The position of the Mayor of Croydon risks being taken into disrepute, according to a formal complaint from six former borough mayors angered by Eddy Arram’s handling of Town Hall meetings.
The six former mayors have even hinted that if Mayor Arram does not amend his conduct, they will call for a vote of no confidence.
Arram was selected to be Mayor of Croydon for 2012-2013 by a joint committee of Conservative and Labour councillors 12 months ago. As a largely honorary position, the mayor has various ceremonial duties, but is also expected to act as the chairman for council meetings.
Since taking up the office earlier this year, Arram, a Conservative councillor for Ashburton ward, has been accused of being confrontational and partisan. In the letter, seen by Inside Croydon, the former mayors criticise Arram for:
- rudeness to members of the public and his fellow councillors
- being disrespectful of councillors, and therefore also of the position of mayor
- failing to protect members of the public from being abused by Tory councillors
- being partisan when he is supposed to be an impartial chairman of meetings
- failing to call councillors by their correct names
- deliberately refusing to call senior opposition councillors to comment on key debates
“It can be easy to slip into party political mode; showing favour to the Conservative councillors. We have been deeply disappointed at the partisan way, and at times, blatantly rude manner in which you have chaired meetings of the Full Council since you have become Mayor,” said the letter, signed by former mayors Jane Avis, Stuart Collins, Shafi Khan, Toni Letts, Maggie Mansell and Pat Ryan, all of them Labour councillors.
The warning letter to the mayor is unprecendented in Croydon civic history, and follows repeated complaints about Arram’s partisan style of chairing meetings.
As well as being a Conservative councillor, Arram also has a job as a constituency aide to Gavin Barwell, the Tory MP for Croydon Central, a position which has also been called into question since his appointment as mayor. UKIP’s local party has accused Arram of “hijacking” the office of mayor.
Arram’s pick and mix attitude to public duties has also been criticised. He has been seen to make party political remarks when attending events or using them for Conservative leaflets, breaking the understanding of the neutral role of Croydon’s first citizen.
At the weekend, he appeared as the official starter for a local road race sponsored by a luxury car dealership, one of a series of less onerous events he has attended. Yet earlier in his term, Arram caused the cancellation of the annual Civic Service staged at Croydon Minster, one of the main set-piece events of the mayoral year, apparently because he was too busy.
But the real flashpoints have come at full council meetings at the Town Hall which have been noticeably more fractious and less constructive since he took over the chair.
“Repeatedly getting the names of councillors from both sides of the Chamber wrong is only adding to the sense of disrespect you appear to have for both the office and your role as Chair of meetings of the Full Council,” his predecessors state in their letter.
“We would expect the mayor to protect public questioners from verbal abuse directed at them by councillors. Questioners sometimes need to set the context of their question. You allow Cabinet members to comment on past Labour policy or record rather than explain their own policies or answer the question that has been put to them.”
The letter also contained a thinly veiled warning of further action if Arram fails to amend his conduct to the expected standard of “a politically neutral, non-biased and non-aggressive approach”: “We will not tolerate further abuses of office from you.”
The only real option which the Labour group could resort to would be a vote of no confidence in the mayor, which his Conservative colleagues who hold the majority on the council would undoubtedly ensure that he would win. “But he’d be damaged goods,” one Town Hall insider suggested last night.
“His ability to carry out his mayoral duties impartially would be very difficult,” the source said.
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