Anyone who doubts that too many Conservative politicians operate less on a conviction basis and more on what they can get for themselves or their own interests, with their snouts planted firmly in the public funding trough, should have been at Croydon Council’s scrutiny committee last week.Croydon’s Tories held a Star Chamber last Monday, calling in 16 voluntary and charity groups to give evidence to the scrutiny committee as to why they believe they should not be subject to the “savage” (the word chosen by the Croydon Advertiser) 66 per cent cuts in grants.
It was, of course, all a complete sham.
The ruling Conservatives – having already greedily voted in increases of up to 34 per cent in allowances for the likes of council leader Mike Fisher – had no intention whatsoever of being swayed from their ultra-Thatcherite plan that could see nearly 40 voluntary groups in the borough forced to close down.
Croydon’s Tories are not just callous, though. They are also blatant hypocrites.
When at the end of the session Councillor Yvette Hopley made her statement, she read from a typed sheet that she pulled from her handbag and which clearly had been prepared ahead of the meeting. There was never any serious intention to take heed of the four hours of evidence from almost 100 local volunteers.
Hopley turned down all pleas for a funding reprieve. With one intriguing exception.
Hopley agreed to restore a £15,000 grant to the Bangladeshi Welfare Association.
But why just the BWA, and not equally worthwhile other voluntary bodies?
Could it be something to do with the fact that sitting on the Tory benches at Croydon Council alongside Councillor Hopley is Badsha Quadir, Conservative councillor for Purley, who also just happens to be the impressively titled “President” of the Bangladeshi voluntary group?
And how odd, too, that there is no declaration of this interest, under the “positions held/chairmanships/memberships of outside bodies” section that appears on the Croydon Council website for Councillor Quadir.
EVEN IN Cameron’s Crazy Council, the cracks are beginning to appear among the Conservative group, with some among their number clearly uncomfortable at the railroading of some of their policies.
Mike Fisher presides over a 37-33 majority on Croydon Council, a working majority for sure, but one which may be called in to doubt if the electoral review of the conduct of the voting in Waddon – with its three Tory seats – goes against them.
In the meantime, it would only take two Conservatives to cross the floor of the council chamber for Fisher to lose overall control.So Inside Croydon would like to applaud Graham Bass and Janet Marshall, who recently contrived not to be around to sully their reputations by voting in favour of the massive increases in councillors’ allowances.
Next time, we suggest, rather than hiding away in the council’s toilets or wherever when a key vote comes along, why not vote with your conscience, and in the interests of the residents of your ward?
That’s why we salute Justin Cromie, the Conservative member for Coulsdon East, who had the courage and integrity at last week’s scrutiny committee to vote against the grant cuts to voluntary groups. At last, a Croydon Conservative with a conscience.
Anyone attending Monday’s Council meeting, and the rally against the Tory cuts, should make sure that they shake Cromie’s hand and thank him for his principled stand, which was clearly taken under intense pressure.