WALTER CRONXITE on a failed challenge for the place at the local party’s top table
Just as Tony Newman’s 41 Labour councillors were slapping themselves on the back about how “inclusive” they are, their first meeting as a group following the Town Hall elections firmly rejected a bid by one of them to become the first council deputy leader from a Caribbean background in Croydon’s history.
Callton Young, the councillor for Thornton Heath ward, put himself forward as a candidate to become one of Newman’s two deputy leaders, against Stuart Collins.
But Thursday evening’s Labour group meeting decisively backed Collins, by 27 votes to eight for Young.
It was a bold move by Young, who last year was dumped from the licensing committee by Newman for having the temerity to seek legal advice on a decision. Young had previously written a report on the borough’s night-time economy, highlighting the racist “Bashment Ban”, which the council refused to publish.
With Newman’s Gang of Four that controls the Labour group now reduced to a mere troika (since the non-election of Mark Watson), the Young vote was a barometer of how assured the council leader can be among his own councillors. Newman will doubtless portray it as a vote of confidence in his leadership, despite Labour failing to achieve the 45-seat target which it had set itself in the local elections.
Alison Butler (who with her husband Paul Scott form the other two-thirds of the Labour leadership trio) was re-elected unopposed as the other deputy leader, while no one dared stand as an alternative as leader against Newman.
The other appointments within the Labour group agreed on Thursday saw Waddon councillor Joy Prince named as chair (taking over from John Wentworth, who is no longer a councillor) and Addiscombe West councillor Patricia Hay-Justice as treasurer (following now ex-councillor Carole Bonner), while Pat Clouder (Thornton Heath) remains as group secretary. Council cabinet roles and other positions will be unveiled before the first meeting of the full council of this administration in a fortnight.
According to sources at the meeting, it was agreed to hold an independent review of the council constitution, which will consider the current “strong leader” model and the merits of a possible return, at least in part, to the previous committee system, which tended to offer broader scrutiny of the council’s functions and involved more of the dozens of back-bench councillors.
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