The appointment of Mayor of Croydon may well be a case of ‘Buggin’s Turn’ among back bench councillors, but with the selections made for 2019, at least there’s the prospect of wonderfully well-organised raffles, as Town Hall reporter KEN LEE writes
The new year may bring uncertain times in politics, but in Croydon one, or maybe even two things, are certain.
It is not normally announced until a formal meeting of the council half an hour after a Mayoralty and Freedom committee in late January, but a proud relative has taken to social media to speak of his delight that Humayun Kabir, pictured left, will be the Mayor of Croydon for 2019-2020.
It is hardly a surprise.
It is the nature of the somewhat pompous Trumptonesque ceremonial at the Town Hall that whoever is deputy mayor one year steps up for the main role for the following 12 months, and the councillor for Bensham Manor has dutifully filled in whenever Bernadette Khan, the current Mayor, has been otherwise engaged on public duties since she was given the robes and chains of office last May.
Kabir’s brother Jay Kabir shared his pleasure on Facebook sending, “Congratulations to my brother Cllr Humayun Kabir for being selected Croydon’s next Mayor.”
Such is the nature of the way things are being decided these days by the majority group on the council under Alison Butler and Tony Newman that Labour councillors have not yet met for their annual secret meeting where such matters are supposed to be decided democratically. It must be assumed from the social media post that no other Labour councillor has put their name forward to be considered for the ceremonial.
Kabir has been a councillor for Bensham Manor ward only since 2014, having switched from West Thornton (where he was first elected in 2010) to ensure his re-selection.
It would appear that only one person from within the Labour group has put their name forward for Deputy Mayor, and so is virtually guaranteed the dubious honour as Mayor for 2020 to 2021.
That person is Maddie Henson, the star on social media of dozens of badly taken selfies, who was elected a councillor last May in the reconfigured Addiscombe East ward, where representation is split with Tory councillor Jeet Bains.
That outcome was a major disappointment for Newman’s campaign, which had seen the Labour leader invest a considerable amount of his own time and campaign energy in the ward. By winning only one of Addiscombe East’s two places on the council, it effectively represented a lost council seat for Labour, at a time when elsewhere across London the party was winning additional seats in the latest wave of enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist policies.
Henson was first elected to the council in 2014, when she stood in what was then Ashburton ward. After the boundary changes were introduced, Henson was the only sitting councillor for Ashburton to be selected to stand in the new Addiscombe East ward.
Among her colleagues in the Town Hall, Henson has a reputation less as a speech-maker and administrator, and more as an energetic fund-raiser who understands very well how to organise a good raffle.
Henson has associated herself closely with the re-opening – after many delays – of Ashburton Hall, and with petitioning on behalf of local traders for the urgent re-opening of Blackhorse Lane Bridge, which won’t be re-opening urgently.
Election night this year was probably bittersweet for Henson, after her husband, Mark, with whom she runs a local IT business, failed to join her as a councillor.
This was despite strong support from Newman and the local leadership for his candidacy in Shirley North ward, where he lost out by fewer than 600 votes to Gareth “Blubber” Streeter, the third Conservative to be elected in the ward. Four years earlier, Blubber had failed to get elected in Ashburton when it was a Tory-held seat.
Labour must hope that the profile that comes with the mayoralty will boost Maddie Henson’s vote in the 2022 local council elections.
Being Mayor of Croydon pays £31,308 a year in special responsibility allowances. The deputy mayor receives £21,206 a year as a SRA. This is not the necessarily the money for old rope that it may seem. The allowance must cover costs like morning suits, mayoral dresses and travel costs for the deputy mayor, who is often not provided with a mayoral driver or car to get to engagements.
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