Confusion and suspicion surround Bensham Manor councillor Jamie Audsley’s status within the Labour group at Croydon Town Hall, after his suspension from the ruling party’s whip over a disciplinary matter was dropped within 24 hours of its being announced.Sources within Croydon Labour suggest that the suspension, which was notified to the party’s councillors in midweek by group chief whip Oliver Lewis, had to be quickly withdrawn because the correct procedures and rules had not been followed. The investigation into the complaint regarding Audsley’s conduct which prompted the action will, in the meantime, still take place while the councillor is restored to the party whip.
“It’s all a bit of a mess really,” was the view of one Katharine Street source. “He may not be suspended any longer, but they have left him dangling. If you’re going to take this sort of action, and announce it to dozens of people, you really do need to make sure you do everything by the book. And that hasn’t happened.”
Neither Audsley nor council leader Tony Newman has confirmed the nature of the complaint which prompted the abortive suspension, but one party officer told Inside Croydon that they felt that the complaint which had been made “is all nonsense”.
“I know Jamie well, and I’ll be speaking up on his behalf,” they said.
Another suggested that the situation was the result of continued factional in-fighting within the Croydon Labour Party, where the leadership is seeking to clamp down on any dissent.
On Thursday evening, Audsley was at the Town Hall for a meeting of the planning committee, of which he is a member.
Planning matters, supposedly, are not “whipped” along political lines, but notably, while all other planning committee members, Labour and Tory, voted in favour of a multi-million-pound school build alongside one of London’s most polluted roads, the A232 Croydon Flyover, Audsley followed his conscience and opted to abstain.
Audsley was first elected to the council in 2014, and has been a high-energy figure with volunteer groups in and around Thornton Heath. Before his brief suspension, Oxford graduate and former teacher Audsley had been swiftly promoted to be council cabinet deputy for economic development and jobs, working with Mark Watson, another member of Newman’s “Gang of Four” which controls Croydon’s Labour group.The complaint, suspension and then the lifting of the suspension just 24 hours later is undoubtedly awkward and embarrassing for Newman, and comes at a difficult time politically.
Next week, the Boundary Commissioners are due to publish their recommendations for re-drawing the borough’s ward boundaries ahead of the 2018 local elections. This is expected to create some new wards and prompt a round of selections and re-selections of councillors and candidates for election.
The boundaries around Audsley’s Bensham Manor ward and Thornton Heath have already been a matter for some dispute (although sources state that the Audsley suspension/non-suspension is not related).
Nonetheless, being suspended from the party whip, or at least subject to a disciplinary review process with a candidate selection process imminent, may not be helpful for someone’s political ambitions.
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