WALTER CRONXITE, our political editor, on the widening splits within the leadership of the Labour group on the council, with local elections less than four months away
One of Croydon council leader Tony Newman’s most trusted lieutenants has this week launched a barely disguised attack on the record of one of his senior Labour colleagues at the Town Hall.
Things in New Addington must be getting a little fraught, with local elections due to be held on May 3, as Simon Hall, the councillor for Fieldway ward and Labour’s cabinet member for finance has criticised street cleaning contractors Veolia “for totally unacceptable performance” in his ward.
Such public criticism of a council contractor is rarely allowed under the iron-like grip of Tony “Soprano” Newman, and Katharine Street observers have interpreted Hall’s outburst on social media as being a deliberate attempt to undermine the position of Stuart Collins.
Collins is one of Newman’s two deputy leaders, and the cabinet member who since 2014 has been heading up the Labour administration’s high(ish) profile campaign against fly-tipping and littering. Until now, the Labour group’s party line has been a unified message that the policy is working, that offenders – even if they drop as little as a cigarette butt on the high street – are being prosecuted, and contractors Veolia are now operating to far tighter controls.
Though evidently, not on the Fieldway estate or in New Addington, where fly-tipped rubbish has been allowed to fester for weeks – right under a sign warning that fly-tippers face prosecution…
“For one of Stuart’s cabinet colleagues to go public now with overt criticism of Veolia’s performance is a transparent attack on Collins’s own performance,” a senior Labour councillor said, on condition of anonymity (“You know what Tony’s like,” they said).
Hall’s outburst, written on the New Addington councillors’ Facebook page he shares with Carole Bonner (who is standing down as a councillor in May), the ineffectual Louisa Woodley and the Town Hall’s “head boy” Ollie Lewis, is also an indication of quite how nervous the Labour quartet is becoming about their prospects at the election.
Under a heading of “State of the area”, Hall wrote on Monday: “Councillor Carole Bonner and I have been raising serious concerns about this for months – and I have seen it get even worse over the last few months.
“As it had reached a level not seen in a long time, I raised the issue today with the relevant directors. I followed this up by going round the Fieldway estate with two directors (the Director for Streets and the Director for Housing Needs).
“I showed them the state of the estate, going to various areas all round – and they saw for themselves the unacceptable state of the estate, both fly-tips and areas that clearly had not been properly cleaned for months.
“They arranged for the removal of the worst fly-tips either today or tomorrow.
“They will also now be taking up with Veolia their totally unacceptable performance. I will be following up with them for a clear action plan to ensure the state of the estate improves and is kept to an acceptable level.”
Some reports suggest that there have not been any street cleaning around the garages at Oakbank since August. Council officials responded to a resident’s report of fly-tipping and sighting of rats by bins overflowing with rubbish at Oakbank that a clean-up team would be out on January 5. No one turned up.
The resident, Nadia Lockett, described themselves as “disgusted”, and added: “I am disappointed in this Labour Council.
“I am a member of the Labour Party and I expect the streets where I live to be cleaned and anyone who has been fly-tipping to be prosecuted,” Lockett wrote.
After his visit with the council officials to the estate, Hall posted this update: “I showed them the state of the estate, going to various areas all round – and they saw for themselves the unacceptable state of the estate, both fly-tips and areas that clearly had not been properly cleaned for months, which I had been reporting for months.
“They arranged for the removal of the fly-tip Nadia Lockett identified (which should have gone this afternoon or will be going tomorrow morning).
“They will also now be taking up with Veolia their totally unacceptable performance. I will be following up with them for a clear action plan to ensure the state of the estate improves and is kept to an acceptable level.
He also posted: “There has been a lot of work done on street cleaning and fly-tip with over 100 prosecutions of fly-tippers including two people sent to prison and dozens of vehicles crushed. This is an ongoing battle and there is more to be done.
“Clearly we have to get the contractors working better and monitor them more closely – but we also need council and community to work in partnership to make this happen.”
Which is perhaps an odd thing to say if you’ve been a councillor for the area for 13 years, and if you’ve been in a position of power at the local authority since 2014.
Hall’s Fieldway ward is one of those to be reconfigured for the local elections, becoming New Addington North, where his co-candidate is Momentumista Felicity Flynn.
Though the whole of New Addington ought to be a Labour voting stronghold, until 2014 one of the four seats across the two wards was held by a far-right Tory activist, Tony Pearson. Pearson is standing again, in what is now called New Addington South, and the Conservatives have also selected a former UKIP candidate in New Addington North.
At the last local elections, 27.2 per cent of the votes cast in Fieldway went to UKIP, with another 8.4 per cent of voters supporting the BNP. In New Addington, 25.2 per cent voted UKIP in 2014.
“The UKIP vote is expected to evaporate this time round,” the Labour group source said.
“If those 2014 UKIP voters turn out, they’re more likely to vote Tory, and that could make things very interesting for Simon and other Labour candidates… It’s no wonder they’ve suddenly got all active about getting the bins emptied properly.”
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