Oh dear. Inside Croydon has annoyed one of our local MPs. Again.
Gavin Barwell, the Croydon Central MP, is upset because we reported yesterday that it seemed that he is channelling public money to another local Tory, Councillor Tim Pollard, the deputy leader of Croydon Council, who runs a natty little sideline as a website manager (as if he hasn’t got enough to do, mismanaging disabled children’s transport to school, and now looking after Croydon’s £450 million Hub development).
Inside Croydon is most apologetic. Of course, Barwell and the Croydon Conservative Association is doing nothing so shabby as channelling public money into party political coffers.
We already know that some of Barwell’s constituency expenses in the run-up to last year’s elections were paid by one of Britain’s biggest (legal) tax dodgers. Nonetheless Barwell failed to file required accounts on his election expenses.
[UPDATED MAY 21: Gavin Barwell has taken issue with some part of this article. We are happy to state that there is absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that Barwell has not properly declared any donations he has received, and apologise for any confusion created. More on this is posted here]
Before we address who is really bankrolling Barwell and other local Tories, let’s deal with the matter of who is paying Pollard, in addition to the 40-odd grand he already gets from the public purse as a cabinet member of Croydon’s ruling Tory group.
Boiled down, what we wrote yesterday was:
- Pollard does Barwell’s website. This Barwell confirms to be correct.
- Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway says he pays for his website from Parliamentary allowances.
- Therefore, Barwell, too, probably pays Pollard from public money.
Yes, we drew one conclusion too many there. We are happy to apologise for this. Sorry.
In a late night Tweet, the MP corrected us: “My website is not funded by the taxpayer. Why didn’t you check with me before publishing untruths?”
And: “Tim gets paid for it by Croydon Conservatives.”
We’re happy to put the record straight. Croydon Conservatives are paying the deputy leader of the Croydon Conservative group for running the website of Croydon Central’s MP.
So does that mean Barwell doesn’t ever use public money to pay other local Conservative politicians?
From the councillors’ declarations of interest, held on file at the Town Hall but – inexplicably in this digital era of openness and transparency – not available online, we see that two Croydon councillors admit that they work on Barwell’s parliamentary and constituency duties.
Eddy Arram, ward councillor for Ashburton, lists himself as a caseworker for Barwell. Sara “Book Token” Bashford, in addition to the £40,000-plus she gets as a council cabinet member, says that she works in the MP’s constituency office.
Now either these two prominent local Tories are being paid out of funds that Barwell receives as an MP, they are working as volunteers, or they may be funded through the political donations that Barwell receives.
In his most recent declaration of interests and donations registered at the House of Commons, Barwell submitted the following:
“Name of donor: Croydon Council Conservative Group
Address of donor: Town Hall, Katharine Street Croydon CR0 1NX
Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £40,344.
Donor status: council group
(Registered 7 June 2010)”
So Barwell’s old colleagues on Croydon Council, including his web mate Tim and his busy workers Eddy and Sara, are bunging him more than £40,000. Wonder where they get the money from? Couldn’t be out of their (publicly funded) council allowances now could it?
Funnily enough, Croydon’s Tory councillors are equally generous with the Croydon South MP, Richard Ottaway, who receives a similar wedge of money.
So that’s a total of more than £80,000 a year for the Tory MPs, funded by Mike Fisher’s merry band at the Town Hall. That works out at around £2,500 per Tory councillor. Could this have anything to do with the Conservative group’s keenness last year to vote through a massive hike for themselves in cabinet members’ allowances?
Of course, it is entirely possible that Croydon’s Conservative councillors are equally generous in their donations to the local Conservative Association. The same Conservative Association that Gavin Barwell says pays Tim Pollard for his work on the MP’s website. So Pollard is definitely not being paid with public money for his work on Barwell’s website. Not at all.
One source familiar with the workings of Croydon’s Tories has described the practice of councillors making donations to political causes from their generous public allowances as “a publicly funded secret political subsidy”.
According to the parliamentary records, other donors to Barwell (many of whom also write cheques for similar amounts for Ottaway) include Christopher Cleanthi (£6,000); Matthew Taylor (£4,000); Badsha Quadir (£2,655); Geoffrey Dove (he of the motor showrooms; £4,000); The Terrace Club, Chislehurst (#thatissoNOTcroydon, £2,500); Sunil Tandon (£2,351)
In all, a total of more than £60,000 in donations, all legitimately paid, and received by Barwell on top of his MP’s salary.
And the bulk of this cash is coming from Croydon councillors, including curry house owner Badsha Quadir, who our regular reader may remember also donates generously to the local Conservatives. This, of course, had nothing to do with a voluntary group run by Quadir escaping the Conservative-run council’s funding axe earlier this year.
Prior to being elected to parliament – by a very narrow majority – Barwell had worked for the former Conservative party treasurer and deputy chairman, “Lord” Ashcroft, the ADT billionaire who was forced last year to admit he had dodged millions in income tax (all done legally with the assistance of expensive accountants and tax lawyers) by parking himself in Belize.
“Lord” Ashcroft’s peerage remains a matter of some controversy. Assurances were given by William Hague when he was Conservative party leader that, to be a British peer of the realm, Ashcroft would need to spend some time in this realm, and pay some tax. But Ashcroft has failed to do this.
In 2004, Ashcroft gave the national Tory party £2 million. In 2006, he loaned the party £3.5 million.
Ashcroft also embarked on a policy of channelling his funds towards winnable, marginal seats, just like Croydon Central. Ashcroft’s money was used in those constituencies to pay for posters, leaflets and postage. And often to pay for the candidates to have cutting edge websites. And Barwell got Pollard to do his website.
So if Gavin Barwell’s website is not being paid out of his parliamentary allowances, nor from donations made to the local party association by Croydon councillors, then it might just be that some of that cash came from one of Britain’s most notorious (legal, of course) tax dodgers.
So that’s absolutely fine then. Glad to have put the record straight.
- Pollard back at the Hub of action after council reshuffle (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Why has CEO Rouse bunged public cash to private school? (insidecroydon.wordpress.com)
- Election spending: Gavin Barwell file (channel4.com)