ELECTION COUNTDOWN: The battle for the ‘grey vote’ in the south of the borough has taken an unexpected turn in Purley, as our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, reports
Senior Conservatives, including councillor Simon Brew, are secretly keen not to make too much fuss over the so-called “Purley Skyscraper”.
That is the accusation of ex-Tory councillor and now independent local election candidate Donald Speakman. Freed of the shackles of the party whip, after he resigned from the Conservatives following his de-selection on what he maintains were grounds of ageism, the long-term Purley councillor has issued campaign material ahead of this Thursday’s elections which hits out at the hypocrisies within the local Tories.
Speakman is using his middle name – “Singleton” – on his election leaflets to emphasise his single-mindedness in representing the interests of residents in the re-configured and renamed Purley and Woodcote ward.
Speakman says that he was deselected by Tim Pollard’s Croydon Conservatives for being 80 years old.
His independent campaign risks embarrassing the local Tories by revealing the hidden secrets of how the Croydon Conservatives really work.
The Tories in Croydon South have run a frequently noisy and ill-mannered anti-development campaign against the plans of the Purley Baptist Church to build on a long-derelict site at Purley Cross, led by MP Chris Philp.
Porsche-driving property investment broker Philp claims that it took his personal intervention to persuade Sajid Javid, when Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to “call in” the Purley application for review.
But according to “Singleton” Speakman, Tory opposition to the scheme is little more than a charade.
Speakman says that he “vigorously opposed” the Purley tower, “against the wishes of Councillor Simon Brew and senior local Tories”. Brew is standing as one of the Conservative candidates in Purley and Woodcote.
It is now more than a year since Javid called in the decision to grant planning permission to the 17-storey tower block scheme, which includes 114 homes, and the Secretary of State has yet to deliver a ruling.
In his election leaflets, Speakman also reveals how Tory opposition to proposals to close Purley Pool was also just so much sanctimonious talk.
Speakman claims that the Tory cabinet tried to close the pool at the time that Waddon Leisure Centre was opened, before the last local elections when the Town Hall was still under Conservative control, and that it was only his support for a residents’ campaign that saved the pool.
And the Singleton campaign does not spare the current Labour administration, either, highlighting the chair of the planning committee, Paul Scott, as “No friend of Purley”.
Speakman is highly critical of the current Conservative election promise to invite Scott to be a deputy chair of the planning committee if the Tories win control in Katharine Street. “I say this is naivety to the point of stupidity,” he says in his leaflets.
With voters in Purley and Woodcote ward being able to vote for three candidates for the council on Thursday, Speakman is hoping to get Conservative voters to back him, appealing for just one of those votes to be given to an independent and “experienced” candidate, a clear jibe at the political novice put forward by the Tories in his place.
Speakman reaches out to voters in Purley’s ageing demographic who may see his deselection as an example of ageism: “One vote for me on Thursday May 3 will show you are opposed to ageism and want a strong experienced voice, free of Party whips, in Croydon’s council chamber protecting your views.”
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