Alderman Adrian Dennis, who scolded ‘Lord Tea Bag’, has died

Adrian Dennis, the former Labour councillor, a Freeman of the Borough and Honorary Alderman, has died. He was 67.

Adrian Dennis

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.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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2 Responses to Alderman Adrian Dennis, who scolded ‘Lord Tea Bag’, has died

  1. David Wickens says:

    Sad news. Alderman Dennis was an excellent Councillor and great supporter of the Tramlink scheme. I remember spending time with him on a trip to see the Manchester scheme under construction.

  2. Leni Gillman says:

    I was very sad to hear of Adrian Dennis’s death last week. He was a longstanding Labour councillor and he will be much missed by his family and colleagues.

    I was one of the three councillors elected with Adrian to Croydon Council in 1986, the third being Wally Garrett, and we represented Thornton Heath Ward. I remember him as a dedicated Labour member both on the council and in Thornton Heath, where Adrian lived. He was an enthusiastic election organiser and representative of our constituents, and he gave me great support and help throughout our campaigning.

    His professional expertise and skills as a town planner working for Southwark Council were greatly to our advantage when he became Labour’s spokesman on Croydon’s Planning Committee. He had unrivalled knowledge of the labyrinths of planning law, which he always deployed astutely, often with a cool sense of irony. I also remember him as a proud family man, and I send my sympathy to Flim and his children. Adrian leaves a legacy of honesty, integrity and decency which all politicians should strive to emulate

    Leni Gillman
    Elected to Croydon Council 1986 to 1990

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