Louisa Woodley, the Croydon Labour councillor who is standing against Steve O’Connell for Croydon and Sutton in May’s London Assembly elections, last night hit back at a smear campaign against her which some believe had been orchestrated by senior local Tories.
Last month, the ever-pliant Croydon Sadvertiser rushed to publish online a story that said that Woodley had been disqualified as a governor at Ryelands School for her failure to attend meetings.
With its reporter eager to “break” a story, the Sadvertiser‘s first version of the report appeared online before full-time teacher Woodley had been given a reasonable opportunity to comment on the allegations – in breach of the rules laid down by the Press Complaints Commission.
Woodley maintained that the matter was all an unfortunate misunderstanding, since the chairman of governors at the school had marked her down for absence from a meeting which she had never been advised was taking place. Only belatedly did the Sadvertiser amend its online story.
Yesterday, Norman Gooding, the chairman of the governors at Ryelands School in South Norwood, backed down and retracted Woodley’s suspension.
It represents an embarrassing about-face for Gooding, who may need to consider whether he should resign as chairman of governors for abusing his trusted position at the school for political ends in what appears to be a shabby little piece of politicking.
The Sadvertiser will also need to publish a grovelling apology, the local paper’s claimed objectivity on local matters once again being exposed as highly questionable.
It also raises serious questions about the role in the sorry affair of Tim Pollard, the Croydon Council cabinet member responsible for schools. Despite being approached by Inside Croydon for a comment, Pollard, the deputy leader of Croydon Council, did not respond.
Leading figures in the Croydon Labour party suspect that supporters of the very busy Steve O’Connell, Britain’s most overpaid local councillor, went out of their way to try to discredit Woodley ahead of the elections.
O’Connell has come in for a welter of criticism for his repeated failure to answer his Kenley residents’ correspondence, and for real absences from key votes at Croydon Town Hall and at City Hall – on one occasion skipping a vital meeting on the Beddington Lane incinerator to visit Selhurst Park to buy tickets for a football game.
Unlike O’Connell, who receives £115,000 per year in “allowances” from Croydon Council and the London Assembly, Woodley is not a full-time politician: she works as a teacher at a local school, and devotes her spare time to serve local residents as a councillor for Thornton Heath.
And unlike the ever-ambitious O’Connell, she has pledged that if elected to City Hall, she will stand down from Croydon Council to focus on one job.
Her statement issued last night said: “I received a letter from Norman Gooding, chair of Governors at Ryelands School today, who has confirmed that I remain as a Governor at the school.
“I am delighted that justice has finally prevailed, and I look forward to continue working in the best interests of the school and the pupils.
“Whatever mistake had been made by the chair of governors, I take a very dim view of the fact Councillor Pollard, as the Cabinet Member with responsibility for education, did not seek to rectify the situation, but was content to allow his colleagues to play party politics and thus bring reputation of the governing body and the school into disrepute.
“I would now like to concentrate on being a full member of the governing body of Ryelands Primary School.”
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
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