Inside Croydon editor STEVEN DOWNES on another demoralising three hours of his life that he will never get back – spent at last night’s council budget meeting
Croydon Tories, who have been in charge of the council for eight years, last night quoted from Inside Croydon to try to justify their failure to keep the borough’s streets clean, choosing to agree with our editorial analysis of the Croydon North streets commission as “a flimsy document” offering little that goes “beyond what might be called statements of the bleedin’ obvious”.
We stand by that opinion. Croydon residents did not need a 22-page report based on opinions from just 245 respondents to tell them that the borough’s streets are filthy.
But since it was Phil “Two Permits” Thomas who chose to highlight our report, those who have had dealings with the man won’t be surprised to learn that his speech in the Town Hall chamber last night contained at least one untruth.
For not everything said by Thomas, the Tories’ Town Hall bruiser, can always be trusted.
Thomas was explicitly called a liar in the council chamber twice at the previous full council meeting. Using such direct language is frowned upon in the “polite” circles where councillors from both parties are expected to sip warm sherry together in the Mayor’s parlour.
That protocol did not stop florid-faced Mike Fisher, the under-pressure Conservative council leader, from saying “fuck off” across the chamber at a Labour councillor last month. Fisher later apologised for his use of inappropriate language, without actually being man enough to admit what it was he had said. Pity for him that the remark was clearly heard in the chamber and on radio. Inexplicably, last night’s annual budget debate was not broadcast live (though that may just be a coincidence).
However, no formal apology has ever been demanded from Thomas nor, notably, by his party leader on his behalf over accusations made by two Labour councillors during the same January meeting that the cabinet member for highways and environmental services has only a casual acquaintance with the truth.
Last night, the Labour group three times called for points of order when Thomas was on his feet, choosing to go through the Mayor to correct false statements made by the local Tories’ powerbroker.
Even members of the Conservative group on Croydon Council must be wondering now just how much they can rely on Thomas.
Thomas, a teacher by profession, receives £43,000 a year in allowances from Croydon as a council cabinet member, and somehow needs two free car parking permits. He is a BMW-driving, Manchester United-supporting Welshman – which of themselves are two grounds for great suspicion.
Thomas was one of the Croydon councillors on a selection panel which rejected Fisher’s application to be the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Croydon South in 2015. “That was a form of rubbish dumping in Croydon which has left a huge mess that the Tories don’t know how to clear up,” someone in the public gallery remarked last night.
Now, according to sources in the local Tory party, Thomas has been given responsibility for managing this year’s Conservative local election campaign in Croydon. Thomas also has to give his approval of his party’s candidates to stand in May’s local elections. If true, that is considerable influence for one man, and seems to indicate quite how badly undermined the position of “lame duck leader” Mike Fisher has become.
This is also unusual, since Thomas has yet to confirm publicly whether he will be standing for re-election in Selsdon and Ballards, where he has been a councillor since 2002. The Tories’ ward selection meeting is on March 7. It is still suggested that Thomas may emigrate to the United States, to work with another bunch of cowboys.
Last night, Thomas was not only picked up by the Mayor for his untruths on three occasions, but he also lied about this website, calling it “the official Labour blog”. Untrue.
Thomas also said, somewhat flatteringly of us when referring to the Croydon Council Labour group leader Tony Newman, that Inside Croydon “pulls Newman’s strings”. Thomas’s logic – or lack of it – in his own argument let him down at this point: Newman is very keen on the Croydon North streets commission, while this website – as Thomas so kindly reminded his Town Hall colleagues – is less so. Someone needs to give Thomas’s chain a yank. But maybe there’s no one within the local Conservatives capable of standing up to him.
Inside Croydon reporters have observed Thomas “in action” at the Town Hall, brow-beating, even threatening, members of the public, on one occasion for nothing more heinous than asking questions of their elected representatives.
If the 2015 local elections are to be Thomas’s last hurrah in Croydon politics, more than one observer of the local scene has suggested that it will be out of a bile-fuelled desire for political revenge.
Thomas worked hard and very closely with Andrew Pelling in 2006 to get him elected as the Conservative MP for Croydon Central. That Pelling is now attempting a political comeback, standing for Labour in the crucial Waddon ward this May, has provided Thomas with renewed interest locally.
As Mike Fisher will undoubtedly attest, you don’t want to get on the wrong side of Phil Thomas, a man who issues threats to residents who attend public meetings, who is prepared to lie in the council chamber, and even quotes from Inside Croydon to try to score cheap political points. The 2015 Croydon Town Hall election campaign could be about to get very messy, a bit like the state of Croydon’s streets.
Coming to Croydon
- Fairtrade Film night, Antenna Cafe, Haynes Lane, Feb 27
- Fairtrade event, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 1
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Patchwork and quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 3
- Fairtrade stall at Food Market, Haynes Lane, Mar 8
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- South Norwood Lakes Playground group workshop, Mar 25
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 516,649 page views (Jan-Dec 2013)
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