We have heard unconfirmed reports that the Conservative group that controls Croydon council has undergone a reshuffle.
While the ruling Tory group has more than 30 councillors to choose from, council leader Mike Fisher trusts his backbenchers so little that he has asked one of his deputies, Tim Pollard, to double up, and take on business and regeneration as well as the children and schools portfolio.
“Giving Pollard the job part-time is an insult to businesses in Croydon,” one senior local figure told Inside Croydon.
Also in the re-shuffle, the very busy Steve O’Connell, who pockets £75,000 per year of public money from the Greater London Assembly and Met Police Authority, keeps hold of his £43,000 of Croydon cabinet member’s allowances by being put in charge of Step Change, the fancy name given to CEO Jon Rouse’s pet project of cutting other people’s jobs, but hardly the most onerous of tasks for O’Connell.
Maybe O’Connell can’t afford to take a £30,000 pay cut? Maybe he might remember that when he oversees the next round of redundancy notices to council workers, many of whom are on less than £25,000 a year.
Being shifted sideways to make way for Pollard is Simon Hoar, who our inside source says “was invisible to Croydon’s local business community”.
The business and regeneration portfolio is key, as it involves dealing with Laing, the developers in charge of the £450 million town centre development including the council’s flash new Hub HQ, as well as other builders and businesses, such as Nestle.
Although clearly highly rated by Fisher, Pollard can hardly be regarded as a safe pair of hands, as the recent mishandling of the transport contract for vulnerable disabled children have demonstrated.
Pollard held the regeneration job previously. It was on his watch that The Hub was secretively launched (why do they continue to deny the public and even elected councillors access to the full contract?), he enthusiastically espoused the misguided “bid” for city status, and he also played a role as Croydon Council lost its expensive appeal over planning for an earlier vanity project, the Gateway Arena (or whatever the doomed proposal at East Croydon was ultimately called).
If Pollard’s personal website is anything to go by, Croydon residents should not hold their breath if seeking some dynamic leadership. Since being given the children, young people and learners’ job in December 2008, Pollard has failed to update his own website. The “under reconstruction” signs have become a permanent feature. A compulsive blogger when in charge of regeneration, Croydon’s kids have not merited a single posting from Pollard in nearly three years.
This is made worse when one considers that Pollard and his wife operate a web design business, which provides the websites for the local Conservative Association and for Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central.
They may provide similar services to Richard Ottaway, the Croydon South MP, although this is unconfirmed, and Ottaway does not carry any information about this on his own site. What Ottaway does state, though, is that his website is “funded from Parliamentary allowances”. This is certainly what Barwell is doing; thus we have public money being used to support/help/fund prominent members of the local Conservative party. [UPDATE: click here for more on this topic – Gavin Barwell has corrected us, saying that his website is not paid for by public money]
Pollard’s very dated personal site (some of the pages have not had their straplines updated since he was last in charge of regeneration in 2008) is also not very helpful when it comes to providing information on the Sanderstead councillor’s busy public diary. Click on the link that the website and digital media professional provides us with, and you arrive here.
And while Pollard’s site carries a disclaimer, in very small print, stating that the views expressed on his (albeit dormant) site are his own and do not represent official council policy, every page carries a much larger Croydon Council logo (in the old logo fount). Some might regard that as deliberately misleading.
Croydon: Proud to Serve up the wrong man for the job
- Council’s £3.7m transport deal collapses over uninsured buses (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Oval parents sent round in circles over academy status (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- 21 Croydon councillors named as doubling up on parking perks (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Boris gets tough on expenses claims: will O’Connell be next? (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)