ELECTION COUNTDOWN: Our eager Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE, spent the evening at a debate in Old Coulsdon, so that you didn’t have to
Not content with overseeing the publication of an uncosted local election manifesto that contains at least £83million of promises to get himself elected, and which Council Tax-payers will end up having to pay for, Tim Pollard, the leader of Croydon Conservatives, last night made a pledge to sign a blank cheque to property developers and their expensive lawyers for potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal bills and costs.
Such wanton public expense, Pollard told the less-than-packed audience at the Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, “would be money worth losing for costs awarded against the council at appeals to show support for the residents”.
Ahhh. How sweet. A politician who still suggests the senseless sacrifice (of the public’s money). Even if he does not believe it will achieve much beyond an increase in his own Town Hall allowances.
Pollard was speaking in Old Coulsdon on the debate motion, “It’s time for Croydon to come back to the Conservatives”.
Now this was on the day that the Tory party leader, Theresa May, was dealing with emergency debates on the forced repatriation of the Windrush generation (under policies commissioned when she was Home Secretary), and explaining why she had used British armed forces to take the country to the brink of thermo-nuclear Armageddon without first having the courtesy of discussing the matter in Parliament.
Even under such circumstances, there was never any risk that this small, but select gathering (including four other Croydon Conservative councillors present to help to ensure the majority) would not support the motion.
Interestingly, when Pollard was not bandying around promises of spending money that Croydon Council does not have, he and the 12 speakers from the floor all seemed to focus on how Croydon Council is run by the CEO and senior officials and a cabal of councillors in what they saw as “an unaccountable fashion”.
Pollard, who on May 3 is facing his first local elections as leader of Croydon Tories, said that the local Conservatives had changed and would now be “Listening to Croydon”.
And there, sitting behind him, watching the audience’s every move, and Pollard’s, was Downing Street Spad and Barwell bag-carrier, Mario Creatura.
A lot of criticism from the audience came for Labour’s chair of the planning committee, Paul Scott, and his handling of Brick by Brick planning applications. Young Conservatives in the audience accused the Labour council of letting down the borough’s young people over the failure of Children’s Services.
But the critics of the way the council is being run were not just Coulsdon’s usual true-blue Tories. Charlie King, a former chair of the Croydon South Constituency Labour Party and a candidate in the local elections in Coulsdon West, called for a return to the committee system at the Town Hall, while Alan Donovan, an Old Coulsdon Labour candidate, said that a soon-to-be-published Labour manifesto would promise a review of the council’s governing culture.
The fall-guy for the occasion, the main speaker against the motion, was Andrew Pelling, a Labour councillor in Waddon – the closest Labour-held council ward to Coulsdon.
Pelling’s pitch was that however worthy the debate on council structure might be, Labour was campaigning on the issues most relevant to Croydon’s voters – crime, the NHS and housing. Critical of Croydon Tories’ appeal almost exclusively to home-owners in the south of the borough, Pelling predicted a strong Labour victory on May 3, highlighting his party’s appeal to a broad coalition of the young, renters and the elderly, and the local Conservatives’ opposition to extra tax to care for the vulnerable elderly.
Pelling claimed that the Tory manifesto’s 36 uncosted promises lacked credibility but Pollard dismissed the suggestion that those promises cost £83.8million as being based on a briefing from Labour finance spokesperson, Simon Hall.
Pelling also accused the Conservatives of losing their past pro-business, pro-development ethos and misleading voters about their being able to resist 30,000 new homes within planning law.
It was this which prompted Pollard’s apparently unscripted boast about losing money on planning appeals being “money well spent”. From the comfy armchairs at the back of the room it couldnot be seen with any certainty, but if Creatura was taking notes, Iago-like, then it was at this point that he will have dropped his pencil.
The motion was passed by 23 votes to 12 with 6 abstentions, aided by the bunch of Tory councillors taking time off from the campaign trail.
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