Jamie Audsley, a deputy cabinet member and one of the councillors for Bensham Manor ward, has had the Labour Party whip at the Town Hall withdrawn, pending an investigation and hearing into his conduct following a “serious” complaint.
It means that Croydon’s Labour group, which had 40 councillors elected in 2014, is temporarily, at least, reduced to 38. It is almost exactly a year since Matthew Kyeremeh lost his Labour Party membership over his conduct towards his estranged wife. Kyeremeh remains a councillor for Thornton Heath ward, though when he takes his seat for council meetings, he does so as an independent.
Audsley’s suspension is not linked in any way to the Kyeremeh case, although Thornton Heath and Bensham Manor are neighbouring wards.
The matter is liable to be particularly embarrassing for the Croydon Labour leadership: one of Audsley’s co-councillors in Bensham Manor is Alison Butler, the group’s deputy leader and part of the Gang of Four councillors who dominate the group at the Town Hall.
Neither Audsley nor Newman, who once claimed he wanted to be the leader of the most open and transparent council in Croydon’s history, returned calls to Inside Croydon today.
Audsley was first elected to the council in 2014, and has been a high-energy figure with volunteer groups and community action in and around Thornton Heath. Audsley was swiftly favoured by Newman and promoted to be Mark Watson’s cabinet deputy for economic development and jobs.
The reason for the disciplinary action is not known, and the matter has been a closely guarded secret. Newman’s Labour group at the council had not even bothered advising their party colleagues in Croydon North Constituency Labour Party, which includes Bensham Manor.
The Oxford graduate, who taught at the then Addington High School for two years, now works as the “head of outreach” at an organisation called ShareAction, a body which says “exists to make investment a force for good”.
Audsley’s suspension was announced in an email to all Labour councillors yesterday from the group’s chief whip, Oliver Lewis. Without giving any reasons for the action, Lewis said that there had been a “serious complaint”, although while the matter was under investigation, the suspension, Lewis wrote, would not prejudice the case.
Audsley, with his close involvement with the Thornton Heath Community Action Group, has been subject of grumblings from other party members. There have also been complaints over the Labour group’s submission to the Boundary Commissioners’ review of ward boundaries, which some long-time Thornton Heath ward members have characterised as a political “land-grab” for the benefit of Bensham Manor councillors.
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