As I am not standing for re-election in May, this is my last message as leader of the council and I want to thank our residents, businesses and valued partners for this wonderful opportunity to serve the borough I love.
When I became leader in September 2020, Croydon was experiencing significant challenges. Our communities continued to battle Covid-19 and the devastating economic impact of the pandemic, and the council was facing unprecedented financial difficulties.
Much has changed since then. Thanks to the united efforts of everyone in Croydon, we are now on the road to recovery from the pandemic. On Wednesday, I joined the Mayor of Croydon and others at a tree planting at Croydon University Hospital. The planting was part of the Queen’s Green Canopy project, and was held on the second anniversary of the initial Covid-19 lockdown to also remember those who died and reflect on the sacrifices our communities made.
We will never forget the loved ones we lost, but we will also always remember the light in the dark – the bravery and compassion of Croydon’s frontline workers and volunteers. They will always inspire me and I would like once again, to thank them for all they did, and continue to do, to keep our community safe.
Over the past 18 months, we have also made significant progress in tackling the council’s financial challenges – getting our budget back on track and transforming the council to live within its means. As I leave the council, we have agreed a balanced budget for 2022/23, which protects the frontline services residents depend on while investing in their future needs.
We have also begun a wide-reaching programme to improve our housing services and ensure all our tenants can live in warm, dry, safe homes, and are treated with the care and respect they deserve. There is no quick fix, and along with immediate action on urgent repairs, we are working with our tenants and leaseholders to achieve the longer-term improvements we all want to see.
Our housing improvement plan, which went to cabinet this week, sets out how we will take this forward. There is still work to be done, but Croydon has laid strong foundations to keep on getting better and become the council we all want it to be.
I’m really pleased that in my time as leader we have taken some important steps for our future, with the launch of our first Carbon Neutral Action Plan, boosting greener methods of travel, encouraging everyone to reduce our waste and the launch of our new sustainability fund this week. Meanwhile our Croydon Equalities Pledge, developed by the council with the community, is helping to make our borough a fairer and more inclusive place – if you lead an organisation in Croydon and you haven’t already, sign up to adopt the pledge today. With all these positive steps, we have much to feel hopeful about and to look forward to – particularly the London Borough of Culture celebrations next year. I very much look forward to seeing all of you there.
Councillor Hamida Ali, leader of the council