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New Croydon Council leader pledges a 'cleaner and greener' borough

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PROMISES to clean up Croydon, tackle antisocial behaviour and be a "council for everyone" were a hit with voters and steered Labour to victory in last week's elections, new council leader Tony Newman has said.

Labour won 40 of the council's 70 seats, with the remainder going to the Tories.

But as the dust settles on the celebrations, Cllr Newman and his group get down to the nitty-gritty next week of transforming ambitions into reality.

The first step on that road will come on Wednesday when, after being formally elected as leader at Tuesday's annual meeting, Cllr Newman will get his first look at the council's books.

He told the Advertiser this week that while he did not underestimate the fact the council was going to have to make some tough financial decisions in the coming years, there was a will and an ability to deliver on the main planks of Labour's manifesto.

The defeated Tories are claiming cuts amounting to £100 million are on the cards over the next four years as the Government continues to reduce council budgets.

They are also saying the cost of implementing Labour's programme will run out at £27 million. Both figures were treated with a fair degree of scepticism by Cllr Newman.

He said: "Governments can change and we will be looking for cross-support to renew efforts to get more grants for Croydon.

"In many ways we are an Inner London borough which is only receiving Outer London support."

But he admitted: "There will be costs involved in getting rid of fly-tipping and street cleaning. Equally, though, this will be about how we deploy resources.

"As an example, obviously the high streets will need cleaning more frequently than a quiet cul-de-sac. It is a question of priorities."

But he made it plain this would not be a matter of concentrating resources in the north of the borough at the expense of the leafy and quieter south.

Cllr Newman said: "I would hope across the borough will be cleaned properly. Fly-tipping is unacceptable both in Kenley and Upper Norwood."

He also believes the problem can be reduced by the council taking a more pro-active role in prosecuting; again through a better use of existing resources.

As part of its intention to be a council for all Croydon, Cllr Newman stressed the importance of engaging with business and protecting the billions of pounds of investment being lined up.

That ties in, he said, with Labour's commitments to bring more jobs to the borough and ensure the benefits from developments like Westfield/Hammerson filter down across the borough, helping district centres.

He said: "We are going to set up a business forum where developers and investors can sit down with us at least four times a year to make sure we are all batting for Croydon."

Cllr Newman is also convinced that Labour's commitment to new housing schemes containing 30 per cent affordable homes will not put developers off.

He said that while the council would have to take a tougher line with developers, he was confident the upturn in the global economy and lower land values in Croydon would continue to make the borough an attractive option for investment.

He said: "Croydon still has huge untapped potential and I believe it has been punching beneath its weight up to now."

Returning to future financing, Cllr Newman said all aspects of spending would go under the microscope.

He seems to accept Labour is saddled with its bête noire, the new Bernard Weatherill House HQ.

But he said: "I am waiting to look at the books but I have heard the building is underused."

He held up the prospect of moving staff within the building and freeing up two floors to rent out, for extra cash.

Also on the re-examination list is a detailed look at the contract for building an incinerator on the Croydon/Sutton border.

Cllr Newman said concerns remained that pulling out of the contract could cost millions of pounds in penalty payments.

In addition, the council will look at reducing dramatically the outlay on consultants; reducing outsourcing in favour of keeping services in-house; becoming a living wage council, including council contractors in that ambition; and also checking the £36 million cost of refurbishing Fairfield Halls, in the belief a good job could be done cheaper.

All this ambition will be achieved, Cllr Newman said, with greater openness, fewer discussions behind closed doors, more effective scrutiny and webcasting of council meetings.

Cllr Newman said: "I am proud of what we achieved in the election campaign.

"It was a genuine doorstep campaign and our ambitions clearly resonated with voters."

New Croydon Council leader pledges a 'cleaner and greener' borough


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