Newman’s front-bench team has Collins in charge of clean-up

Tony Newman, the new leader of Croydon Council, has announced his front-bench team following last Thursday’s Labour local election victory, with a line-up of mainly familiar faces after eight years in opposition.

Stuart Collins: gets a green and clean job

Stuart Collins: gets a green and clean job

The positions were determined by Newman following a meeting of his group on Friday, and the appointments made over the weekend. The Labour group will not be able to take up its work at the Town Hall until next Tuesday, June 3. “It gives Elvery plenty of time to allow the paper shredders to cool down before anyone from Labour can get in to check the books,” one senior council official suggested somewhat cynically.

The importance of delivering on Labour’s manifesto commitment to clean up the state of the borough’s streets is shown by the creation of a specific position of “Clean Green Croydon” which has been given to Stuart Collins, one of Newman’s two deputies, and someone who has done much work on the opposition to the Beddington Lane incinerator proposed by Sutton Council.

Some of the areas of responsibility are not entirely clear: for example, there are two cabinet positions described as covering “communities”. “We will be sending out further information to clarify areas of responsibility for each cabinet member shortly,” the councillors have been advised, with cabinet deputies expected to be announced today.

Alisa Flemming: promoted to cabinet

Alisa Flemming: promoted to cabinet

The only significant changes to the Labour team is the move of Kathy Bee from education to transport and environment, while Alisa Flemming, the Upper Norwood councillor with 10 years of experience as a case worker for Croydon North’s former MP, Malcolm Wicks, is promoted to the cabinet in charge of the children, families and education brief.

The cabinet sees Simon Hall with responsibility for trying to sort the council’s finances, which will include a forensic examination of the CCURV agreement with John Laing, the hard details of which the previous Tory administration has kept secret for more than five years.

Meanwhile Selhurst councillor Toni Letts continues to hold the key brief for economic development at the time of the £1billion Hammersfield development. This opens up new questions about possible conflicts of interest between those running the council and the land-owners at the centre of the scheme, since Councillor Letts also sits on the board of governors of the Whitgift Foundation, the majority owners of the Whitgift Centre, where she is joined by MP Gavin Barwell, and Tory councillors Dudley and Margaret Mead.

Toni Letts councillor page on the Croydon Council website, with no mention of her membership of the board of the Whitgift Foundation

Toni Letts’ councillor page on the Croydon Council website, with no mention of her membership of the board of the Whitgift Foundation

A recent Inside Croydon poll voted overwhelmingly in favour of Barwell resigning from his position on the Whitgift Foundation board while serving as Croydon Central’s MP.

Letts’ official councillor profile on the Croydon Council website, under “memberships of outside bodies”, omits to declare her position with Whitgift Foundation.

Notable absentees from the 10-strong gender-balanced cabinet are three experienced figures who were parliamentary candidates as recently as 2010: Jane Avis, who stood for Labour in Croydon South four years ago, and Gerry Ryan and Andrew Pelling, who were candidates in Croydon Central, Ryan for Labour, Pelling as a post-Conservative independent.

Ryan, who has recently been battling cancer, was re-elected last Thursday, and did not hold any cabinet responsibilities in opposition, while Pelling was elected as a Labour candidate for the first time in Waddon ward. Avis, though, had been the party’s spokeswoman on health and social care at the Town Hall, and she misses out as that portfolio appears to have gone to Louisa Woodley.

Under the councillor allowances system as operated by the previous Conservative regime, cabinet members can expect to receive more than £40,000 per year, up to the £53,000 per year that was paid to the former Council Leader, Mike Fisher.

“It’s now time to get on with the hard work of delivering our Ambitious for Croydon manifesto,” Newman said.

“I am proud to announce our cabinet members, who will be getting down to work immediately before formally taking office next week.”

Croydon cabinet appointments 2014

  • Tony Newman – Leader – Budget and Strategic policy
  • Alison Butler – Deputy leader – Homes and Communities
  • Stuart Collins – Deputy leader- Clean Green Croydon
  • Simon Hall – Finance and Treasury
  • Kathy Bee -Transport and Environment
  • Timothy Godfrey – Culture, Lesuire and Sport
  • Louisa Woodley – People and Communities (including adult social care)
  • Mark Watson – Safety and Justice
  • Toni Letts – Economic Development
  • Alisa Flemming- Children, Families and Education

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8 Responses to Newman’s front-bench team has Collins in charge of clean-up

  1. davidcallam says:

    The question of the CCURV will be an interesting one. As I understand it, a number of local authorities have entered into commercial deals in which they are required to keep the details confidential. And there are sanctions written into the agreement. If that is the case here, we may yet not be told how deep a money pit the Tories have dug for us. Certainly, the figures are likely to make grim reading.

    I think the choice of Toni Letts for Economic Development is a good one precisely because she is a governor of the Whitgift Foundation. I trust her to put her council commitments first. She will be a familiar face to the developers and able to ease the political transition for what will be the most important development in a generation for Croydon’s economy.

    • I am sorry but no-one however wonderful should be sitting on two bodies with competing interests.

      Croydon needs to start from day one in the new Administration looking and being completely clean and transparent.

      The electorate have lost confidence in politicians; it is essential that excellent behaviour in Governance happens at all levels, at all times in order to regain that confidence.

      • davidcallam says:

        Charlotte: I didn’t suggest Toni is wonderful, merely that I trust her. And there are no competing interests at the moment: the plans for redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre – as far as we know them – are good for the Whitgift Foundation and good for Croydon too.

        • The Whitgift Foundation has a significant property holding in central Croydon. It functions as a dominant economic landholder through its agent Stiles Harold Williams. The Council in a democracy is there to represent the interests of the electorate and to act as a balance in a very skewed market.

          The interests of the Whitgift Foundation are not the same as the Croydon electorate. The residents of Croydon have a wide range of needs some of which do not fit naturally with the development of a large retail space. Those interests need to be balanced properly, openly and transparently.

          There is huge lack of trust in Croydon about the closeness of the Council, The Whitgift Foundation and property developers. We need a new era where there are no conflicts of interest or any suggestion of such; but it is absolutely clear what role everyone is playing and precisely what they represent at all times.

        • Ah, the “what’s good for the Foundation is good for Croydon” paternalistic (and just a tad patronising) line familiar to anyone who has seen Gavin Barwell, MP for the Whitgift Foundation’s self-justification for not doing the right, transparent and honourable thing and resigning his position on the board of the trust.

          As well as the matter of ethics and accountability, there is also a flaw in the “What’s good for Whitgift…” argument when it comes to senior council appointments. If a development really is good for the whole of Croydon, then elected representatives of the people such as Councillor Toni Letts can judge that perfectly well from objective positions *outside* the Whitgift Foundation.

          That the likes of Barwell finds it so difficult to reconcile his position with what is ethically acceptable only serves to increase the suspicions about his motivation. It is to be hoped that Councillor Letts has no such difficulty.

  2. Interesting point David and you may be correct, particularly on certain commercial issues. However I have also been advised by a QC that a local authority cannot bind future administrations into agreements that they were not part to. Were it not to be the case then the democratic process could be frustrated. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  3. What do you mean by previous Conservative administration? The allowance system was introduced by the Labour administration and the Conservatives continued. My challenge to the present administration as I challenged the previous administration is to stop paying allowances and save the tax payer 1.6 million.

    Also to keep their promise the present adminstration should stop all projects which they opposed whether it is binding or not.

    What I don’t want to hear is the blame game from now on for the next four years. People have elected you and don’t let them down.

    Have the deputies been appointed?

    I hope inside Croydon will be busy in the next four years.

  4. Rod Davies says:

    The issue of Laing, CCURV, the former Cabinet and the Senior Management Team needs to be looked into as a matter of urgency.

    It is my understanding that part of the CCURV deal was to redevelop the Rees House site for social housing. Despite the benefits that Laing undoubtedly obtained from the deal, there seems to have been little or no progress in redeveloping the site.

    As for whether the council obtained value for money from Laing, that needs to be understand in the context of the market where developers were desperate for “copper-bottomed” projects to sustain their core teams while simultaneously abruptly withdrawing from major regeneration programmes across the region.

    If the senior officers were unaware of this market condition, then it raises the question of their fitness for the role. If they were aware of it, and yet recommended a deal to members that did not obtain the best value possible, then that must be a matter for investigation by external auditors.

    As for the choice of Cllr Letts as the Cabinet member for economic development, we should all understand that economic development is not exclusively land development (in fact land development does not generally produce a significant economic benefit for a community). The Hammerson / Westfield development is targeted at the high street chains and it is unlikely that many, if any, local entrepreneurs will become tenants. It may produce some employment.

    However, the role and status of the Whitgift Foundation in Croydon is so significant that any member of its board needs to be very careful not to confuse the interests of the community with the interests of the foundation. Simply being being a major landowner in Croydon, the Whitgift Foundation has a direct interest in obtaining the greatest return for the benefit of the recipients of its largesse as a charity.

    Additionally, the Whitgift Foundation, in the form of Trinity School, is a contractor to the council as supplier of the count venue.

    Cllr Letts must walk a very narrow path to ensure that she acts in the interests of the communities of Croydon, and does not expose herself and her Cabinet colleagues to the risk of accusations of corruption. There is also the relationship between Develop Croydon, whose membership seems almost wholly composed of land developers, and the council, where Cllr Letts needs to tread very carefully.

    It may indeed be appropriate for Cllr Newman, as leader, to initiate a comprehensive review of the relationship between the Whitgift Foundation and the town as a whole, and how the presence of the Whitgift Foundation may distort the way that public policy is developed and implemented. The Whitgift Foundation’s objectives, as stated in its charter, are supposed to be the education of poor boys of the town – given its wealth I find it hard to perceive how it is fulfilling that obligation.

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