Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on the latest behind-the-scenes shenanigans going on at the Town Hall
The fix is in.
Two days before the Croydon planning committee is due to meet for the foregone conclusion of approving a Brick by Brick scheme to build 421 flats that might have been worth an estimated £120million, Tony Newman, the Labour leader of the council, has switched the chair of the committee.
Toni Letts, the veteran Selhurst councillor, is out.
“Thirsty” Chris Clark, the councillor who played a central role in the tawdry stitch-up over the Labour candidate selection to favour a friend for the Fairfield by-election last year, is in.
Newman announced the switch in an email to councillors today, though judging by Clark’s pronouncements on social media yesterday evening, he had already been tipped the wink.
As ever with a firm grasp of the task in hand, Newman managed to misspell his new bestest councillor’s name throughout his little email homily.
As Clark is a councillor for Fairfield, the ward in which the Brick by Brick development is proposed – between the arts venue and the London-to-Brighton mainline – it means he will not be able to speak on behalf of the residents he is supposed to represent.
Not that anyone within the cabal that runs the council were ever going to worry too much over that. First elected to Croydon Council in 2018, Clark has never once voted against any Brick by Brick applications when he has been a member of the planning committee.
It is fair to suggest that Clark is regarded with suspicion, even distrust, among his fellow councillors, particularly Labour councillors.
This is especially the case after his conduct last October over the abrupt resignation of his colleague and erstwhile friend, Niro Sirisena, and the subsequent installation of the unselected Caragh Skipper as his party’s candidate in the subsequent by-election.
“This has all the looks of a reward from Tony for past favours,” one Katharine Street source remarked.
“Either that, or Toni just can’t cope with running a meeting on Zoom.”
Thursday’s meeting will be the first in Croydon Council history to be run “remotely”. It will involve only five councillors – three Labour and two Tory – and there will be no opportunity for residents or others with objections to address the planning committee directly.
The chair of the planning committee is among the most influential appointments on the council. Under a Labour administration, the planning chair appointment is supposed to be approved by the Town Hall Labour group’s 41 councillors.
This is the second time during this administration in which Newman has switched the planning chair without reference to the Labour group. Not that it makes any difference: Newman’s best mate, Paul Scott, remains a domineering figure at planning, the de facto chair of the committee.
According to Newman today, Letts has “seen off some of the most disgusting, misguided and vile abuse ever seen in the Town Hall”. To reward such service, Newman has handed Letts a £6,000 pay cut.
Letts has the sop of taking over from Clark as chair of the licensing committee.
The difference in the size of the wedge Clark will now pocket is considerable: he goes from council allowances of £21,569 to a tidy £27,669.96 – not bad as a supplement for his supposedly full-time job as a London transport union official.
Trebles all-round!, as Chris Clark might say.
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