Silent Steve O’Connell, once the country’s most overpaid councillor, has revealed that he intends to retire to Dorset next year, two years before he completes his full term as an elected member of Croydon Council for Kenley ward.
But in the meantime, O’Connell has told people that he wants to “cause a little trouble” during his final year as London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton.
O’Connell’s “little trouble” won’t necessarily be on behalf of the residents of the two boroughs he is supposed to represent at City Hall, and for which he is paid a handsome £56,270 per year plus exes. Nor will it be on behalf of the people of Kenley ward, where he has been a local councillor since 2002.
O’Connell says he wants to make “a little trouble” for hedgehogs.
Inside Croydon was the first to report that O’Connell is not standing for re-election as an Assembly Member in the London elections next May. But his intention to retire to dozy Dorset-by-the-sea as soon as next year slipped out in some promotion by Change.org to “Help save Britain’s hedgehogs”.
The petition, which attempts to get more regulation in the planning process to ensure that people’s back gardens have “hedgehog highways”, is already halfway to its target of 1million signatures.
According to one of the campaigners providing an update on the petition’s progress, O’Connell “is moving to Dorset in a year and wants to use that time to cause a little trouble – he does not have to worry so much about the tedious political machinations of the work. He can just say what he wants”.
Ahhh. If only the councillor and Assembly Member had been quite so ready to speak his mind when he was pocketing more than £115,000 per year in his various roles as a leading member of Croydon Tories at the Town Hall and at City Hall.
Indeed, until this month “Silent Steve” – a title well-earned by his frequent failure to champion local issues at a London-wide level – was still trousering £74,614 per year in tax-funded payments from the GLA and Croydon Council. Far more, it seems likely, than ever he might have earned in his former job as a mortgage salesman.
What seems odd here is that just 12 months ago, O’Connell stood for election in Kenley ward for the council, apparently with the intention of representing the residents for the full four-year term, until 2022. No mention was ever made then that he was planning to scoot off to the seaside, funded by the borough’s ratepayers.
Now, perhaps a little demob happy, he has revealed that he will be moving home nearly 120 miles away. But, it appears, O’Connell intends to commute to Croydon Town Hall every so often to ensure he continues to collect his council allowances.
Certainly, O’Connell has given no indication that he intends to do the honourable thing and resign as a local councillor after he moves away.
Today, O’Connell said, “It is public record that I am standing down from the GLA next May and am concentrating on my last year. I continue to serve the people of Kenley as I have always done, but consider it unlikely that I will re-stand in 2022.”
The people of Kenley will no doubt find it most reassuring that a council backbencher, still being paid the basic allowance of £11,463 per year, will be representing their interests while paddling in the sea in Bournemouth, or sailing across Poole Harbour to Brownsea Island. At least Eagles fan O’Connell should be a ready source of tickets at Dean Court whenever Crystal Palace have an away game on the south coast.
FOOTNOTE: Touching as O’Connell’s concern for the ‘umble ‘edgehog might be, he has not always been such an eager champion for the environment. In 2012, he was one of the Croydon Conservative councillors who voted through approval for the industrial-scale Viridor incinerator at Beddington Lane. At least in Dorset, he won’t have to breathe the polluted air he has inflicted on the hedgehogs, and residents, of Croydon and Sutton…
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