win the General Election, there will be no more money for local councils:
“There will be no additional funding for local government unless we can find money from somewhere else, but we have not been able to do that in the case of local government ” (BBC News, 5th January 2015).
As on some many issues, Labour are trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, they say they won’t spend more so they won’t need to tax and/or borrow more; on the other hand, they say they are against cuts. They must think we’re all stupid.
Finally and most importantly, whatever your politics and your views on austerity I hope you agree that the money we pay in Council Tax should be spent on local services, not on political propaganda. If so, I’d encourage you to email the Council’s Chief Executive Nathan Elvery at firstname.lastname@example.org to let him know how you feel about this misuse of your hard-earned money.
From: JOHNSTON, Neil
Sent: 11 February 2015 17:21
To: BARWELL, Gavin
Subject: Croydon Council funding. 2015/2/236-SGS
Dear Mr Barwell,
Below is a table with some of the key figures relating to Croydon Council.
The functions and responsibilities of councils change over time.
Each year when the DCLG announces the local government settlement it recalculates the previous year’s figure as if all functions and responsibilities were the same. This is to provide a year on year % change. The actual local government settlement amount and the adjusted amount is shown in the first two columns below. The percentage change is the year on year change on the adjusted amount.
On a like for like basis the government is cutting Croydon’s settlement funding in 2015/16 by £21.3 million.
The DCLG do not recalculate further back than one year. This makes it very difficult to compare headline amounts from non-adjacent year. The National Audit Office has recently criticised the DCLG for not producing a time series set of figures to enable comparison over a period of time.
The net revenue expenditure shown in the last column is the amount of Croydon’s expenditure that is not covered by specific grants or income and therefore has to be covered by the local government finance settlement funding, council tax receipts, and any use of reserves.
I hope this is of some use.
Social & General Statistics, House of Commons Library
UPDATE 1: 13/2/2015 Cllr Newman has just told me on Twitter that the aim of the posters is to "highlight Government cuts to Croydon you voted for" effectively admitting that the purpose is partisan. In doing so, he has just landed the Council in even deeper water.
He also ludicrously claimed that the cost was just £750. This may be the cost of printing 60 posters. but how much did it cost to hire 60 Decaux boards for however long the Council has hired them for? Despite his repeated claims that his administration will be the most transparent ever, he seems reluctant to answer that question...
UPDATE 2: 13/2/2015 I and others have been trying to find out if Sarah Jones, my Labour opponent, at the next Election supports the Council spending Council Taxpayers' money on political propaganda. In a display of political courage worthy of Gordon Brown, she has refused to say. This is becoming a pattern of behaviour - you may remember she took the same approach over the Council's plans to build on some school playing fields. There's a danger that this comes across as two politicians bickering but there is actually a very serious point here: if she wins on 7th May, is this how she is going to behave once she is an MP refusing to answer any awkward questions? It's understandable that she feels a sense of loyalty to the Labour Council, but when it clearly gets something wrong it's her duty to speak up for her potential constituents - as I have done in the past when I've disagreed with the then Conservative Council over the Menta planning application, the proposed closure of Addington High and the proposed closure of Shirley Library to give a few examples.
UPDATE 3:17/2/2015 The Council has announced that it will be taking down the posters. I'm obviously pleased they are doing the right thing, but we do need answers to five questions:
1. How much did it cost to hire the 60 sites where the posters were displayed?
2. Who came up with the idea for the posters?
3. Which Cabinet Member signed them off?
4. Did the Monitoring Officer sign them off before they started going up?
5. Was Sarah Jones aware of these posters before they started going up?