Warning Croydon’s 4.99% council tax rise ‘not sustainable’ while funding secured to redevelop notorious South Norwood flats

By Staff

Croydon Council has approved a 4.99 per cent council tax increase as part of its budget for the upcoming financial year. This increase, approved at a meeting on Wednesday (March 6), means council tax is at its highest-ever level for the borough. Ahead of voting on the budget Croydon Mayor Jason Perry also announced the council had secured a £53.8 million grant to redevelop the notorious Regina Road flats in South Norwood.

Despite council-wide concerns around the viability of council tax, the Conservative Council thought it essential to include it to provide a balanced budget. It also forms part of the council’s plan to address the £1.4 billion of debt currently hanging over it. In his speech to the chamber, Mayor Jason Perry said: “Shockingly, we spend £62 million, equivalent to 11 pence in every pound servicing the £1.4 billion debt which was run up by the previous administration. It was their mismanagement, poor investments and overspends, which make it our third largest expenditure.”

The budget also proposed £141 million to support vulnerable adults, while £98 million will go to supporting children, young people and their education. These two represent the council’s largest and second-largest expenditures respectively.

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The budget, which must be balanced every year by law, was due to be approved the previous Wednesday. However, the rejection of amendments made by the Labour and Green groups meant councillors had to return a week later to set a budget.

The Labour group, who abstained from the latest vote, criticised the Mayor’s budget as being ‘unfair’ to Croydon residents. Speaking to the local democracy reporting service (LDRS), Labour’s leader of the opposition, Stuart King said: “Croydon’s Conservative Mayor is once again raising council tax by the maximum amount.

“On his watch council tax in Croydon is now at its highest level ever as he looks to force through what will amount to a 20 per cent increase in council tax in his two years as Mayor. All of this on top of £60 million of cuts to services – from library closures to millions less in hardship payments to families hit by his own Government’s cost of living crisis. Thanks to Croydon Conservatives residents are paying more but getting less.”

Outside on the steps of the town hall, protestors returned to express their dissatisfaction with the council tax increases and general governance of the borough. David White, a TUC member who led the pre-budget protest last week, told the LDRS of his concerns regarding the Council’s budget.

He said: “The budget means that once again Croydon residents are paying more and getting less. Council tax will rise by a further 5 per cent, following a 15 per cent rise last year. Council services and jobs will be further cut. Any of the Council’s landholdings and other assets which can be sold will be sold, probably at bargain prices.

“Despite all this Croydon will not in the longer term be able to balance its books. This is because of the large amount of interest it has to pay on its borrowings. 20p of every £1 that residents pay in council tax already goes into interest payments.

“The only answer is for the Government to fund Croydon more fairly and pay off a large proportion of Croydon’s accumulated debt. Mayor Perry says he has been trying to get a government agreement for a debt write-off.

“But for two years he has failed to do this. I don’t believe his heart is in it. Fundamentally he supports the Tory Government’s mission to drive down the public sector.

“Croydon TUC is disgusted by Croydon’s Tories who have brought in this budget and by Labour’s acquiescence in it. There is a huge disconnect between the views of most of Croydon’s councillors and what the public want.”

Before voting on the budget, Mayor Perry announced that the council had secured a £53.8 million grant for the Regina Road redevelopment. This grant from the Mayor of London will allow for the demolition and eventual rebuild of the controversial high-rise flats.

The flats gained national attention in 2021, following a highly publicised report into the squalid conditions residents were living in. Rampant damp and mould as well as negligent repairs from Croydon’s former repairs contractor Axis were just some of the complaints made by residents.

In 2022, council reports stated the buildings were ‘no longer fit for purpose’ and confirmation of its intention to eventually demolish the building came last October. The Council have already begun rehoming residents, with demolition work expected to begin in 2025.

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