With government still yet to deliver on its promise to pay back our Covid-19 costs, councils across the country are facing unprecedented financial challenges – with a £1.4bn budget shortfall in London alone.
We are proud to have gone above and beyond for Croydon’s community during this pandemic; we didn’t need government to tell us ‘do whatever it takes’ – we always have and we always will.
But they did and despite their very public pledge to meet our costs, the money we have received from them to date doesn’t begin to cover the extra millions we have needed to spend to support residents, and the vital work we continue to do. Nor does it recognise our loss of income during lockdown or inability to make savings amid a public health crisis.
We have already seen a 70 per cent reduction in Croydon’s funding from government over the last decade, while demand for services such as adult and children’s social care has continued to rise.
So the financial challenge is real – after years of chronic under-investment and a pandemic our borough is facing a £65m shortfall. And if we want to protect the vital public services on which our residents depend, we cannot afford to wait for government any longer – in Croydon we have always tackled our problems head on and the time to act is now.
This means taking some tough decisions to protect the future of your council.
Early in lockdown we acted swiftly to limit the financial pressures of the pandemic, setting up a finance review panel, freezing recruitment and immediately stopping non-essential spending.
We are reviewing and developing proposals to reduce costs across all council expenditure including staff. Unfortunately, like many other organisations private and public, we also face difficult but necessary decisions on job losses, and have begun consulting on proposals for a target of 15% staffing cost-reduction across departments.
This is the very last thing we would have wanted to do and we are working with staff and unions to do all we can to avoid compulsory redundancies.
We continue to press ministers for fair funding for our borough – and I would urge you to do the same by writing to your local MP. Croydon deserves better, and we will be doing all we can to ensure we get it.
Reopening our services
Even while we respond to these challenges, we are moving forward with our plans for Croydon’s recovery, reopening more of your local services.
Libraries are reopening for you to borrow books using our new Select and Collect service – you can find out how this works here – and our operators GLL will start the phased reopening of our leisure centres from 25 July. They have put some new measures in place to help you use the gym, pool and other facilities as safely as possible, including a pre-booking system, so please check them out before you plan your visit. You can find out more here.
We plan to reopen more services in the coming weeks, subject to the advice from our director of public health, so keep checking our webpages for the latest information.
As Croydon continues to gradually open up – our high streets, our public services, and hopefully in September our schools – it is more important than ever that we all do our bit to protect our family, friends and our community.
We’ve developed a local outbreak plan and continue to prepare for how we would contain any outbreaks of Covid-19 should they arise, but the most powerful weapon we have against coronavirus is you.
We can all help to reduce the risk of infection in our community by keeping our social distance, following the public health advice on hygiene, wearing masks on public transport and in busy places where possible, and most importantly self-isolating and getting a test if we develop coronavirus symptoms. You can find out what to do on the NHS website.
So please stay safe, and have a good weekend.
Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the council