Who’d have thought a thrusting new Minister in the Coalition Government and the Sunday Telegraph would champion greater openness and accountability from Croydon’s Conservative Councillors?
But thanks to Grant Shapps MP’s campaign against the hypocrisy – some might also suggest idiocy – of Councillors awarding themselves massive hikes in allowances when at the same time wielding the axe to local services and grants to the voluntary sector, it is confirmed that Steve O’Connell, Tory Councillor for Kenley, is the country’s highest paid local representative, raking in a grand total of £118,511 from Croydon and other public duties.
O’Connell, who is also a member of the London Assembly, told the Torygraph: “I have held all these positions for a good length of time, which must indicate that the electorate and the people who appointed me believe that I’m doing a good job, and I’ll continue to do so as long as people wish to see me remain in these roles.”
The people of Croydon can go along to the Town Hall in Katharine Street from 5pm today to let Mr O’Connell and the rest of his mates in the ruling Tory group know quite how much they appreciate their decision to slash grants to local charities and voluntary groups by 66 per cent, when at the same time voting themselves massive hikes in their own allowances.
The Council is having a full meeting tonight, at which major decisions on a range of cost-cutting recommendations are expected to be rubber-stamped by the majority Conservative group.
O’Connell, 54, is a former bank manager, so he probably doesn’t have that to fall back on.
O’Connell comes across as a sort of Mr Reasonable in the Telegraph piece compared to the original target of Shapps’ opprobrium, Barnet’s Brian Coleman, who appears unable to understand the difference in principle between what millionaire Tory front-bencher Shapps has earned in his own right in business, and what Councillors like himself and O’Connell are trousering from public coffers, supposedly as “public servants”.
O’Connell and Coleman have both managed to acquire a collection of lucrative funded public positions in their own boroughs and at City Hall.
It is also worth noting that when Croydon’s councillors opted to award their leaders a hike of 20 per cent and more in allowances, there were no nay-sayers among the Tory group, though Fisher got them to agree not to take the increase this year.
Maybe no one broke ranks over the allowances increase because they feared recriminations. In Barnet, the one member of their Tory group who took the Shapps line and voted against any increase was promptly sacked by Coleman and his chums. Nice.