The Bishop of Croydon has been chosen to lead the council’s £200,000 Fairness Commission, despite scathing criticism from the Conservatives that it is a “waste of money”.
Bishop Clark will assess whether public services in the borough are being distributed fairly enough.
Tony Newman, leader of Croydon council, told the Croydon Advertiser that the inquiry presented a “once in a generation opportunity to ensure fairness underpins council decisions.”
Newman said: “I’m thrilled [Clark] has agreed to do it. It’s clear he commands a lot of respect across the community, including people who wouldn’t normally describe themselves as particularly religious.”
“He seems to have the background and the personality that reaches out to many people. It’s quite clear he would be his own person and be able to bring others into the process.”
The Bishop announced the decision on Twitter and said he was “honoured to be asked”.
In June the council appointed a panel consisting of members of the public, private and voluntary organisations as well as an independent expert. The panel will produce a final report, due to be released in January, after a year-long consultation period.
However, the Conservative opposition has brandished the commission as a “waste of money”.
In June, Councillor Mike Fisher said: “I think people will be appalled that £200,000 is being spent on finding out whether the government and council is being fair to them.”
“Is there anyone out there clamouring for this kind of council bureaucracy? It’s a complete waste of money.”
Both Newman and the Bishop have defended the cost of the commission, saying that the eventual findings and conclusions will justify any high cost.
Bishop Clark said: “Some fairness commissions have made a real difference. I wouldn’t be involved if I didn’t think it could make a real difference.”
He added that it was not his place to refuse to be a part of the commission over concerns that the cost might be too high.
“I think there’s an opportunity to get value for money. That’s why I am involved”.