Adrian Dennis, the former Labour councillor, a Freeman of the Borough and Honorary Alderman, has died. He was 67.
Dennis was one of three councillors to take the Thornton Heath ward in 1986 from the Ratepayers’ Alliance, a grouping with barely disguised links to the Conservatives, as he helped his party recover from the low of just five council seats in Croydon in 1982.
Dennis continued to serve the ward as its councillor until 2006, when he was de-selected by Labour in controversial circumstances.
But he maintained a close interest in the borough’s and his party’s affairs and continued to give of his time tirelessly, being a high-profile advocate for disability issues through the Disability Forum. He also played a significant role in CACFO, the Croydon African Caribbean Family Organisation in Thornton Heath.
He also had a talent for devising acerbic monikers for the rich and powerful, such as when he got into hot water for calling Sir Stuart Lipton “Lord Tea Bag” in internal Labour briefings which were leaked to the press, something which was not appreciated by his party colleagues. It may go some way to explain his on-going support for the reporting by Inside Croydon, for whom he was a regular commenter and occasional contributor.
Dennis was a unifying influence when he served as the Town Hall opposition group’s chief whip, and with his background as a professional council planner (he worked at Southwark Council, seeing through the development of The Shard) and a chartered member of the Royal Town Planning Institute, he was a long-standing chair of the planning committee in Labour’s first terms in office in Croydon. He was also a deputy leader of the council under Val Shawcross.
He was a leading supporter of the building of an Arena next to East Croydon Station and worked on securing the building of Centrale and the ultimately failed Park Place project – a John Lewis-led shopping centre bigger, even, than that which was later proposed by Westfield.
In his determination to secure the Arena, Dennis sent a memo to Labour minister Tessa Jowell in which he criticised “Lord Tea Bag” for undeclared conflicts of interest when speaking at a Parliamentary Select Committee. Sir Stuart Lipton was at the time the owner and chair of developers Stanhope, while also chairing the board of CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.
Dennis’s memo was leaked to a Tory MP who, of course, ran with it to the press expressing his deep-held concerns that such a senior Labour councillor should be referring elsewhere in his document to others as “Mr Slime” and “Mr Dud”.
Dennis explained the references in a memorandum submitted to the select committee as “joking yet harmless”.
In the Town Hall chamber, Dennis enjoyed catching out councillor colleagues by pretending to snooze during council meetings, then answering with a riposte to points made by others who thought him to have been asleep.
In 2006, his time in elected office came to an abrupt end when ward members opted not to re-select him, opting instead to put up Matthew Kyeremeh as one of their councillor candidates, a decision that did not work out so well for Thornton Heath, the local Labour Party, nor Kyeremeh’s family.
But such was the high regard in which Dennis was held at the Town Hall that he was made a Freeman of the Borough – a position that has only been granted to 44 people since 1897.
Dennis remained very active in local affairs and was critical of planning practice in Croydon. He also wanted to see the council go back to a full committee system and he even called for the dismissal of council Chief Executive Jo Negrini.
Dennis died on Friday, having being admitted to hospital for a routine procedure. His death is not thought to be connected to any covid-19 illness.
Dennis (b. Penzance, Cornwall, Dec 12, 1952 to Mar 27, 2020) is survived by his wife Flim and his two children.