The Tory Controlled council is cutting the voluntary sector budget by 66%. A shocking amount. The Conservatives claim it is all Labours fault. A claim that can not stand up when the Conservatives choose to spend money on schemes like the luxury HQ or other pet projects. The Conservatives have refused to make cuts to areas that none of us would miss and put the money back into voluntary groups and social services.
The clearest example of this is the Councils monthly newspaper 'Your Croydon'. It officially costs £231,000 per year to produce, but apparently has no staff to produce it, nor an office to be produced in. That £231,000 per year rockets to something more like £500,000 when you add in these costs. The Council Newspaper is also very bad for democracy. We are lucky in Croydon in having two local newspaper groups that publish titles across our Borough. They provide news and information on community activities and information from the Council. Crucially, they also provide an independent voice to investigate and expose wrong doing and ill thought out council policies. Over the years, they have not shown any political bias. They have always been an irritant to the 'corporate' council view, regardless of which party is in power, and rightly so.
Without our local newspapers the Council would never have re-tendered the transport contract and exposed the scandal behind that award or the council bailing out the private company behind the Luxury Council HQ with a £145million taxpayer backed loan.
The Council newspaper has crossed the line. It takes adverts. It has a letters page. The only difference to one of our local newspapers is that it only reports pro council news. If it is not stopped soon, it will threaten our local newspapers as it gobbles up advertising revenue and finally stifles debate. For the good of democracy, it needs to close down. the savings could then be ploughed back into the voluntary sector.
Will our local newspapers be bold enough to take on the Council machine? or will they slowly die out? The Croydon Advertiser seems most at risk from this. Their paid circulation has dropped to around 17,000 copies a week across all sub titles. IF they tried to convert to a free weekly they would put that circulation up, but they don't have a reputation for successful door to door delivery.
The Croydon Guardian is best for online news, but again their door to door distribution is really very poor.