The disrespectful and impatient move by three UKIP members to demand a Town Hall by-election in Selhurst ward could cost the Council Tax-payers of Croydon up to £20,000.
As exclusively revealed earlier this week by Inside Croydon, UKIP members Emmanuel Ehirim, Peter Morgan and Janet Stollery formally applied to the council to stage the by-election, following the death of the widely respected Labour councillor Gerry Ryan earlier this month.
The UKIP trio failed to follow the widely understood convention and usual common decencies shown in such situations, which demand that out of respect for those grieving, there is no political activity, including moving for a by-election, at least until after the funeral has been held.
The council has now had no option but to act, and the Selhurst by-election will be staged on Thursday, March 5, with the political parties having until next Friday to nominate their candidates.
“With the General Election coming up, it’s a by-election that no sensible party wants, nor needs,” one senior local political activist told Inside Croydon. “It is entirely disrespectful to the late councillor and his grieving family.”
The controversy over the move to call the by-election has seen one of the disrespectful trio, Old Coulsdon resident Janet Stollery, hand in her resignation from UKIP following Inside Croydon’s report. So maybe they are not all entirely shameless.
“Most annoying is that the whole by-election is entirely unnecessary,” said our Katharine Street source.
“No one in the ward is going unrepresented, because there’s other elected councillors there. If Labour’s two other Selhurst councillors are capable to dealing with the ward casework between them for a couple of months, then it would have been possible to wait and elect a new councillor for Selhurst on the same day as the General Election in May, saving us all a lot of time, trouble and money.
“But now, what with the various costs of hiring halls, administration, printing and staffing, Croydon Council’s going to have to spend an extra £20,000 for a few hundred electors to return a new Labour councillor,” said our source, who it is worth noting is not a Labour Party member, but clearly a keen political judge.
The estimated costs of staging a one-off by-election in a single ward vary, depending on the geographical size of the ward and potential number of voters.
Across the country, estimates range from £12,000 up to £24,000, confirming the judgement of our Town Hall source.
But when staged in isolation, council ward by-elections are notorious for having very small turn-outs, making the cost of staging all the more expensive for Council Tax-payers.
In May last year for the Croydon Council elections, just 3,705 people voted in Selhurst, from a total electorate of 11,974. Ryan and the two other elected Labour candidates, Timothy Godfrey and Toni Letts, all got more than 50 per cent of the vote. UKIP’s two candidates, combined, got fewer than 1,000 votes between them.
Until recently, Coulsdon resident Morgan had been a member of both UKIP and the Conservative parties. Croydon Tories were due to investigate his membership status, since their party rules forbid membership of another political party.
Morgan has also got himself suspended by UKIP for being “a disruptive influence”.
He contacted Inside Croydon, to try to justify his conduct in hurriedly demanding the Selhurst by-election, something which has been widely condemned, even by members of UKIP.
From Morgan’s own account, it appears that ignorance can be added to the growing list of his and his colleagues’ short-comings.
“I acted as a local government elector in Croydon, and not on behalf of any political party,” Morgan said.
“I phoned the council, and was told that no one had called the by-election as yet, and that I should send an email if I wanted to do so. There was no suggestion that I should wait for Councillor Gerry Ryan’s funeral.
“The passing away of Gerry Ryan was announced 10 days before I emailed. I have seen and could find no announcement of when his funeral was or would be.
“There is a saying, ‘the king is dead long live the king’,” said Morgan.
“It occurred to me that Labour might not call the by-election until May. As a democrat, I believe we should have the by-election as soon as is reasonably possible. Indeed, the council is under a legal duty to announce a Notice of Vacancy as soon as they hear of a councillor death.”
Morgan claims that his colleague, Ehirim, is among those who is seeking selection by UKIP to stand as a candidate in Selhurst. “I understand he is anxious to contest the election and challenge Labour as soon as possible,” Morgan said, showing a vast capacity for missing the point altogether.
UKIP are due to stage their selection meeting from 8pm on Monday, February 2, at the Khyber restaurant in South Croydon.
There, it should be confirmed there whether Winston McKenzie, the now former chairman of UKIP’s Croydon North and Lambeth branch – which has itself been suspended by the national party – has put himself forward for selection as a candidate.
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