Croydon's “Fairness Commission”, set up in January last year and chaired by the Bishop, has completed its report. See HERE.
Despite being sprinkled with modern management-speak and Obama-style references, it has a faintly Victorian flavour.
It will be seized by the New Labour Council as an answer to its prayers. It demands very little of it.
Like the council, the commission fully accepts the political framework set by the Tories, sustained by the corporate media, that more cuts to council services are *inevitable*.
Public services are under pressure, says the Bishop in his introduction. "By 2019-20 the Council’s budget will have been cut by 74 per cent. And the borough does not receive its fair share of funds, just £378 per head compared to £637 per head in Southwark or £586 per head in Lambeth”.
(Is there a suggestion here that Southwark and Lambeth should get less, so Croydon may have more?)
Accepting mainstream assumptions has led the Commission to look elsewhere for the balms to heal Croydon’s lamentations.
People face many problems, the report rightly says. But solutions must come from within - from volunteerism, from “good works”, from neighbourliness.
George Orwell could have said of it (as he did of Dickens) that the overall message, "looks like an enormous platitude: If men would behave decently, the world would be decent".
And there is a whiff of noblesse oblige - the expectation that the better off should find it in their hearts to help the poor. (Which of course they should. But this way?)
The report is undoubtedly well meant, however, and we do not in any way seek to question the motives of any of those involved (though we do think them misguided).
The Commission’s work has drawn attention to the scope and scale of the multiple burdens faced by Croydon. It’s just a shame that it’s proposals are underwhelming and fatalistic.
In essence our criticism is this.
Tory policy is having a devastating impact on people’s lives. But of this there is no mention. They are let off the hook.
The council could choose to use some of its many £ millions it holds in its reserves; or it could issue bonds to raise money very cheaply. But this is not broached.
The council could deploy more of its many powers. It could, for example, compulsorily repossess empty houses. Instead, the report suggests that spare rooms be offered to homeless people.
The council could, in the next few months, set a perfectly legal “People’s Budget” designed to make the most powerful impact on all the issues raised in the report. But there is only silence.
And, whilst he Commission lauds the aims of volunteering and community activism, there is no suggestion that Croydon Labour could, as part of a massive borough-wide campaign, call on its thousands of activists and volunteers to oppose Croydon’s cuts and demand proper funding from government!
We say: Jeremy Corbyn has called on Councils to resist Tory cuts. When will Croydon Labour start doing that?