Mike #WadGate Fisher, and the rest of Croydon’s Tories, have at least another three weeks to wait for the outcome of the inquiry into how the former Conservative council leader managed secretly to claim an extra £11,000 in Town Hall allowances.
Fisher was forced to stand down as the Croydon Tories’ leader in September when he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar to top-up his council allowances of £53,223. His opportunistic opposite number Tony Newman opted to prolong the agony by setting up an “independent” inquiry, chaired by former headteacher Anne Smith.
Fisher’s been rarely seen at the Town Hall since his fall from grace. Losing the leadership completed a triple whammy for Fisher, who in the previous 12 months had failed even to get on the shortlist for the Tories’ parliamentary selection in Croydon South, and then presided over his party’s defeat in the local elections.
Newman seized upon Fisher’s greedy misjudgement to make as much political capital as he could. It is hard to know what else Smith’s inquiry might unearth. We already know that Fisher was not alone among senior Croydon Tories in considering his behind-closed-doors financial top-up scheme, since Steve O’Connell, the country’s most overpaid local councillor, plus the Tories’ Croydon North parliamentary candidate Vidhi Mohan and Fisher’s long-standing pal, Steve Hollands, were considering making similar claims.
Smith was due to report in November, but according to Newman at Wednesday’s scrutiny meeting, her inquiry has been delayed because it has been awaiting further information; so it is not just in dealing with Freedom of Information requests that Croydon Council is dilatory.
The political discomfort the report may cause the Tories is likely to be worse the closer it is released to May’s General Election, a thought which undoubtedly will have crossed Newman’s mind.
The full extent of Mohan’s involvement will do the Fairfield councillor no good in his (albeit doomed) parliamentary election efforts, and the money-grabbing scandal may also impact adversely on the re-election campaign in Croydon Central of Gavin Barwell. It was Barwell who held an urgent meeting with Fisher to persuade (or force?) him to stand down as Croydon Tory leader, to try to bring to an end to the drip-drip of damaging stories undermining his own political future.
But what could be very interesting in the final report will be whether it shows how much senior council officials, such as Borough Solicitor Julie Belvir and chief executive Nathan Elvery, knew about Fisher’s #WadGate scheme.
And perhaps that’s what explains the delay in delivering the report.
- #WadGate: Questions that Barwell has failed to answer
- #WadGate: Fisher forced to resign as Croydon Tory leader
- Tory leader Fisher is caught red-handed with £10,000 pay hike
Coming to Croydon
- David Lean Cinema, Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, Dec 29
- David Lean Cinema, The Beat Beneath My Feet, Dec 30
- David Lean Cinema, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Jan 3
- David Lean Cinema, Mr Turner, Jan 8
- David Lean Cinema, Leviathan, Jan 13
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, The 78 Project Movie, Jan 15
- David Lean Cinema, Hannah Arendt, Jan 20
- David Lean Cinema, The Imitation Game, Jan 22
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- David Lean Cinema, Night Will Fall, Jan 27 (Holocaust Memorial Day)
- David Lean Cinema, Kon-Tiki, Jan 29
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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