Accountability? Not from Kenley’s £115,000pa councillor

Steve O'Connell: £115,000 per year in public money, but unable to answer a straight question

Inside Croydon has referred recently to how Steve O’Connell, councillor for Kenley ward and London Assembly member for Croydon and Sutton who trousers around £115,000 per year of public cash for his various roles, has walked out on debates about cyclists’ deaths in road accidents, or has skipped vital Town Hall meetings in order to go and buy tickets for a football match.

Now information reaches us that Britain’s most over-paid local councillor is to be subject of a formal complaint to his Conservative party bosses after failing to answer matters of serious concern to local residents.

O’Connell is nothing if not busy. It is just a matter of at whose expense, and on the behalf of whom.

As if O’Connell does not already have enough onerous responsibilities, he recently took on an additional job with Sutton Conservatives. “We expect him also to support us in formulating initiatives and responses to Sutton and national issues and to present an alternative voice to the LibDem orthodoxy that has so let down our borough’’, according to the Sutton Tories.

So while being paid £115,000 per year as a Croydon council cabinet member and London Assembly member, O’Connell is pursuing his personal parliamentary ambitions (“Clearly I have always had an aspiration to attend my constituents at the highest level,” O’Connell said last year).

Just yesterday, after a brief session at City Hall, O’Connell was at an election photo stunt with his mate, Boris, in Bermondsey, and with the Tory candidate for a ward election in Worcester Park, before attending a Conservative party fund-raiser in a Turkish restaurant in Ashburton (“fine veggie Mousaka”, the ever-busy O’Connell noted).

What did these all have in common? Yep: none of those engagements were conducted in O’Connell’s Kenley ward. No chance he’s taken their votes for granted, is there?

In the past, campaigners in Kenley have described the £115,000 man as remote and “worse than useless” when it came to representing their interests.

With all those jobs, O’Connell’s probably just too busy to proof read properly his own website (currently offline for maintenance). Either that, or he’s making a serious allegation of the police offering bribes on Croydon’s trams: “O’Connell gets Mayor to look at police presents [sic] on Tram Link”.

He is certainly far too busy to answer important questions from residents in his own ward of Kenley. Now Council Tax-payer Paul Williams is to file a formal complaint to the chairman of the Conservative party because he feels O’Connell has failed to respond properly to a letter sent to him six weeks ago.

All smiles: O'Connell with Waddon councillor Clare Hilley and Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell. Despite an election pledge against building an incinerator, on Monday O'Connell and Hilley both voted for the Beddington Lane scheme to go ahead

Williams says, “On 20 December 2011, I wrote to my Croydon/MLA ‘representative’ Steve O’Connell asking him “…where you stand on the issue of a building a new incinerator in or in the vicinity of Croydon and Sutton. In replying to this question, I should be grateful if you could respond to two specific points:

” (i) you (and your colleagues in the Croydon Conservative party) categorically denied that you were planning to build an incinerator in or near Croydon. It does not appear that this is true. What has changed?

” (ii) the reason for your absence when the issue of the incinerator was discussed in the Croydon council cabinet (of which you are a full member) in November. Why did you miss such an important discussion?”

O’Connell did reply. But according to Williams, he deliberately failed to answer the two pointed questions. “The plans and details of the project are not yet known. When they become public I, amongst many others, will be in a position to form an opinion,” O’Connell wrote to Williams in December.

Of course, had he bothered to attend November’s Croydon council meeting, O’Connell would have been taken into a secret meeting with Mike Fisher’s top team to view the incinerator plans.

What was so important that O’Connell failed to attend the Town Hall meeting, for which he receives around £45,000 per year? Well, as Britain’s most overpaid local councillor has admitted, he was at Selhurst Park, buying tickets for a football match.

Williams complains of O’Connell’s “shocking arrogance” in trying to fob him off with this response, by claiming to be entirely ignorant of the details of one of the major local issues in Croydon and Sutton – from someone who is very well paid supposedly to be a full-time, professional politician.

Some might see O’Connell’s  inadequate response as an admission of his own incompetence, of failing to be properly briefed on a vital local issue.

Williams is fuming that O’Connell has refused to answer his questions and failed to represent the views of him and other Kenley residents. “When I pointed out that this was not a reply to my very specific questions and, as a constituent, I was owed a proper reply, the line went dead and he has still not replied,” Williams said.

“This is shabby treatment. It is the first time I have written to him and it is clear that he has no respect for voters,” Williams said.

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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
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1 Response to Accountability? Not from Kenley’s £115,000pa councillor

  1. firegut says:

    It would be interesting to see a list of work carried out by O’Connell in the interests of Kenley residents in the past 12 months.

    Just an actual, tangible illustration of what he has done to serve constituents, cases where he has taken people’s views into account.

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