Tony Newman, the Labour leader of Croydon Council, could face some angry party colleagues in the Town Hall chamber tonight if they are forced to vote through a borough honour for former councillor David Osland.
Osland, a Tory councillor for Coulsdon West for 20 years, was previously one of Scotland Yard’s most senior police officers. Osland’s role in the failed investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s brutal, racist murder in 1993 saw his evidence at an official inquiry characterised as “another example of institutional racism at work”.
Despite criticism from the McPherson Inquiry of his public remarks about the Lawrence family, Osland has never apologised publicly for his comments.
Tonight, at a special council meeting at the Town Hall, Osland is one of five former Tory councillors to be made an alderman of the borough, according to the formal council agenda, “in deserved recognition of long and valued public service”.
It seems likely that councillors will be presented with a fait accompli and be expected to vote in favour of the honours en bloc and by acclamation. Not even a show of hands.
But several Labour councillors spoken to by Inside Croydon since we revealed the honour intended for Osland last week have told us that they would like to have the opportunity of voting against handing such a public endorsement to the controversial former police chief.
“The honour’s not just for long service,” one said. “It’s supposed to be for valued public service, and there are significant questions arising about Osland’s public service.”
Tony Newman’s front bench team at the council includes several black or minority ethnic councillors who are among those uncomfortable or offended that a Labour-run council could even consider giving a civic honour to such a controversial and divisive figure.
“I have no intention of voting in favour of giving that man a borough honour,” one Labour councillor said, clearly annoyed that the situation has arisen.
“We’ve been put in an impossible position over this,” said another.
“Cabinet members and deputy cabinet members might be expected to vote with the party whip in favour of all the alderman appointments. If they vote against, they risk losing their cabinet appointment. But this is a matter of conscience, and of ethics. All councillors should be free to vote on Osland as their conscience dictates.”
A third Labour councillor was more cynical. “There’s no point in raising the matter,” they told Inside Croydon. “It won’t change anything.”
The decision to make Osland an alderman of the borough was taken in the secretive Part B section of a sub-committee meeting last month. Newman, as leader of the council, was slated to attend and chair the meeting, although he has informed Inside Croydon that he did neither. Of course, since the meeting was held in secret, that is not information that has been put into the public domain.
This is not the first time in the four months under Newman’s stewardship that a potentially controversial piece of council business has been pushed through “on the nod”, without any debate or open discussion.
Pegging councillors’ allowances to increases determined by London Councils went through without any discussion in the chamber by Labour or the Tories, and the appointment as council chief executive of Nathan Elvery, without the job ever being advertised or fulfilling the council’s own equality policies also went through without debate.
Of course, Newman may have one option available to him to demonstrate the open and transparent nature of the council’s business under Labour, and to underline his group’s more inclusive attitude to all the borough’s residents.
“Why can’t we be allowed to vote with our consciences tonight on each candidate in turn?” one Labour councillor suggested. “It could be that if the majority of councillors reject the aldermanship for Osland, we would send a very powerful message about the values that we really stand for.”
Coming to Croydon
- East Croydon community meeting, Oct 7
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- David Lean Cinema: Boyhood, Oct 9
- Upper Norwood Library meeting, Oct 13
- David Lean Cinema: Grand Central, Oct 14
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- David Lean Cinema: Finding Vivian Maier, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- Purley War Memorial Hospital health fair, Oct 18
- David Lean Cinema: Mood Indigo, Oct 23
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, 2.30pm, Oct 25
- David Lean Cinema: Ilo Ilo, Oct 28
- CODA’s Wind In The Willows, Charles Cryer, Carshalton, Oct 29-Nov 1
- David Lean Cinema: Belle, Oct 30
- NHS free health fair, Central Parade, New Addington, Oct 31
- St Giles School opening morning, Nov 5
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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