Politics in Croydon may never be the same again.
Councillor Mario Creatura is giving up one of his publicly funded positions and “moving to pastures new”, according to the man whose bags he has been carrying for the past three years, Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell.
There’s good news, and then there’s bad news.
The MP’s parliamentary assistant announced to the world yesterday, “I’m going to join Heineken as their Public Affairs Manager.” Poor old Heineken, we can sense our loyal reader thinking.
But Creatura also added: “Will still be a Councillor!” Poor old Croydon, we sense everyone saying.
Having previously stood for election in Selhurst, and lost, Creatura was handed the cushy safe Tory council seat of Coulsdon West last year, adding around £12,000 in Town Hall “allowances” to the Commons salary of up to £43,272 he has been paid for working as one of Barwell’s six-strong staff.
Speculation about the departure from the MP’s office began when Barwell advertised the job vacancy yesterday morning, without specifying that the prime requirements of the post include being a Conservative councillor in Croydon (four of Barwell’s current six-strong publicly funded staff are) and an outrageous ability for sycophancy.
Creatura held what appeared to be for him a dream Westminster job for just over three years. He was widely seen to have been appointed more to promote the MP’s career and ensure Barwell’s re-election than to actively provide a public service to the people of the constituency. So it was a public subsidy for the Tory Party.
During Creatura’s time in the job, Barwell’s office was regularly accused of breaking MPs’ rules, including the misuse of the publicly funded parliamentary offices and privileges for party campaigning purposes.
Creatura was warned at least once about the amount of time he was spending, apparently during office hours, sending out party political messages on social media (something which was much curtailed after an official reproach). Most recently, Barwell was given another slap on the wrist this summer after he was found to have broken the rules over the use of his MP’s email address. Barwell escaped official sanction because he claimed the abuse was “an honest mistake”. The MP didn’t specify who it was who made it.
Creatura’s exact part in this is not known, although judging by the other occasions when the parliamentary assistant appeared in public or opened his mouth to the press – who can forget Creatura’s chortling with Boris as he stepped around a homeless person on a visit to central Croydon? – it seems likely that he had a ham-fisted hand in it.
During his time working for Barwell, Creatura’s efforts to launch a “youth movement” to support local Tories failed to attract much support, although it did manage to attract a police warning when some of his recruits started shouting racist abuse at passers-by. It seems unlikely that Creatura included this unsavoury episode in his CV to Heineken to secure his new post.
When “Project Change” petered out as a failure, Creatura turned his yoof recruitment efforts on Barwell’s behalf towards voter registration, with the assistance of a local knife crime charity. Around the same time, the charity coincidentally received a £10,000 grant from the then Tory-run council, while according to the charity’s founder, Creatura personally offered her a safe seat on the council.
But as Inside Croydon reported last month, when it came to doing the simple basics of his own parliamentary job, Creatura was found lacking. Creatura did not observe the strict rules of holding a public office even in respect of his own positions, failing to declare his role as a Croydon councillor in the latest Register of Interests of Members’ Secretaries and Research Assistants.
Nonetheless, Barwell appears to have depended on his gobby factotum increasingly, especially when it came to his Wikipedia entry. What has been called “the Mavin and Gario split” could impact Croydon’s corridor of power as hard as the break-up of One Direction.
It seems unlikely that Creatura has been dismissed for the various cock-ups that emanated from Barwell’s office while he was working there. But it is noted that the Heineken job was advertised with a June closing date – which suggests that Creatura was polishing up his CV during the General Election campaign. Barwell was indeed re-elected, but with a majority of just 165 votes.
So maybe Not-So-Super Mario expected to be signing-on on May 11?
- Inside Croydon Events: for dates and links to what’s happening in and around Croydon, updated daily, click here
Inside Croydon: Named among best regional media campaigns, 2014.
- Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 729,297 page views in 2014.
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org