Tory councillor visits Barcelona instead of Town Hall meeting

WALTER CRONXITE reports on what may be the first casualty of the borough ward boundary changes due to be announced this summer

The time stamp on the Instagram account of James Thompson, on the left, shows his whereabouts when the latest council meetings was on

There will have been at least one Croydon councillor paying no attention whatsoever to the proceedings in the Town Hall chamber at the latest council meeting on Monday night.

That will be the Conservative councillor for Coulsdon East, James Thompson.

Because while his colleagues from the Croydon Tories were attending the council meeting, Thompson was pulling silly faces in Barcelona.

How do we know this?

Because young Tory Thompson posted a picture of himself on his Instagram account while the Town Hall meeting was underway.

So while his councillor colleagues were wrestling with the 1984-esque rulings of the council CEO on what might, and might not, be said in the chamber, Thompson was busy on social media posting, “What better way to spend your last night than pulling faces #Barcelona #goodbye #itsbeenfun #friends”.

But it seems that Thompson, who receives nearly £10,000 per year in “allowances” as a back bench Tory councillor, may be saying “goodbye” to all his council duties, soon, too.

With his ward likely to be reduced to a two-councillor status by the forthcoming boundary review, it seems that twentysomething Thompson may have already decided that he doesn’t fancy getting involved in a messy selection contest and will depart the stage and leave Coulsdon East to the more energetic septugenarian, Chris Wright, and that firebrand of local politics, Margaret Bird (Ed: Who she?).

Thompson’s been looking noticeably bored with his minor role as an opposition back-bencher, with few opportunities to make grandly eloquent speeches in the Town Hall chamber, while he has been burdened with the grind of handling casework from residents living in his ward.

Thompson has been getting around Europe quite a bit lately. Just not Croydon Town Hall

And though it seems likely that Thompson may not miss the grinding dullness of Town Hall duties, it seems that the councillor for the safe Tory ward is unlikely to be missed much by the council, either.

As well as being missing from this week’s meeting, Thompson also went AWOL from February’s, too. “Apologies were provided because he was going to turn up late,” one Katharine Street source tells Inside Croydon. Thing is, no one actually remembers seeing Thompson at the meeting.

Clever that: get the apology for lateness minuted so that you’re listed as attending, but then miss possibly the most important vote of the council year, on the 2017-2018 Council Tax.

“In the end, I don’t remember him turning up at all,” said our source, whose version of events tally with other Town Hall figures we have spoken with. Certainly, the official council minutes show no record of Thompson voting or speaking at that meeting.

Perhaps Thompson had not got over the excitement of his cultural visit to Paris a fortnight earlier, also lovingly recorded by him on Instagram.

There is no suggestion whatsoever that Thompson has been having “a blast” around some of Europe’s finest cities, all paid for out of his council allowances, since he also has a job working in human resources project management.

But even in his first year as a councillor, after being elected in May 2014, Thompson’s attendance record hardly impressed, as he was absent or gave apologies at seven of 24 meetings he was due to attend – missing 29 per cent between May 2014 and November 2015. The council website has not been updated with more recent councillor attendance records for 2016.

Thompson’s apparent contempt for the business of the council might have been influenced by the chief executive, Jo Negrini, who despite being on a salary of £185,000-plus was far too busy to bother turning up for one council meeting earlier this year.

Negrini had a convention to attend where she collected an honorary fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Clearly a much more important event for Negrini than serving the interests of the Croydon residents who pay her handsome salary.

His likely departure from the front line of local politics in Croydon means that Thompson is unlikely ever to get the chance to apply one of his suggested reforms of the Town Hall meetings he now so rarely attends: the Coulsdon East ward councillor actually suggested that he wanted to put a stop to ward councillors speaking at council meetings on ward matters.

Some have suggested that Thompson had already achieved that, just by not bothering to show up.

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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
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