Being a councillor is becoming an increasingly shitty proposition. Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, reports ahead of tonight’s Town Hall meeting on how ‘a council motion’ has taken on whole new meaning
Tension is running high at the Town Hall, as trouble is feared at tonight’s council meeting following a campaign orchestrated by MP Chris Philp and backed by Tory councillor Mario Creatura that seeks a ban on building homes in south of the borough.
One senior Labour councillor says that they have reported to police what they described as the “hand delivery” of excrement through the letter box of their home. The incident is linked with growing dissatisfaction with Croydon Council’s development policies.
Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, has urged residents to stage a demo outside the Town Hall at 6pm, ahead of tonight’s meeting and debates of the full council.
Philp adds, “Please bring any signs or placards you feel suitable.”
The council’s Conservative opposition councillors are proposing the following at tonight’s meeting:
“This council recognises that the people of Croydon have lost faith in the planning system and planning committee of Croydon Council.
“This lack of trust has been brought about by many contentious decisions over a number of years, and the attitude displayed by members of the administration towards residents.
“This Council believes that Area Planning Committees will bring the planning process closer to the people and as such will go some way towards restoring faith in the planning system in Croydon.”
Having radicalised the blue rinse brigade of Coulsdon, Kenley and Purley, Philp looks likely to miss his own demo, as further Brexit votes, starting at 5pm today, could keep him at the House of Commons.
In a busy bit of emailing and social media campaigning over the past fortnight, which has had the enthusiastic backing of Creatura – the Coulsdon Town councillor who works for the Prime Minister as her Twitter monitor – Philp has also asked voters to contact council leader Tony Newman and planning committee chair Toni Letts to, as the MP puts it, “Tell the people responsible for planning in Croydon how angry we are about what they are doing.”
Amid the current frenzied political atmosphere around Brexit, Philp appears to have made a serious misjudgement of the tone on his campaign, and managed to set loose an anger among residents.
Senior Labour council figures claim that there have been “hundreds of quite abusive letters and emails”, which they maintain have been prompted by the MP’s campaign.
Some of the abuse has been racist.
Toni Letts, the veteran Selhurst councillor who chairs the planning committee, has said that she has reported to the police an instance in which excrement was “hand-delivered” with correspondence to her home address. The identity of the phantom shitter of Selhurst remains unknown. The Met seems unlikely to conduct any DNA testing to track down the culprit of the “special delivery”.
Letts’ deputy chair of planning, and the chief string-puller on the committee, Paul Scott, seems to be the likely target of the Tories when they refer to “… the attitude displayed by members of the administration towards residents”.
Many Labour councillors believe that Scott’s confrontational approach at planning committee has alienated thousands of residents, and potential Labour voters, throughout the borough.
On the agenda for tonight’s meeting is a 27-page report from Scott and his co-cabinet member for development, Stuart King, which can be read largely as an attempted justification for allowing overdevelopment of suburban streets in the south of the borough, and underlines Newman’s New Labour council’s shift towards the Thatcherite policy of a “home-owning democracy”.
Since Labour took control of the council in 2014, Newman and Scott have failed to build a single new council home, though last month the council-owned housing company, Brick by Brick, put its first properties up for sale, with three-bed terraced houses on the private market at £600,000 each.
Concerns have already been raised, even by Labour councillors, including Upper Norwood councillor Pat Ryan, about Scott’s efforts to “whip” committee members on planning matters, which would be a serious breach of planning law.
Philp has filed a complaint about whipped planning committees, calling for an independent investigation into the allegations that Scott, when planning chair, whipped Labour committee members over Brick by Brick planning applications.
Jo Negrini, the £200,000 per year council chief executive, has refused to conduct any investigation into the matter.
Nevertheless, Labour councillors also say that Philp – who made his own multi-million fortunate working in the financing of developments – has been deliberately misleading with his campaign.
Andrew Pelling, a Labour councillor in Waddon ward, in Philp’s Croydon South constituency, has been tweeting over the weekend with the less-than-catchy hashtag of #CroydonSouthMPmisleads, saying that Philp is wrong to suggest that the proposed devolved local committees can circumvent planning law.
Pelling has also stated that Philp’s statistics mislead and that banning suburban development is not permitted by the National Planning Policy Framework.
That policy framework was published by the Conservative government when Philp held a junior appointment at that local government department.
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