Assembly Member’s lunch at the Hilton excludes smaller firms

Steve O’Connell, the very well-paid London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton, clearly has no belief in the old adage that “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”.

Steve O'Connell: cushty

Tory Assembly Member Steve O’Connell: influential speaker at Hilton lunch

The elected representative is the star turn at a local business forum’s event at Croydon’s Hilton Hotel next month, where tickets cost a mere £68. The food better be good, because the company…

The “Executive Club Lunch” organised by the Croydon Chamber of Commerce offers as their guest O’Connell who, they say, has “a wealth of experience and connections in Croydon”. The implication of buying influence seems pretty clear.

Stressing that O’Connell sits on the Greater London Assembly, the organisers say that their Executive Club Lunch provides an opportunity to hear the Conservative AM’s “views, priorities for Croydon and Sutton and working with the new Mayor of London”. Members of the local Chamber of Commerce can get their lunch tickets for a mere £44 (including business deductible VAT, of course).

Yet access to the AM, who is also a councillor for Kenley ward, should be available to all residents for nothing more than the cost of sending an email or making a phone call to his office.

O’Connell, a mortgage salesman before he became a full-time local politician, trousers £17,986 in councillor allowances from Croydon, despite having had one of the worst attendance records for official meetings at the Town Hall.

As an Assembly Member, O’Connell also receives a salary of £55,161 per year from City Hall.

That total of £73,000 per year for being a local representative is a big drop in income since the heady days of 2011, when he was receiving £118,000 from various public bodies, enabling O’Connell to be decried by the Daily Mail as “Britain’s most over-paid local councillor”.

“I’m worth it,” Tory O’Connell maintained then, a tad arrogantly.

The Croydon Chamber of Commerce lunch which is pimping out the "influence" of Steve O'Connell for £68 a ticket

The Croydon Chamber of Commerce lunch which is pimping out the “influence” of Steve O’Connell for £68 a ticket

O’Connell, who was first elected to City Hall in 2008 and was re-elected last May, has declared only a couple of “free lunches” in his time as an AM over the past few years, although he happily accepts plenty of free tickets to watch Crystal Palace play football.

Among other gifts that O’Connell has accepted in the past were match tickets to see Croydon Athletic, given to him by the club’s then owner, Mazhar Majeed, who in unconnected events was subsequently jailed for his part in the Pakistan-England cricket Test match fixing scandal. Majeed either particularly enjoyed O’Connell’s company, or, perhaps as a property developer, possibly thought that the AM might be able to assist his business.

On this occasion, there’s no suggestion that O’Connell is being paid for attending the Chamber of Commerce lunch, although he may need to declare his meal as a “pecuniary interest” under City Hall’s strict Code of Conduct.

But some smaller local businesses, too busy to take time out of the working week to spend hours smooching over chilled Chablis off the Purley Way, are angry at the manner in which the Tory Assembly Member has allowed his potential influence in the corridors of power to be hawked around.

With so much development going on in Croydon, multi-national firms are eager to find whatever advantage they can through connections with those in positions of influence. And they have hefty budgets to help them do so.

A convivial get-together of local businesses, or selling influence with a local politician?

A convivial get-together of local businesses, or selling influence with a local politician?

But that’s not the case for many of Croydon’s hard-working businesses. “I can’t afford to pay nearly 70 quid for lunch for the chance to meet Steve O’Connell,” said one Croydon trader angered by the Chamber of Commerce’s use of the Assembly Member as a guest.

“We’re a small firm, working all hours, and we can’t shell out a spare £300 for membership of the Chamber of Commerce, either.

“Our representatives are elected to serve all the people, not just those who can afford to buy influence. We have massive issues with the way our business is being treated by the local council, but we struggle to get heard.

“And then we see something like this Chamber of Commerce lunch – it all smacks of the old boys’ network. It’s not what you know, nor how hard you work – it’s who you know that’s important. It seems almost Masonic.”

Anyone wishing to lobby Steve O’Connell as their London Assembly Member, and for much less than £68 (including VAT), can email him at steve.o’connell@london.gov.uk, or phone his office at City Hall on 020 7983 4405.

And please do let us know how you get on: Inside Croydon is fascinated to find out whether Steve O’Connell really is “worth it”. Our email address is below…


 

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2016 London elections, 2018 council elections, Business, Croydon Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kenley, Planning, Steve O'Connell and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Assembly Member’s lunch at the Hilton excludes smaller firms

  1. Rod Davies says:

    In my experience Croydon has always tended to favour elitism in local business representation that ensured that the established businesses had a greater say over support for business than the plethora of less well established businesses. It also tended to introspection and self-aggrandisement and so while other boroughs have banded together recognising that the boundaries are meaningless to entrepreneurs, Croydon has steadfastly maintained separateness.
    The consequence of this can be seen on Croydon’s streets. Croydon is the hub in outer south London and should have offices packed full of vibrant businesses. Yet there is so much commercial space sitting vacant. It should also be a place where new entrepreneurs should be clustering to and creating lots of new jobs. Many of these new entrepreneurs will be from the new arrivals from around the globe. Yet BAME enterprises don’t feature heavily in Crodyon’s “success story” marketing.
    In my opinion the dominance of the old established elite smothers Croydon’s capacity to develop and exploit opportunity. Croydon has all the talent it needs to be a booming, reasonably high wage economy. This event is just another example of the old guard looking after their own.
    My suggestion for those businesses that are or feel excluded from this event and from Croydon Chamber of Commerce is that they get together using social media and set up their own virtual chamber of commerce, and use social media to really make their presence felt.

    Like

  2. derekthrower says:

    Blimey that is a lot of money to just stare into space.

    Like

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