Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on the Croydon councillor who has risen without trace
Anyone who aspires to this country being run by anything that might resemble a meritocracy may be saddened to learn that the “politically restricted” job which Croydon councillor Sara Bashford has just landed is in the high-powered Cabinet Office.
This appointment represents a meteoric rise for the sometime teaching assistant, and comes just three months after Gavin Barwell somehow wangled the job of chief of staff to the interim Prime Minister, Theresa May.
The two Downing Street appointments may not be coincidental.
Until June, Bashford had a job working as a constituency office assistant in Croydon Central for Tory MP Barwell. There, her onerous duties included answering the telephone, counting paper clips and handing out free T-shirts. She may have also done some of the MP’s casework for him.
But when Barwell lost his seat in Parliament at the General Election, Bashford lost her job.
Bashford will have been on a public service salary of around £30,000 in that role. She has also been trousering another £20,000 per year in her role as a Conservative councillor for Selsdon and Ballards ward and as deputy leader of the Tory group on the council.
It was once asked of Jeffrey Archer, “Is there no beginning to your talents?” Questions about Bashford’s abilities were often raised in Croydon when the Tories had control of the council. When Bashford was the Tory councillor in charge of libraries, she seriously suggested that much money could be saved by closing the borough’s public libraries and instead providing Council Tax-payers with… a book token. She was soon relieved of that job.
The news of “Book Token” Bashford’s latest new job emerged this week, when the Croydon Conservatives announced candidates for next May’s Town Hall elections, and her name was not on the list.
Formally, she has resigned the Conservative whip, which has two effects: first, it avoids a pointless and costly by-election in her ward just months before the borough-wide local elections in May; and second, it allows her to continue to bank about £1,000 per month in allowances from Croydon Council as a sitting, “independent” councillor between now and May.
She may need that money: her partner, Stephen Carr, has been forced to resign as the leader of Tory-controlled Bromley Council over its continuing failings over social care and children’s services.
Bashford’s new job in one of the key departments in the Civil Service, just at the time when the Cabinet Office is supervising the inquiry into the Grenfell Fire, did precipitate the need for Croydon Tories to select a replacement deputy leader.
Without asking the local party members, they held a secretive (as opposed to secret) ballot and named Jason Perry as the winner. No one in Katharine Street seriously believes that Bashford will be a tough act to follow.
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