Political editor WALTER CRONXITE reports on the fall-out from the latest round of patronage for Tony’s cronies
Tony Newman’s usual tactic of using public money patronage to keep the support of his Labour council colleagues appears to have been less than successful this time around, following Wednesday’s confirmation of the jobs for the boys (and gals) at the Town Hall.
Newman, leader of Croydon Labour’s council group since 2005, was confirmed at that meeting as council leader for another four years with the support of cabinet and deputy cabinet appointees.
But as Newman doled out jobs to some of the 2018 new intake of councillors, several more established and experienced figures have been omitted, and there are already murmurs of discontent after being relegated to the back benches.
Former senior civil servant Robert Canning, a councillor in Waddon ward who had impressed during the previous term when working as a deputy cabinet member for Stuart Collins and Stuart King, rejected out of hand a demotion. Canning didn’t even wait for Newman to offer him formally the somewhat obscure and unnoticed role as chair of the General Purposes and Audit Committee as a sop.
In the days after the local elections, as Newman divvied up his top team jobs, with pay running up to £35,246 a year on top of the £11,239 basic councillor “allowance”, Canning joined the dots about his own position as the phone call from his “strong leader” never came.
Canning rejected the prospect of GP&AC chair as being scant reward for his efforts and abilities. He has complained to colleagues that he found out about the move second-hand and then contacted Newman himself to tell him that he would not be interested in what he saw as a demotion.
Newman’s rather tired looking front bench – which accommodates a promotion for his mate Paul Scott – has only a few changes from before the local elections, while four of Newman’s cabinet deputies are entirely new to the council.
Even Patsy Cummings, a rising star of the Corbyn-led Labour Party, has only been accommodated with a deputy cabinet job. “It’s enough to keep her quiet, without giving her a full cabinet job in which to outshine some of the others on the front bench,” was the view of one Katharine Street source.
Those left on the outside altogether include Callton Young, the BAME activist and recipient of the OBE for his past work as a senior civil servant, who is not rated by Newman as good enough for a top job.
Veteran Upper Norwood councillor Pat Ryan, a former Labour group chief whip, has been pushed into retirement on the back benches.
Another bounced out of a previous job is Karen Jewitt, the Thornton Heath councillor who will no longer receive her additional stipend as chair of GP&A. That role, rejected by Canning, has been taken by Stephen Mann, who has also suffered a relegation as he had been given deputy cabinet responsibilities during his first term as a councillor.
Meanwhile, also kept in the margins by Newman is Jerry Fitzpatrick, a former deputy leader of the council, now returned to the council as a member for Addiscombe West.
Fitzpatrick is the only trained lawyer among Newman’s squad of 41 councillors. Fitzpatrick is a child care barrister who has represented many local authorities and children in their court cases. Fitzpatrick has accepted a relatively minor position, and together with Maddie Henson will lead on adoption and fostering matters.
Lower down Labour’s batting order, Newman has restored Andrew Pelling to chair the council’s pension committee, which looks after Croydon’s £1billion-plus pension fund. Pelling was sacked in December for daring to seek legal advice about the town’s racist licensing policy and the illegal “Bashment Ban”. At the time, Inside Croydon reported the sacking as Newman having “a massive hissy fit”.
A Katharine Street source explains away Newman having relented by accusing Pelling of being “particularly obsequious to the leader at group meetings recently”.
They added, with some facial expression, “It is a sickening sight.”
Pelling is a former investment banker as well as previously the London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton and Tory MP for Croydon Central. Pelling and Fitzpatrick, like Labour councillor Jamie Audsley, are Oxford graduates, which may be another reason for the trio to be seen as not appropriate front line representatives for the less-well-qualified Newman’s Labour group (though Audsley does make a return to favour as a deputy cabinet member, after a brief spell on the group’s naughty step for some assumed sleight to the leadership).
As Newman built his new cabinet around Paul Scott, what has happened to Scott’s controversial fiefdom, the planning committee, is extraordinary.
There is not a single Labour councillor on the planning committee who was serving on that committee before the May 3 elections. Perhaps they could not take any more of Scott – dubbed “The General” by Newman – being so forceful at committee.
On the Tory side there is huge change, too, with only their lead on planning, Jason Perry, coming back to be on the committee.
Such drastic change can only confirm Scott’s dominance of planning in Croydon. The appropriateness of such dominance, further bolstered by Scott’s regeneration cabinet job, may be an issue in the High Court challenge to Brick by Brick developments being organised in a Judicial Review sought by residents groups.
The full list of Labour’s cabinet members and their deputies, as agreed on Wednesday night is:
“Strong” Leader – Tony Newman
Homes & Gateway Services – Alison Butler & Patricia Hay Justice
Clean & Green – Stuart Collins & Nina Degrads*
Finance & Resources – Simon Hall & Patsy Cummings
Families Health & Social Care – Jane Avis & Janet Campbell*
Culture Leisure & Sport – Oliver Lewis & Niro Sirisena*
Children Young People & Learning – Alisa Flemming & Shafi Khan
Safer Croydon & Communities – Hamida Ali & David Wood
Environment, Transport & Urban Regeneration – Stuart King and Paul Scott (job share) & Muhammed Ali*
Economy & Jobs – Manju Shahul-Hameed & Jamie Audsley
Health & Well Being Board – Louisa Woodley (non council appointment)
*- new councillor elected in 2018
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