Croydon’s Council leader has claimed a campaign calling for the borough to be run by a directly elected mayor is an “attack on local democracy” and is based on an “entirely false premise”.

Yesterday Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central and Chris Philp, MP for Croydon South, launched a petition alongside 10 residents associations calling for the voters to be able to elect their own mayor.

FROM YESTERDAY: MPs Gavin Barwell and Chris Philp launch campaign for directly elected mayor of Croydon

Mr Barwell claimed changing Croydon Council's leadership model could bridge the “stark political divide” between the north and south of the borough.

But Cllr Tony Newman said the political divide does not exist and was “set up” by Mr Barwell to “justify” his actions.

Cllr Tony Newman said: “I don’t buy that, as a council that has continued to invest, for example, in whether it was the business improvement district (BID) in Purley which we very much backed, securing the future of the swimming pool in Purley or whether it is development in Coulsdon.

“The council is clearly active wither it is Coulsdon or Purley or up in Crystal Palace.

“I simply think it is an entirely false premise Gavin has set up to try and justify what he is doing.”

Mr Philp, who is in his first term after being elected in May last year, was keen to express the petition was a “cross-party” campaign despite the absence of Labour counterparts when it was launched last night.

RELATED: Could Croydon be run by a directly elected mayor?

Cllr Newman said: “It is an attack on local democracy. The model we are pursuing [as a council] is councillors being empowered in their local area.

“We are doubling ward budgets this year, we are looking at parks and libraries and how we get more people involved in working with us on services.

“An elected mayor model is the complete and stark opposite of that, it is putting all the power in the hands of one person.

“I don’t think that is the sort of model that we want to see and I am confident that if there ever was a referendum that the people of Croydon would want to see a devolve of power, politics all over the world right now is about how to devolve power to the people.

“If we had to run a referendum, if ever we got 12,000 signatures, that would cost half a million pounds of council taxpayers money.

“It is an awful lot of money at a time when council’s budgets are being cut.

“There are people who are suggesting it is possibly Gavin looking for a job creating scheme for himself.”

As well as the Greater London Authority, four boroughs in the capital currently have directly elected leaders - Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, and Tower Hamlets.

Croydon is currently run on a "cabinet and leader" system similar to central government.