Three years on from #WadGate, the Town Hall allowances scandal which brought down the leader of the Croydon Conservatives, and Mike Fisher has not paid back a penny of the public money that he paid himself secretly in his final months in charge of the council.
Sources close to Fisher, a councillor for Shirley ward, confirm that nothing of the £10,000 secret payment has been returned to Croydon Council.
“Why would he?” the source has said. “It wasn’t anything illegal, was it?”
It was though, according to Fisher’s previously close party colleague, Gavin Barwell, “doubly wrong”.
Barwell, the MP for Croydon Central, forced Fisher to quit as leader of the Croydon Conservatives in September 2014, in an effort to save his own political skin from any associated scandal ahead of the 2015 parliamentary election.
Fisher, those close to him say, remains angry and bitter at Barwell for his part in his downfall*.
By the time Croydon Tories lost the last local elections in 2014, Fisher was trousering a grand total of £78,000 per year in tax-payer funded allowances from Croydon Council and the London fire authority, all topped up with a nice little 10-grand “bonus” that the sometime council leader decided to pay himself.
None of the payments Fisher received were illegal. But the secret £10,000 extra allowance was claimed by the then council leader even though he and the rest of Croydon’s Conservative councillors had said publicly that they would not claim a pay rise (that they awarded themselves).
It meant that on top of the £53,000 allowances as council leader, Fisher managed to claim an extra £10,000 on the quiet. He was also paid £15,250 per year in allowances from the London fire authority for attending no more than a handful of meetings each year.
In 2013, as a member of LFEPA, Fisher voted to close 12 fire stations around London, to remove 18 fire engines and to axe 520 firefighter jobs – all as a measure to save public money, at the behest of the then London Mayor, Boris Johnson.
Since being shamed over the secret payment, Fisher has had to cope with much reduced circumstances and make do with the basic £11,239 allowance which is paid to Croydon’s platoon of often under-employed back-bench councillors.
Fisher has refused to stand down as a councillor, as his political ambitions have hit the buffers.
A council inquiry into #WadGate, called by Labour leader Tony Newman in the aftermath of the scandal, was inconclusive and – perhaps conveniently – failed to report which senior members of the council staff knew about Fisher’s secret extra payments but did little if anything about it.
The discovery that Fisher has retained the £10,000 wedge will come as a renewed embarrassment to Barwell, as he again seeks re-election in Croydon Central at next month’s General Election on a platform that seeks to suggest that Tories can be trusted.
“There’s at least one Tory councillor who will be doing less than the bare minimum to help Barwell,” the source close to Fisher suggested.
The news also provides another opportunity to view the Fisher “downfall” video*.
- #WadGate: Questions that Barwell failed to answer
- #WadGate: Fisher forced to resign as Croydon Tory leader
- Tory leader Fisher is caught red-handed with £10,000 pay hike
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