Alisa Flemming, the Croydon council cabinet member who was in charge of the borough’s children’s services when they descended into a dangerously “inadequate” state, as judged by Ofsted inspectors, is now looking to advance her own political career by running for parliament in Streatham.
And, it seems, her council leader, Tony Newman, can’t wait to get rid of her.
Children’s services in Croydon remain in special measures, with officials from outside Croydon parachuted in to help shore up the struggling department, more than two years after the damning inspection report by Ofsted.
One 16-year-old died as a result of his injuries after a moped crash. A 15-year-old, under a child protection plan, died from multiple stab wounds in a gang related incident. And a 17-year-old died after ingesting a highly toxic drug.
The department was placed in special measures by Ofsted in 2017 – three years after Flemming was handed cabinet responsibility for children and education in the borough. An Ofsted inspection that summer discovered “widespread and serious failures”, with vulnerable children at risk of “significant harm”.
A year later, and despite the council chucking millions of pounds at the service to recruit and better equip social workers in children’s services, Ofsted inspectors, on a return visit, found that the pace of improvement was not quick enough, and children being left in “neglectful circumstances” for too long. Croydon’s children’s services remain in special measures today.
While Barbara Peacock, the council executive staffer with ultimate responsibility for children’s services, and two middle-ranking managers, paid for the failings with their jobs, Flemming has refused to do the decent thing and resign, while Newman has rejected all calls for her to be sacked from her £45,000 per year cabinet position.
And it seems that Flemming’s track record as a council cabinet member can now all be conveniently forgotten as she tries to become an MP.
Flemming, who is a council tenant, has been a Labour councillor in Croydon since 2010, and now represents Norbury Park ward. In the Town Hall chamber, she is known for her rambling incoherence and her facility for losing her temper very easily, particularly when subject to criticism from the opposition for the failings of her brief.
She has nonetheless managed to make the long list of candidates for selection by the Streatham Constituency Labour Party, which has chosen to have an all-woman, all-BAME shortlist as they seek to replace Chuka Umunna, who is currently on his fourth differently coloured political rosette of 2019, and having quit Labour has given up on the people he was supposed to represent in the south London constituency.
Newman, as you’d expect, greeted the news with his usual cack-handedness.
The man who appointed Flemming to the Croydon council cabinet described her as “an inspirational candidate”. Apparently, he was being quite serious.
“People of Streatham do something amazing and send Alisa to Parliament,” tweeted Newman, whose recent record on Labour Party members being allowed to choose their own candidate for elections is distinctly shabby.
Jennifer Brathwaite is a councillor in Lambeth who was recently promoted to deputy leader of the Blairite council there. In 2017, without any reference to the local membership, she was parachuted into Croydon South as the Labour candidate for the General Election. During the campaign, Brathwaite barely visited the constituency, struggled to manage to spell the names of key parts of the area correctly, and yet riding the tide of “peak Corbyn”, she still managed to reduce Tory MP Chris Philp’s majority.
Brathwaite has previously had a hand in Lambeth’s notorious social cleansing with the proposed demolition of council estates, such as Central Hill in Crystal Palace, so she might not be quite in step with the Labour membership in Streatham. After nine years of having centrist Umunna as their MP, Streatham is now seen as fully engaged with Jeremy Corbyn’s vision of what Labour policy should be. Which could be bad news for the personal ambitions of a Blairite incompetent such as Flemming.
Streatham, of course, is the seat which Steve Reed OBE wanted to represent when he was council leader in Lambeth, but was denied by Umunna, with him ending up in Croydon North.
Early favourite to be selected is Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Diane Abbott’s chief of staff at Westminster.
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