Stephen Fenwick, a councillor in Sutton, was forced to resign as a Liberal Democrat yesterday after pleading guilty in court to racially aggravated assault.
Fenwick was given a conditional discharge and a fine, after admitting a drink-fuelled rant in a Charing Cross pub in January, when he argued with a barman who he told to go back to his own country. Or words to that effect.
Although widely condemned, following his conviction, Fenwick was initially suspended from the LibDem party whip on Sutton Council (what would it take to be sacked by the LibDems?). But he had been attended council meetings since January, in the knowledge that he faced the court case. Did he keep that information from his local party leadership?
It also remains unclear whether Fenwick will resign as a councillor for Worcester Park ward, but it must be very unlikely that he will now stand for re-election in May’s local elections as a LibDem candidate.
His latest notoriety has brought further attention to his role in last year’s granting of planning permission by Sutton Council to the controversial Beddington Lane incinerator. Fenwick had originally voted against permission for the waste incinerator, only to inexplicably change his mind at a second meeting.
On neither occasion did Fenwick declare any interests in the decision related to his employment as a civil servant. And in October last year, a few months after switching his vote in the controversial incinerator planning meeting, Fenwick started working at… the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Fenwick has been unavailable for comment in the past day or so. But his Twitter feed on October 1 last year states: “Busy day: Moving. Storing furniture. Sifting through e-mails at work, but interesting being back at DECC in Whitehall”.
Opposition Conservative councillors on Sutton Council – who unlike their party colleagues in Croydon are against the building of a massive waste-burner in a country park close to built-up residential areas – suggest that Fenwick’s failure to declare any interests at the meetings could add further evidence to any legal challenges against the decision to allow Viridor to build the incinerator.
It was a bad day all-round for the LibDems in Sutton, where the borough’s two MPs found themselves voting for Clause 119 in the Care Bill which will give Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt the power to shut down St Helier Hospital at just 40 days’ notice and with virtually no consultation with the public.
Paul Burstow, the Sutton and Cheam MP, was a junior health minister in the early days of the ConDem Government. Tom Brake, Carshalton and Wallington’s MP, is deputy leader of the House of Commons. Both have repeatedly pronounced their support for maintaining all services at St Helier Hospital, the future of which has been in doubt for some time, despite being rated as providing far better services than, say, Croydon’s Mayday.
But in the House of Commons yesterday, Burstow and Brake, accompanied by Croydon Tory MPs Gavin Barfwell and “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway, voted for measures that will allow Hunt to close or downgrade NHS hospitals based on financial criteria rather than any judgements about service provision.
Clause 119 was introduced by the ConDem Government after public protest reversed its plans to close another good south London hospital, Lewisham, in order to balance the books elsewhere.
Burstow had proposed his own amendment, which would have neutered Clause 119, but he then sought to withdraw it. Labour MPs pushed Burstow’s amendment to a vote anyway, though LibDems and Tories voted together to win that, as well.
Burstow has now been made chairman of a committee of MPs and peers to oversee the drafting of guidance over the role of clinical commissioning groups in circumstances where hospitals might be at risk of closure. It is not known whether Burstow will derive any personal benefits from taking on this role.
Coming to Croydon
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- March of the Mods at Oval Tavern for Teenage Cancer Trust, Mar 16
- St Patrick’s Night celebration, Ruskin House, Mar 17
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood Cemetery, Mar 20
- South Norwood Lakes Playground group workshop, Mar 25
- David Lean Cinema: Basically Johnny Moped, Mar 27-28
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
- David Lean Cinema: 12 Years a Slave, Apr 3
- David Lean Cinema: The Great Beauty, Apr 10
- Norwood Society Talk: Crystal Palace, Apr 17
- David Lean Cinema: Inside Llewyn Davis, Apr 17
- Opening of Marlpit Lane bowling and putting greens, Apr 17
- Arts and Crafts Market, Exchange Square, Apr 19
- David Lean Cinema: Short Term, Apr 24
- Norwood Society Talk: West Norwood – a place of change, May 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
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