With the local and European elections just a week away, Chris Baynes looks at the council contenders and how Town Hall could change on May 22.
Realistically there are just two horses in the race to command Croydon's town hall, with control currently delicately poised 37 seats to 33 in favour of Coun Mike Fisher's Conservatives. A swing of just three seats would hand the reins back to Labour and Coun Tony Newman for the first time since 2006.
The battle for popularity at the polls has been fought over issues such as spending on the council's £120m new offices, Bernard Weatherill House, cleanliness of streets plagued by fly-tipping, and Labour's historic record of council tax rises.
Conservatives (37 current seats/70 candidates standing)
- Freeze council tax next year
- Resurface roads
- Build new schools
Coun Mike Fisher, Conservative leader, said: "When we took over from Labour, the finances were in a dreadful state. We have focussed on delivering good value services whilst keeping council tax increases low - or negative, as we have this year."
Croydon Conservatives leader Coun Mike Fisher
Labour (33 current seats/70 standing)
- 30 per cent of all new housing to be affordable
- Crack down on fly-tipping
- Reversal of libraries outsourcing contract
Coun Tony Newman, Labour leader, said: "It is absolutely crystal clear to us that there is a major concern across Croydon about the state of the streets, fly-tipping and what you might call low-level anti-social behaviour.
"It should be a first priority of a council to keep the streets clean and safe and we don't think that's happening at the moment."
Labour leader Coun Tony Newman
The chasing pack
No parties others than Labour and the Conservatives hold seats in Croydon Council and none seriously threaten to break their stranglehold on the borough's politics. But three - the Lib Dems, Ukip and the Green Party - have a real chance of securing genuine influence in the council chamber.
If any of this chasing pack can nick a seat, it could give them a deciding vote in town hall debates and break the current majority-rules system that makes them a foregone conclusion.
The national shift in mood following the formation of the coalition Government could have fatally damaged the Lib Dems locally, but Coun Mike Fisher's Conservatives clearly see Ukip as a genuine threat: they have dedicated plenty of words in their campaign material to warning a vote for Ukip could lead to a Labour council.
Lib Dems (46 standing)
- Replace current cabinet system with open, cross-party committee system
- Establish local area committees with their own budgets
- Have open tendering processes for all major contracts
Chris Adams, candidate in Addiscombe and spokesman for Croydon Lib Dems, said: "The powers that be in Croydon need a bit of unsettling.
"The past few years spent representing residents' concerns to a cynical council that seems only to go through the motions of listening to the public has not put me off. It has only made me more determined to see that business-as-usual local politics changes for the benefit of residents."
Ukip (42 standing)
- No party whip - councillors vote on personal conscience
- Campaign to reduce salary of chief executive and other directors who receive more than £100,000 per year
- Bring libraries back under council control
Peter Staveley, chairman of Croydon Ukip, said: "The main parties have tended to take votes in the north and south of the borough for granted and that's one of the things we are campaigning on. Our candidates will be responsive to what local people want in the wards and not what any group leader wants.
"We also want keep frontline services but reduce the bureaucracy and waste and hopefully at one point reduce council tax."
Green Party (70 standing)
- Referendum referendum on Beddington incinerator
- Oppose all fracking in green spaces and under homes
- Consult on 20mph speed limits on all residential roads
Tracey Hague, Green Party coordinator in Croydon, said: "Croydon needs a strong Green voice. The Green party is the only party that opposes fracking and incineration.
"Without principled councillors, we have observed first-hand how an incinerator has been allowed through flawed consultations on Croydon's doorstep."
As ever, a handful of political minnows ranging from the far left to the far right will be vying to pull off a shock in this year's election. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition have five candidates running in Croydon North wards, while the Communist Party's three candidates promise "a genuine alternative to Tory cuts and Labour platitudes".
At the other end of the political spectrum, the British National Party have nominated five candidates predominantly targeting New Addington.
There are also four independents in the running, including a barrister and a former National Front candidate, while the lone Putting Croydon First! entrant will mean a rare appearance for the exclamation mark on the ballot sheet.