Cllr Jason Perry is the Leader of the Opposition on Croydon Council and the Conservative Candidate to be Croydon’s first directly-elected Mayor in May 2022.

In recent years, Croydon has found itself mentioned more and more frequently in ConservativeHome articles – and sadly never for a good reason.

Croydon’s Labour-run Council was officially declared bankrupt last year, having accrued well over £1.5 billion in debt – the first London Council to go bust in 20 years. The failure of Croydon Labour to manage the Council’s finances since 2014 has seen them borrowing an outrageous £15,000 every single hour, and recently led to it begging the Conservative Government for a £120 million bailout just to keep the lights on.

Labour loaned over £200 million of taxpayer money to their wholly Council-owned property developer ‘Brick by Brick’, who then proceeded to ride roughshod over local residents concerns, building on their green spaces and amenity land. To add insult to injury, that land was, more often than not, given to them for free by the Labour Council. But, their monopoly games did not stop there – going on to borrow millions of ££ to waste on their choices, £30 million on a town centre hotel, £50 million to buy a shopping precinct, and £76 million spent on a botched refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls arts complex – where they didn’t even change the worn seats and the roof still leaks! All whilst slashing basic services and hiking Council Tax levels to one of the highest in the country.

But worse than all of that: Labour did this whilst completely ignoring warnings from the auditors, the Conservative Opposition, and desperate local residents. We all saw it coming, we warned Labour time and time again, but they accused us of scaremongering – all for fear of us being proven right. What short-sighted egotism. It’s exactly that kind of arrogant approach that leads people to despise politicians.

In national politics the sums bandied about to fund services are huge – a few billion here and a few billion there – it’s hard for most of us to comprehend what it means in reality when financial management goes wrong, but residents in Croydon have been forced to find out the hard way. To reiterate, Croydon’s failing Labour Council has borrowed £15,000 per hour since coming into office in 2014, and yet our bins aren’t being emptied; fly-tipping and rubbish is left to pile high on our streets; the grass in our parks and cemeteries isn’t cut; graffiti is no longer cleaned – in short, our communities look increasingly abandoned.

But it’s the most vulnerable in our borough that Labour’s cuts are hitting hardest. Under Labour, the Council Tax Support Scheme – which reduces Council Tax for the most vulnerable residents – is set to be cut by £5.7m, affecting an estimated 20,000 households. They’ve slashed the welfare team, and some 7,000 residents are seeing their social care packages cut. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Croydon’s problems are not just financial. Recently, one of our Council candidates went to see Raymond, who lives in a sheltered housing block in the north of the borough. He contacted us because he was desperate to expose the appalling conditions of his Council-managed block. We found mouldy walls, water-damaged ceilings, missing fire extinguishers, and more. He told us how he was forced to go for nine weeks without any heating or hot water. Despite all of this, his local Labour Councillors have been absent throughout, having only knocked on his door a single time in the last decade (during an election week).

Raymond’s story would be bad enough if it were a one-off, but this has come months after terrible conditions in another block of Council flats were exposed on ITV’s Surviving Squalor, and at the same time as reports about a third block in West Croydon are beginning to surface. This is not the fault of the bankruptcy: this is the result of sheer systemic incompetence, as well as absent Labour Councillors who ignore residents’ pleas for help, thinking they’ll win their ‘safe’ seats next time around anyway.

And it’s for all these reasons that just over a month ago, every single ward in the Borough voted in a referendum for change – and voted to move to a Directly Elected Mayor for Croydon. 80 per cent of residents backed this change, despite Croydon Labour’s campaign to stick with the current failed system. Sick and tired of being ignored, tens of thousands of local people voted for change – and if they choose to elect me to be that Mayor in May 2022, change is exactly what they’ll get. A change for the better, for Croydon.

I am proud to be a Croydonian, born and bred. I live in South Croydon with my family and serve as a local Councillor there. I spent much of my youth in Thornton Heath and Crystal Palace visiting friends and family, and had my first job working in a warehouse in South Norwood.

Croydon has always been my home, and that is why I am both humbled and proud to be standing to be Croydon’s first directly-elected Mayor. Croydon is a fantastic place to live and work, but the choices made by the current failing Labour Council have broken our borough with bankruptcy, poor planning, and filthy streets.

It doesn’t need to be that way. I want to restore our pride in Croydon. Croydon is a town with great potential, and brimming with fantastic people. As Mayor, I will listen to our diverse communities and respect the distinct character of our local areas, ensuring that nobody feels held back or taken for granted anymore.

My message to local residents is this: in May 2022, they need to do more than just hope for a better Croydon – they’ve got to vote for one!