Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Ethics in Croydon!

The “Inside Croydon” website has an important article (click here) about how Croydon is governed. It argues that the arrangements are becoming unethical and potentially corrupt. It describes how the community is being edged out; democratic control being sidelined by business and corporate interests. The running of Croydon is being shifted more and more in their favour.

The article shows how certain individuals sit in numerous boardrooms and lots of committees, leading potentially to conflicts of interest. There is a pervading smell of brown envelopes - “People openly discuss how property developers can skew the planning decision-making process, and how people at the grassroots seem to be losing out all the time”.

This trend is undoubtedly true, not only in Croydon, but also Sutton and elsewhere.

However, whilst raising a very important issue, the solution proposed by the author (Charlotte Davies) is very weak. She proposes ... a review!

A review that takes into account the guidance of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. This body was set up under John Major in 1994 - and it is useless! No one can claim seriously that it has had an impact. Did it, for example, stop the expenses scandal?

In trying to keep the article non-political and “objective”, Ms Davies glosses over something vital: that the present situation, the decline in ethics in local government, is a straightforward consequence of the growing dominance of politics by big business and finance.

The Labour Party itself has succumbed to the sticky-fingered corporate embrace. Part of the consequence of this has been the dismantling of inner-party democracy and the distancing of the party from organised labour. Democracy and big business cannot co-exist. One or the other must dominate.

It was the labour movement that brought democracy to the world - in the teeth of opposition from monied and landed interests! Only the labour movement then can honestly claim a root and branch affinity with corruption-free democracy and governance. When was the last time you read about wholesale corruption, “bungs” and thievery in a democratic trade union?

The decline in government ethical behaviour isn’t “inevitable” or a “sign of the times”. It is a consequence of how the world is run. But with the rise of globalisation, the shareholder is king. The world, including the domain of local government, is run for (and increasingly by) the people who own it, not by those who work and live in it!

Politics has become just another area for the pursuit of private profit.

If a review was to be undertaken, as proposed by Ms Davies, we would suggest that the people asked to do it should be delegated from those with the greatest interest in the quality of life in Croydon - the people who live there. Local trade unions could nominate representatives, as could community groups and others. A “people’s review”. Its terms of reference would include - open the books! Where is the money going? Where is it coming from? And who benefits?

The article suggests that the “new” Labour council should tackle these issues. Don’t hold your breath...

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