WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, reports on the latest outbreak of control-freakery in SE25 involving the controversial chair of the council’s planning committeeA formal complaint is being submitted to the Labour Party’s London regional office over the conduct of one of Croydon’s most senior and influential councillors.
The complaint has arisen over Paul Scott, the councillor for Woodside ward who has multiple roles in and around South Norwood, the Town Hall and the local Labour Party. Scott is a ward colleague and close ally of the council leader, Tony Newman.
The complaint involves Scott’s role with the charity, the People for Portland Road, and contentious comments made in writing by Scott to one of that charity’s volunteers.
The Facebook page for the People for Portland Road has been shut down for six weeks, with no comments or news being allowed to be posted. According to those working within the group, this occurred after Scott intervened to stop residents from posting links to articles from this hyperlocal news website.
At least one volunteer for PPR has resigned over Scott’s stubborn refusal to allow any critical coverage of the Labour council to appear on the charity’s social media page.
As well as being a full-time director of a London firm of architects, Scott is the chair of the council’s planning committee, he is vice-chair of the Stanley Halls arts venue, and he is married to Alison Butler, the Labour council’s deputy leader and the cabinet member responsible for housing.
Since People for Portland Road was formed, it has only had one chair: Paul Scott.Scott also sits on Croydon Labour’s all-powerful Local Campaign Forum.
The LCF is the body which is supposed to oversee candidate selection for next May’s local elections, a process which is more than one month behind schedule. Also on the LCF, determining who they want to have a chance of becoming a councillor in 2018, is Newman.
Despite the relative urgency of the approaching Town Hall elections, Labour’s LCF has not met since July. Not a single candidate has been selected. Scott and his colleagues are due to hold an LCF meeting tonight, at which they will have a say over which Labour Party members are “approved” to go forward to party members for selection as candidates in the borough’s wards.
But now, there are renewed calls for Scott’s own conduct to be placed under scrutiny.
Scott is already the subject of complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman over his handling of planning committee meetings, where he has been accused of breaking planning law by influencing a fellow committee member’s vote.
But a troublesome complaint, to his own political party, just months before what is likely to be a hard-fought election battle for control of the Town Hall, could be a damaging distraction for the Labour group, which is already under-fire because of the Ofsted children’s services scandal.
If London Labour handles the complaint properly, Scott himself risks being suspended from the selection process until the case is resolved.
Scott describes his critics as ‘small-minded idiots’
Scott’s efforts to shut-down all criticism of him and the cabal of councillors who control the Labour group on the council has seen him trying to censor what is discussed on social media. In an email sent to a People for Portland Road volunteer, and seen by multiple recipients, Scott tried to explain his actions.
He wrote, “Many of the PPR volunteers get very upset and disheartened by the Facebook page. It puts people off getting involved and hence is directly impacting negatively on PPR.“The PPR Facebook page was set up to support our work in trying to improve South Norwood. It isn’t there to create an opportunity for a few small-minded idiots to slag the area off and attack those who are trying to make a difference. It also isn’t actually there as a general debating ‘platform’. If the persistent moaners want a Facebook page to whine on they can set up their own.
“I think we need to be proactively managing the contributions so that it serves our aims and goals.”
Just pause for a moment there and consider what Scott, as the chair of a charity, a local councillor and Labour Party official, might mean by “proactively managing the contributions”. And “serves our aims and goals”. Goebbels could not have defined his outlook on propaganda better.
Scott’s email was responding to a volunteer who wanted to know why hyperlinks which they had posted to articles published by Inside Croydon had been removed from the PPR Facebook page, without any discussion or justification.
“Most of what is written on IC [Inside Croydon] is total and utter bullshit based upon a few facts that are then written up in a barbed, spun, ill-informed or deliberately misinforming way,” Scott lied in his email.
“It is mostly written by a single person with an axe to grind using made up names,” Scott claimed, again falsely, and based on uninformed supposition.
In fact, Inside Croydon has a growing band of willing contributors, though it is a sad reflection on the bullying culture of politics in the borough that many of them ask for anonymity because of the fear of “reprisals”, or the withdrawal of patronage, from senior figures at the council. People like Scott, Butler and Newman.“It masquerades as informed journalism. It is nothing of the sort. There is no right of reply on this blog,” Scott writes, apparently suffering a serious bout of amnesia over the numerous and always very lengthy comments to Inside Croydon which he has himself posted and had published.
“Even posts in reply are edited!” he then adds, with exclamation, proving our point. How else would Scott know that comments are edited if he had never posted to the site?
As a point of clarification, we asked Inside Croydon’s editor, Steven Downes, to explain the site’s policy (which has been publicly available since 2010). Downes has been a professional journalist for more than 30 years. “In all my career, there has only ever been two people I have been instructed that should not or could not be subject to editing – Bernard Levin and Hugh McIlvanney. Scott is not in same intellectual class as the former and lacks the writing style of the latter.
“Besides, this website’s comment rules are quite clear: we have always offered an immediate right of reply to everything that we publish, but we will not publish anything which is untrue or offensive.
“Scott’s submissions have frequently failed those tests.”
In his email to the PPR volunteer, Scott continues to demonstrate something of an obsession with Inside Croydon, which extends into the realm of fantasy and his own vivid imaginings.
“Your friend Jane (the Class War Anarchist who lives in one of few nice little detached cottages in the area!) passed on information to this blog that attacks the work that PPR are doing in the area. She is opposed to the regeneration of the area (unlike virtually everybody else)…” another piece of Scott deceit, “… and the Community Economic Development Plan that PPR have developed – a plan that is entirely focused on the regeneration for and by the local community, as opposed to the ‘gentrification’ that Jane supposedly opposes.
“Steven Downes does no research…” untrue, yet again, “…and where the facts don’t fit with his story he just fudges them and makes shit up – classic ‘fake news’,” Scott says, using the same excuse that Donald Trump uses when he doesn’t like how he has been reported by the likes of the New York Times and CNN.
“He has written numerous stories about me and the planning committee and yet has not once even tried to contact me to discuss the issues.” Another Scott lie.
“Obviously any balanced reporting would spoil his story!” Scott clearly has little understanding of fact-based journalism.
“IC [Inside Croydon] is also misogynistic and seems to have a particular interest in attacking openly gay officers and councillors above all others.”
Downes responds to this: “It is just a contemptible slur, from someone who cannot take justifiable criticism of their poor performance, and so resorts to false accusations. It’s a clear case of defamation.”
Scott, though, had more to say for himself in his email scree: “It is also opposed to the council’s attempts to build more affordable housing in Croydon, and to tackle the housing crisis that is destroying and blighting so many people’s lives!” Yet again, untrue.It is perhaps worthwhile to remind readers that, on Scott and Butler’s watch over the past three and a half years, Croydon Council has built the grand total of zero council homes.
This is a fact which Scott clearly does not like to be aired. It is a fact which is a clear and growing embarrassment to many Labour members in Croydon.
Among the Inside Croydon articles which Scott is thought to object to is one in which South Norwood residents, tired of the failure of Scott and Newman to represent their views on issues affecting Woodside and SE25, called on the councillor to give up some of the multitude of positions that he holds in the area.
Scott certainly didn’t like our article which highlighted how Butler, who has overseen the building of zero council homes in Croydon since 2014, is spending thousands of pounds of council cash to attend a housing awards ceremony staged at the posh Hurlingham Club.
It seems likely that Scott is not too keen on this website’s reporting of Labour selection contests, such as the one held in South Norwood recently in which Patsy Cummings saw off the challenge of an overtly Blairite candidate, despite support for them from Steve Reed OBE and, probably, Scott himself.
These are the sort of things which Scott, and some of his closest colleagues on the council, think should not be read or discussed by the people that pay the councillors’ handsome council “allowances”, and they are the sort of articles Scott was spending his time ensuring were deleted from the Facebook page of a local charity.Presumably, that’s what Scott means by “proactively managing the contributions so that it serves our aims and goals”.
In the meantime, the residents which the People for Portland Road (chairman: P Scott) is supposed to serve have no where to read about local events, find a reliable plumber, or see what’s on next week at the local cinema.
There remains one forlorn note on Facebook from someone who, it is fair to say, holds a different world view from Paul “Two Homes” Scott:
“Could Admins please clarify? PPR seems to be getting peculiarly selective in what posts it allows or refuses. We can criticise the state of the area, but we don’t seem to be allowed to say anything criticising the council members responsible.
“When Barwell was still around we were allowed to grumble about him, but never about Councillor Scott and his band of Merry Men/Women. There is obviously some political bias on this page as the chair of PPR is Councillorr Scott, but to silence any criticism is a tad Stalinist, wouldn’t you say?
“And why the permanent removal of Inside Croydon articles?
“If you don’t want people to hear another view apart from what’s churned out by the council PR Team, why? We want our area to be a decent place to live for everyone, which is what PPR is supposed to be promoting.
“What we don’t want is a place where opposing views are silenced.”
Scott has never bothered to respond to that.
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