Croydon elected its first ever mayor on Thursday, with Conservative Jason Perry becoming the office’s inaugural holder.
The role was introduced following a referendum in 2021, where more than 80% of voters approved the introduction of the office on a turnout of 21%.
Along with Labour losing overall control of the council, Perry’s election makes Croydon one of the few London boroughs to swing in power towards the Conservatives.
Who holds the balance of power?
Directly-elected mayors such as Perry were introduced by the Local Government Act 2000, which introduced new decision making mechanisms for councils intended to make governing more efficient.
Elected by the public on a separate ballot from the rest of the council, these mayors wield considerable power in their area.
They can each select a cabinet of up to nine councillors from their local authority, who will be responsible for managing various service areas.
So even though Labour is the largest party in the council, the mayor will have the authority to select Croydon’s top decision making corps.
For a council to overturn a key decision by the mayor – such as the council budget – two thirds must vote to overturn it.
Perry also won a seat on Croydon Council, but will not be able to take it up as an elected mayor cannot also sit on the council.
A by-election is likely to be held in due course to fill the vacancy.
While many London boroughs saw unprecedented swings toward Labour, Croydon was one of the few to lean more blue.
Labour remained the largest party on the council, but lost its overall majority. It won 34 out of Croydon’s 70 seats, a drop of seven from 2018.
Despite winning the mayorship, the Conservatives failed to overtake Labour in council seats but still boosted their share to 33 – including Perry’s win.
The Liberal Democrats and Green Party also regained representation in Croydon, winning one and two seats respectively.
Council in crisis
Croydon Council has faced a turbulent few years, having been forced to declare bankruptcy in November 2020.
The council’s financial standing was one of the key issues for voters as the went to the polls on Thursday.
Historically a swing-borough, Croydon has been led by the Labour Party since 2014. It was previously run by the Conservatives from 2006-2014.
But while Labour remained the largest party after this year’s election, they lost overall control of the council – meaning they failed to win more than half of its seats.
This was made further complex by the election of Jason Perry, a Conservative, who beat Labour’s Val Shawcross by a slim margin of less than 600 votes.