In just over two weeks, residents from Croydon will be able to vote for change and switch to a Democratically Elected Executive Mayor (DEM). A DEM would be more accountable to residents, would cost no more because it replaces the existing “leader”, and could protect family homes across all of Croydon. A number of residents have written to me asking how a DEM would work in practice, and how it would be different or similar to the existing council; I hope to be able to make some of this clear below.
If this referendum is successful, Croydon’s first DEM would be elected in May 2022. The candidates would be chosen in the usual way of becoming a councillor. This is open for all, and further details are available to see at https://www.local.gov.uk/be-councillor/becoming-councillor
Decisions made by the Council can be divided up into ‘executive’ and ‘non-executive’ decisions. Executive decisions include those relating to housing, social services, schools, education, leisure, parking, property, and procurement. It is these decisions that a DEM and their Cabinet would be making. There would also be an Overview and Scrutiny Committee which would hold the Mayor to account for their executive decisions.
Important powers are reserved for decision by Council, including setting the budget and council tax, and approval of specified major policies and key governance matters. These decisions are taken by all Councillors, meeting together and a majority have to vote to approve them. If the DEM was not of the same political party as the majority of Councillors then it is possible that not all proposals brought forward by the DEM to Council would be approved.
Decisions relating to regulatory decisions (such as planning and licensing) would continue to be made by the relevant committees of councillors: the DEM would not have a seat on these committees.
At present, there are 70 councillors in Croydon, representing 28 areas, or Wards (each of which has 1, 2 or 3 councillors). Whichever party gets a majority of councillors chooses a “Leader” with sweeping executive powers. At the moment, Labour has 41 of the 70 councillors, and so the Leader is chosen by a majority of the 41 Labour councillors – requiring potentially as few as 21 votes.
But the election results in most of the 28 Wards are a foregone conclusion, largely based on north/south geography. There are only a handful of “marginal” wards where the result is in doubt. The ruling group therefore only has to pay attention to these seven or eight wards (out of 28) to hang onto power. That is why they ignore the majority of the Borough, even areas that return Labour councillors such as Regina Road.
That is why we need change. Change to a system where whoever runs the council has to listen to every single resident across the whole Borough to get elected – not just a handful in a few marginal wards. A Democratically Elected Executive Mayor would do this. Instead of the Leader being chosen in a smoke-filled room by as few as 21 councillors – many of whom are then promptly rewarded by the new “Leader” with paid positions – the public as a whole would instead directly elect an Executive Mayor. Power to choose that person would be in the hands of Croydon’s 400,000 residents, not a small clique acting behind closed doors, often out of self-interest. This is why the DEM would be more accountable to the whole borough.
I hope that you have found this of interest. Please do share with any friends or family in our area who may also be interested.