The next full meeting of our council is Monday’s anachronistic annual ‘mayor-making’ ceremony in the Town Hall chamber. Ahead of it, the council’s two political groups have been tinkering with their line-ups. Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, reports that one appointment could be a sign of significant national changes ahead
Downing Street insider Mario Creatura may have provided an important clue to the timing of the impending departure of Theresa Mayhem as Prime Minister, after he accepted a promotion within Croydon Tories’ opposition group.
Creatura, the Coulsdon Town councillor, works as a special adviser to the Prime Minister, and so is restricted under the strict Civil Service Code of Conduct from speaking publicly on political matters relating to his minister’s area of responsibility. As Creatura works for the PM, that covers pretty much everything.
Until now, in his role as the Croydon Conservatives’ chief whip, Creatura has dodged any serious breaches of his employer’s code.
But Tim Pollard, the leader of the Tory opposition group on the council, has now handed Creatura the role of shadow cabinet member for communities, safety and justice.
As a Katharine Street source said, “Either Mario intends to say nothing whatsoever in the Town Hall chamber in the coming year about important issues such as policing and knife crime, at risk of losing his Downing Street job.
“Or he already knows when the Prime Minister is finally going to stand down, and it is soon. Because when May goes, Mario’s sure to lose his job in Number 10.”
Once freed of his Civil Service job restrictions, Creatura, the sometime gobby fac totum to Gavin Barwell when he was MP for Croydon Central, can be expected to be a gobby presence in the Town Hall chamber, where he takes over the brief from Steve O’Connell, who is winding down his involvement in local politics ahead of his retirement as London Assembly Member next year.
The Town Hall promotion, though, will do little to cushion Creatura’s loss of his £80,000 Whitehall wage packet. As a member of the Tories’ council shadow cabinet, he will receive £18,344 per year in allowances, the same he was on as his group’s chief whip.
Of Creatura’s appointment, Pollard said that it “gels well with his recent adoption as the Conservatives’ parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central”, suggesting that, to the surprise of absolutely no one, Creatura will use the position as a soapbox to further promote his own political career.
The rising star of the Croydon Tories, Helen Redfern, elected for Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown ward for the first time last year, gets promoted into the role as chief whip.
In all, Pollard has doled out jobs – and public-funded special responsibility allowances – to 25 of the Tories’ 29 councillors. Which suggests you have to be a special sort of useless not to get a nice little allowances bonus in the Croydon Conservatives’ council group.
One noteworthy casualty in the Tory reshuffle is the virtually invisible Oni Oviri, elected for Purley and Woodcote last May. Oviri’s absences from council business and Conservative campaign sessions have not gone down well.
At least Croydon Conservatives go to the trouble of publicising who is being placed on the gravy train for these tax-payer funded positions.
The increasingly secretive Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour-run council, has done nothing to share with the people who pay his £55,546 council “allowance” the changes he has made to his team, albeit that they are very minor adjustments to the cabinet appointments he handed out 12 months ago.
Newman has opted to make no changes to his front bench or deputy cabinet members, suggesting that he has full confidence in all of them and their work. Even Alisa Flemming.
Either that, or by using hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money as patronage, Newman is satisfied that he has bought off any leadership challenges…
The changes which did go through last week see the recently elected councillor Leila Ben-Hassel given an early step up, becoming the deputy chair of the influential scrutiny committee. She replaces Newman-appointee Sherwan Chowdhury.
The Labour group’s media officer mantle is passed from the apparently out-of-favour Stephen Mann to union official and Momentum member Chris Clark. It is one of those rarities at Croydon Council: a post with some extra work but no money attached.
Whether Clark has any more success than his predecessors at getting his secretive leader to understand what media engagement really means seems unlikely.
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