Croydon can rest easy: there is only one Jason Perry (and no, this is not suggested as a new chant from the Holmesdale End, “One Jason Perry, there’s only one…”).
Inside Croydon’s loyal reader points out that, if you dig deeply enough into the impenetrable Croydon Council website, you can find a declaration of interests that proves that Croham councillor Jason Perry is the Jason Perry who appeared on BBC London News last Friday as the director of a local firm of builders’ suppliers.
They are indeed one and the same person.
The declaration is more than 18 months old. It also shows that Jason Perry’s partner has a pecuniary interest in the prosperity of Carlton Building Plastics, the “family business” which offers “service with a smile”.
This official council document shows that florid-faced Mike Fisher, the leader of the Conservative group that runs Croydon Council, knew perfectly well that Perry has financial interests in the local building trade when he appointed him as his cabinet member for planning, regeneration and transport.
And it proves that Fisher and his Tory group were also well aware that Perry’s line of work involves selling supplies to local builders when they appointed him as vice-chairman of Croydon Council’s planning committee and the strategic planning committee.
Have none of them ever heard of Caesar’s wife? Did it never occur to anyone, Perry or his political bosses, that placing him in a position to determine planning issues when potentially dealing with planning applicants among his own business’s customers could compromise him utterly?
Had none of them bothered to read Croydon Council’s own code of conduct?
The code of conduct for councillors begins: “…you shall have regard to selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership and undertake to observe this code…”
The code continues: “You must act solely in the public interest and should never improperly confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person or act to gain financial or other material benefits for yourself, your family, a friend or close associate.”
The code also states: “You must not place yourself under a financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence you in the performance of your official duties.”
Any reasonable person might think it need not be stated, but the council’s code of conduct goes on to say, “When carrying out your public duties you must make all choices, such as making public appointments, determining applications, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards or benefits, on merit.”
And after a couple of further clauses that outline how it might be reasonable to expect anyone to act properly, the code states: “You must declare any private interests, both pecuniary and non- pecuniary, which relate to your public duties and must take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.”
Perry has behaved entirely properly in declaring his business interests as required under the code. Nor are we suggesting that he has never sought, nor gained, any personal financial advantage from his various positions within the council.
But that is to miss the point. He should never have put himself into a position, or been placed in such a position, where such a possibility could have arisen. The code of conduct says as much: councillors “must take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest” (our italics). Surely, appropriate steps would have been in the first instance to decline any position on the planning committees, or any cabinet post that may have a possible cross-over with his business interests?
Of course, Perry is far from alone on Croydon’s Tory-run council when it comes to flawed judgement and possible conflicts between public office and private interests.
As Inside Croydon reported exclusively, the council’s (interim) CEO Nathan Elvery managed to set up a consultancy business that traded on his “expertise” while he still banked his £150,000 annual salary. Dudley Mead, the deputy leader of the council, and his wife Councillor Margaret Mead, collect £90,000 a year in council allowances while busying themselves around a nexus of local arts and charity boards, while some of the same bodies receive council grants.
And this is not the first time that Fisher has managed to appoint to the planning committees a councillor with a day job working hand-in-safety glove with the building industry: Waddon’s here-today-gone-tomorrow Clare Hilley was forced to stand down from both planning committees after Inside Croydon highlighted that she worked for a firm of PRs whose client list included Barratt house-builders.
On Mike Fisher’s Conservative council, it is as if the public outrage over self-serving elected officials through the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal never happened.
There are many members of the public who vote Conservative who are outraged by the sight of their elected representatives jumping aboard the gravy train. In the past week, two constituency Tory parties have de-selected their MPs out of dissatisfaction over their conduct.
Today, it was Tim Yeo’s turn to have his political career guillotined (although, like Croydon South’s “Sir” Tricky Dicky Ottaway, when he is forced to go in 2015, Yeo will collect a juicy separation payment and be put on a generous publicly funded pension).
Nearly two years ago, Iain Dale, the widely read Tory blogger, dug out Yeo’s parliamentary declaration of interests. As in the case of Croydon councillor Perry, Yeo’s declaration was all done correctly. But that didn’t make it right.
Dale reckoned that Yeo was milking his status as an MP to trouser at least £90,000 a year in consultancies, mostly from green energy firms. Yeo just happened to have a responsibility within government for green energy…
“To be fair to Mr Yeo, and I like to be, as you know,” Dale wrote at that time, “he fully declares all his outside earnings and he was elected as chairman of this committee when his colleagues knew full well what his outside interests were.
“But I am afraid it still stinks…
“Yeo has done nothing wrong. Under the rules he is perfectly within his rights to do this.
“But it seems to be a massive error of judgement on his part to think that he can both take the money and remain as chairman of this committee. And let’s not forget, he gets an extra sum from the taxpayer for chairing the committee too!”
There is a parallel in Croydon in the case of Perry, who gets an increased allowance because of his responsibilities in Fisher’s cabinet. On top of whatever Perry pays himself as a director of Carlton Building Plastics, Councillor Perry has pocketed nearly £173,000 in council allowances in the last four years alone.
How did Dale headline his article about Tim Yeo? “The unacceptable face of Conservatism”.
- Did CEO Elvery break council code over his private company?
- Council’s Mr & Mrs act that defies proper declarations
- Investigation called for over councillor’s planning interests
- Perry’s double life as building supplier and planning official
Coming to Croydon
- Babylon at the Spread Eagle Theatre, Feb 4-6
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Purley Swimathon: Feb 8 and 13
- Mark Steel at Ashcroft Theatre, Feb 12
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Feb 20
- Mr Pooter comes to Croydon, Feb 20-22
- Stop the Incinerator fund-raiser, Feb 24
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
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