Croydon mayor questioned by councillors for two hours over third bankruptcy notice

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Croydon’s mayor was grilled by councillors a year on from his election.

It came three months after the council was told a government-appointed panel could step in and overturn Mayor Jason Perry’s decisions.

In April, Croydon residents saw their council tax bill increase by 15 per cent after the council was forced to declare effective bankruptcy for third time at the end of 2022.

The authority was given a £224 million bailout loan and has asked the government to write off £540m of its debt, though it has not reached an agreement on this after more than six months of discussion.

At a meeting of Scrutiny and Overview meeting on Tuesday night (June 6), chair of the committee, Councillor Rowenna Davis, reminded the public that the government-appointed Improvement and Assurance Panel is now able to step in.

She said: “The mayor is still in charge of the council but if the council is found to be breaching its best value duty for the public the panel has the power to step in and change any decision they are concerned about.”

In March, minister for local government Lee Rowley said the government is minded to put in place an “intervention package” as the council is not meeting its “best value duty”. This is a requirement for local authorities to work economically, effectively and with efficiency.

Mayor Perry and chief executive Katherine Kerswell, answered questions from the committee for more than two hours at Tuesday’s meeting. 

Councillor Leila Ben-Hassel asked what the latest was on how the council can reduce its huge £1.6 billion debt and whether the government had given any indication of time scales.

Mayor Perry said conversations were “ongoing” and council officers were having weekly conversations with civil servants.

He added: “We have made it very clear to government that there needs to be a resolution this year before we end up going into another budget cycle ideally. I think we have to remember that this hasn’t been asked of government before.

“Government are trying to come up with a framework for how this works and clearly there are other local authorities in distress so they are looking at those at the same time. I think we are much further ahead in our journey of improvement and change of governance.

“It is an ongoing regular conversation with government but at this time I can’t give you a firm guideline on timings.”

In a letter Mayor Perry requested six monthly meetings but admitted at the meeting that he had not actually received a response on whether this would happen.


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