There were angry scenes outside Croydon Town Hall last night, with Councillor Phil “Two Permits” Thomas the angriest because he had just been forced by the overwhelming weight of public opinion to back down on his plan to impose money-raising extended parking restrictions in the area around Mayday Hospital.
Of course, it could also be that – since Thomas and council officers had failed to fulfil their legal duties with the original consultation – last night’s decision to “re-consult” the area of Thornton Heath affected by the proposal is the least that Cameron’s Crazy Council needed to do to avoid being dragged before a judge.
Thomas, the chair of the council’s traffic management group, has had a very embarrassing time of it lately.
First, his consultation on bringing in longer restricted hours for parking in many residential roads in the borough was overwhelming rejected by council tax-payers, as well as the process being heavily criticised as flawed even by a local Tory MP.
Undaunted, though, Thomas, a councillor for Selsdon and Ballards to the south of Croydon, tried to sneak in through Draconian parking restrictions in one area of the north of the borough, around Mayday.
This decision, however, was “called in” to the council’s scrutiny and review committee, not only because the consultation process had been questioned, but because the council had failed to do its job properly with a full equalities impact assessement – a serious breach of their legal duties.
The latter omission alone might have seen the council being dragged to court with an expensive judicial review which it would be sure to lose, since a council adminstrator admitted at last night’s meeting that the required EIA – particularly important for a decision in an area with a high Asian population and around a hospital much used by the disabled and elderly – had not been done until after the report was published. Whoops.
It was not a great St David’s Day for Welshman Thomas. Basically, even with a fellow Conservative councillor, Steve Hollands, chairing the meeting and giving Thomas an easy way out, last night’s meeting rammed home that he had presided over a shambles of a sham consultation.
In the couple of weeks since Thomas’s traffic management committee meeting, local campaigners had done the council’s job for them, with leaflets to local homes and businesses in the area around Mayday, as well as staging a public meeting attended by more than a hundred people. In all, they collected more than 700 signatures against the proposal in the north of the borough, plus a 700-plus signature petition from Croydon Mosque.
The universal complaint from those lobbied in the affected area was that they had failed to be consulted by the council, and knew nothing of the official consultation being run by “Two Permits”.
Thomas last night conceded that he will now write to everyone in the area, asking them if they want the increase in controlled parking zone hours. That’s more expense for council tax-payers thanks to Thomas.
Croydon council tax-payers may soon have to fork out on another expense for our hard-working Tory councillor, too: in anger management classes.
It seems that Thomas’s first response to anyone who takes a view different from his own is to threaten them. Although a councillor, Thomas has refused to meet with one local resident to discuss his parking plans, preferring instead to threaten some form of legal action.
Like a schoolyard bully, he was at it again last night, having one resident escorted from the building after a heated exchange of views. Witnesses, including other councillors, say that both parties raised their voices, and the resident may have used some bad language.
But what Thomas, as an elected councillor, did later outside the Town Hall was, as described by one eye witness, an “unbelievable attempt at intimidation”. Another described the Tory councillor as acting like “an arrogant bully”.
The resident told Inside Croydon: “As I waited outside and was chatting with another campaigner, Phil Thomas walked past with another chap.
“He told me that he has my address and will be sending the police round to my house and I should ‘expect to hear from them soon’.”
Another council tax-payer also saw Thomas’s belligerant behaviour. “I spoke politely to him, but he turned away, obviously not interested in speaking to me. It is normal for there to be heated discussions and even threats at council meetings. There is nothing for the police to investigate.
“I don’t believe there were any criminal offences committed so the police will not take any action.”
Of course, as Thomas should know, there is an offence of wasting police time. Just after 10am today, Inside Croydon put in a request to speak to Councillor Thomas to hear his version of events. We await a response.