WALTER CRONXITE on the latest power move by Labour’s council leader
Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour-held council, with Soprano-esque savagery, has sacked two councillors in the festering dispute over the implementation of a new licensing policy to favour Westfield when (or if), it ever opens.
Newman has removed Callton Young from his position as deputy cabinet member for communities, while Andrew Pelling has lost his role as chair of the council’s pensions committee. Both have been stripped of their positions on the licensing sub-committee, too.
At a licensing meeting last month, the two Labour councillors (Young represents West Thornton ward, Pelling the marginal Waddon ward) had voted to defer a decision on the council’s new licensing policy until legal advice was made available, after the committee chair, Jane Avis, had raised the matter of Young’s report on the state of the night-time economy and the police’s “bashment ban”.
Young’s report, which he submitted in April, has never been published by the council.
The report, which Inside Croydon published last week, is critical of the Met’s Form 696, which was widely seen as an attempt at racial profiling of music venues. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has ordered the Met to abandon its use of Form 696.
At the Croydon licensing meeting on November 23, Avis was apparently anxious that her Labour colleague might in some way slander the police over its use of the racial profiling forms and the application of the bashment ban.
In a widely circulated email sent by Avis to Young and copied to every Labour councillor, she admits, “I am not a legal expert, but I was attempting to protect you, the committee, and the council from legal challenge.”
Avis also noted to Young that “… as I kept saying, I thought you were straying into areas which might be unlawful, and therefore require legal guidance”.
Which most reasonably minded people would suggest makes a very good argument for deferring the decision until such legal advice had been obtained.
The council’s minutes of the meeting, now publicly available, represent an inadequate and unsatisfactory record of what happened. Comments supposed to have been made at the meeting are not accurately recorded nor attributed to the councillors who made them.
Nor do they record Avis’s admitted own efforts to stop Young from speaking about the police’s use of its licensing powers to ban certain types of black and Asian music from being performed in Croydon’s night clubs.
The official council minutes state, “A member of the committee stated that a scrutiny review he had been involved with the previous year had prompted the police withdrawal of the 696 review and wished it placed on record that the scrutiny review had made a number of recommendations that had been included in the revised policy statement.
“Another member of the committee expressed concern over the suggestion that a report, that the committee had not had sight of, had fed into the proposed changes of the policy statement.
“It was proposed that in light of this claim, the decision should be deferred to allow members an opportunity to see the report in question. Concern was raised that representatives of the legal department and the police were not present to advise on the matter.”
Pelling proposed deferral, and the motion was carried with votes by him, Young and four Conservative councillors.
The licensing policy is due to be reconsidered on Wednesday. Neither Young nor Pelling will be part of that committee.
There appears to be plenty of time to make the decision, because according to the council’s own minutes, “Responding to a question from the committee, the Licensing Manager confirmed that the statutory deadline for publication of a revised policy statement would be early 2019.”
But this hasn’t deterred Newman.
In a massive hissy fit, Newman has removed Pelling and Young from all their council positions for this minor sleight to the demands of almighty Westfield.
With the return visit pending of Ofsted inspectors to check on the progress, or lack of it, being made by the borough’s failing children’s services department, and with local elections less than five months away – yet with a number of key ward selections in dispute – Newman’s heavy-handed approach on this matter has unsettled several Labour councillors.
“I’ve never known the atmosphere in the Labour group to be this poisonous,” one told Inside Croydon on condition of anonymity.
“We’re more divided that we’ve ever been before. And Tony’s throwing his weight around probably because he thinks we’ll hold the council at the elections next May – even though many of us are refusing to take it for granted.”
In an email sent from Newman’s deputy leader, Alison Butler, it was announced that Patsy Cummings, elected to the council for the first time earlier this year, is to take over Young’s deputy cabinet position, while former mayor Patricia Hay-Justice steps up to become chair of the pensions committee in place of Pelling.
Newman failed to respond to Inside Croydon’s request for a comment on his decisions. Not like he’s accountable as an elected politician or anything, after all.
And Young and Pelling did not respond, either, but then they, like the other 36 Labour councillors in Croydon, have been ordered by Newman not to speak to Inside Croydon.
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