Council Question Time: exercise in undisguised contempt

Phil Thomas: Town Hall Question Time showed the councillor demonstrating his contempt for accountability. Again

If there is any remaining doubt that the people running Croydon Councilhave little if any regard for their public accountability or for the principles of transparency, or that they believe that “consultation” is merely a process to which they only have to pay lip service, and that they hold Council Tax-payers with barely disguised contempt, then please take a look at a couple of extracts from last week’s council meeting at the Town Hall.

There were nine questions put in writing by members of the public, all due to be answered by senior members of Croydon’s Tory-controlled “cabinet”. Just 15 minutes each month is given to what ought to be an essential session. It is worth noting that as well as being elected councillors, the cabinet members who are expected to answer these questions are now public servants who each receive more than £40,000 per year of Council Tax-payers’ money in “allowances”.

One member of the public, Andrew Rendle (who occasionally contributes to Inside Croydon), made the following statement-cum-question, directed at the leader of the ruling Conservatives, Our Brave Leader Mike Fisher.

This is within a month of Fisher holding a secret huddle of his most trusted councillors to rubber stamp the breaking of Croydon Tories’ election promise not to allow a £1 billion waste incinerator to be built “in or near” the borough. Without any proper debate. Without any real discussion. And totally lacking any transparency.

“Recently,” Rendle’s question began, “democracy has not just taken a back seat but been locked in the boot. To improve our politics will Councillor Fisher place motions for debate near the top of the agenda? Never again must free debate be cancelled in favour of planted questions, rambling non-answers or dubious legal arguments.”

This was the answer which Fisher provided to someone who is, after all, paying his wages allowances:

“I thank Mr Rendle and immediately have to say that I do not recognise the meetings described in this question. The democratic system operated in local government requires that a constitution is adopted by the Full Council and for the constitution to dictate the order of business on a Council agenda.

“The Croydon Council constitution dictates where ‘motions for debate’ appear on the agenda (item 15). That constitution also allows for a motion to be moved at any time to change the order of business. The order of business will then be varied only if the Members of the Council agree.

“It is not in my hands to decide where debate motions appear on the agenda.”

So there you have it: the leader of Croydon Council says he has no influence whatsoever to determine how the business of the council is run.

One of the other questions came from Shasha Khan, a prominent local Green, which was put to Phil “Two Permits” Thomas, who is supposed to be in charge of environment matters in the borough.

“When asked to comment on plans to build an incinerator on the border of Sutton and Croydon,” Khan’s question said, “the leader of the Conservative opposition group on Sutton Council recently said, ‘We have grave concerns about the Beddington facility.’ What does he mean when says ‘grave concerns’?

And this was the considered response provided, at some time and expense for Town Hall workers, by someone who is supposed to be a public servant who tops up his teacher’s salary with £40,000-plus in Croydon Council “allowances”:

“I would suggest that Mr Khan write to the leader of the Conservative opposition group on Sutton Council asking him why he is quoted saying what he did. When he has got his answer perhaps he could update me?”

Accountable? Transparent? Democratic?

Or just simply contemptuous?

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Croydon Council, Croydon Greens, Environment, Mike Fisher, Phil Thomas, Waste incinerator. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Council Question Time: exercise in undisguised contempt

  1. Contemptuous and insolent.

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