As the leader of Croydon Council, Mike Fisher, the Conservative councillor for Shirley ward, receives allowances of £53,223 per year, plus expenses and other benefits.
What does Fisher do for that generous payment from the public purse? Fisher refuses to say.
Like Croydon’s chief executive, Jon Rouse, who Fisher is supposed to manage (ha!), the council leader appears extraordinarily uncomfortable when it comes to being publicly accountable.
In a public question put at a Town Hall meeting last week, Fisher was asked to detail the number of hours he has spent on duty in his office and at committee and other meetings on council business. But the Tory group leader refused to answer.
Was it arrogance on Fisher’s behalf that saw him fail to provide the detailed timesheet required by the questioner? Instead of providing an answer, with the help of a salaried staff member at Taberner House, Fisher drafted a response that sought to patronise the resident by referring to the council constitution to explain that he, as a councillor, is not an employee.
No one suggested he was. But for £53,000 a year, there ought to be some degree of accountability. And as long as Fisher is an elected representative, he remains entirely accountable to the electorate, the people of Croydon.
Indeed, some suggest that for such a generous stipend, being the leader of Croydon Council really ought to be a full-on, full-time commitment for Fisher.
In his considered, evasive written answer, Fisher claimed that “in addition to being in my office as and when required on council business, a great deal of my time is also spent in meetings and events outside my office and the Town Hall”.
Very good, Mike: now answer the question and detail those hours that you spend in your office and on official business on behalf of the people of Croydon.
Or is it true that Fisher actually spends very little time in his office at the Town Hall? When calls are made to his office, embarrassed staff often have to make euphemistic excuses to explain his absence, along the lines of “Councillor Fisher does not come in on this day of the week”. The question now is: on what day of the week does Fisher come in to the office?
Or is he receiving public money to spend the bulk of his time performing party political duties for the local Conservative party?
And what of the widely held belief that Fisher has an agreement with the Tory group on the council that he never has to perform any duties at weekends. Can this really be true?
In that written question at the Town Hall, Fisher had a gilt-edged opportunity to kill, once and for all, any rumours circulating in Katharine Street that suggest that he is a time-server who happily banks his allowances but in fact does very little work on behalf of the people of Croydon.
Fisher ignored the chance to show how hard he works as council leader. Why?
As long as the people of Croydon pay for Fisher’s £53,000 allowances each year, it is a fundamental requirement that he should be entirely accountable and transparent about the hours that he spends in fulfilling his public duties.
Fisher’s answer said that as a councillor, he does not have “fixed hours of work”, but that he performs his “duties at all and sundry times”. So why was Fisher unable, as the Council Tax-payer had asked, to detail those hours that he spends on public business?
As the council leader, he would expect officials to work full-time for a full-time wage. Yet he seemed to be suggesting that he is able to swan in and out of work when he fancies it, and be answerable to no one.
What does Mike Fisher have to hide?
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