WALTER CRONXITE reports on the ludicrous lengths that the council leadership is going to in order to avoid scrutiny of their failing administration
Tony Newman, the increasingly absurd leader of Croydon Council, has ordered his fellow Labour councillors not to “like” or retweet anything published by Inside Croydon.
Or the message of support, praising this website’s journalism as “brave”, from Croydon North MP and fellow Blairite, Steve Reed OBE.
In the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, with the council in the midst of a £1.5billion financial crisis, with the town centre struggling after a decade of development blight caused by the failure to deliver Westfield, with the council’s children’s services department only just rated as satisfactory after years being regarded as a danger to the vulnerable youngsters in its care, with the Fairfield Halls, after its £43million refurbishment, possibly unable to re-open, and with Brick by Brick having delivered a grand total of three purpose-built council homes in five years, Newman allowed nearly half of the Town Hall Labour group’s annual meeting to be devoted to… Inside Croydon.
Which is all very flattering and that. But we really do think that the people elected to represent the interests of the borough’s residents and businesses might have more important things to discuss – like the Labour-run council’s record under Newman’s failing, and flailing, leadership.
On Wednesday night Newman was duly re-elected as the Labour group leader unopposed – presumably, because no one else among the 41 Labour councillors at the Town Hall was “brave” enough to put themselves forward. It is not just coincidence that this show of overwhelming faith in Newman’s leadership came at exactly the same time when Newman is determining to whom he will dole out tens of thousands of pounds of public money as special responsibility allowances in the coming year.
But in the latest sign of Newman’s increasingly weak grip on reality, he allowed the meeting to be taken over by his nark, the permanently redfaced Clive Fraser, for what amounted to a version of the Salem witch trials, only without the accused “witch” available to be dragged off afterwards and burned at the stake.
According to one of Inside Croydon’s multiple sources who followed the virtual meeting, “Most councillors certainly weren’t expecting this. The Labour group had only agreed a new social media policy just last month.
“It was a typical Newman trick – to get his chief whip to spring it on the group, with no warning or written motion submitted in advance, at exactly the time when special responsibility allowances are in the balance.
“A few councillors raised concerns about censorship and the way that group procedures were not being followed, but Newman’s lackeys prevailed, with the likes of Alison Butler, Paul Scott, Stuart Collins, Ollie Lewis and Toni Letts all desperate to show themselves as supporting the chief whip.
“Tony didn’t need to say a word. Funnily enough, these lackeys were those who have just been reappointed by Newman to his cabinet or other well-paid positions, or who are looking to keep their deputy positions to be awarded at Tony’s whim this coming week.”
Newman is coming under increasing pressure since his chronically poor handling of the council has brought about a mass campaign among residents calling for him to be replaced by a democratically-elected mayor.
Newman has told another Labour meeting that he has paid for the legal action out of his own pocket (he receives £56,000 per year in council allowances, and according to his declarations has no other paid work).
This website’s reports about how Newman and Fraser delayed and ultimately failed to report to the police a serious incident of domestic abuse, carried out by one of Newman’s favoured Labour councillors, remain available on the site for all to read, a demonstration of Newman’s rank hypocrisy over an issue as serious as domestic abuse, and how he and Fraser prioritised the political damage the incident might have caused them ahead of the violence suffered by a young woman.
So instead, what Newman and the ever-thirsty Fraser resorted to on Wednesday was a gruesome parade of lickspittle loyalty to Croydon’s own “supreme leader”, worthy of something straight from Pyongyang. It was little more than a series of malicious smears, slanders and lies – which given that the event was broadcast to around 40 people, makes some of the more lurid accusations legally actionable.
Patsy Cummings, Labour’s candidate for the London Assembly, claimed that she was having sleepless nights – and that’s before her campaign comes under any real scrutiny.
Collins, the rockabilly deputy leader who promised in 2014 that he would clean up Croydon’s streets, claimed that the site’s editor, Steven Downes, “is not a journalist”. “That’s a bit rich from someone who’s not a politician,” said one Katharine Street source.
Newman’s best mate, Scott, the architect of Croydon Labour’s planning policies which have proved so disastrous for the borough and its residents, called Inside Croydon, “A nasty, vile blog. Sexist, lying, nasty, vicious.” In common with others to vent their spleen, Scott offered up no evidence to support his personal opinion.
Butler, whose term in charge of the borough’s housing has shown herself to be conspicuously useless – although her son did manage to secure a brief internship with consultants who were hired by Brick by Brick – accused Downes of being “homophobic”, and of “vicious spitefulness”. Inside Croydon, Butler moaned, “affects people’s families”.
When she was Scott’s puppet as chair of the planning committee and in need of some public sympathy, Toni Letts once said that she had shit posted through her letterbox, though she was never able to provide a police crime report number to substantiate her claim.
Now Letts told Wednesday’s meeting that a barrister relative had suggested that she take action about the website, but that she had decided not to. We will leave it to our loyal reader to decide on the veracity of that claim.
“Council officers,” the meeting was told by another councillor, “read Inside Croydon religiously.”
And other councillors sought to moderate the discussion. Callton Young mentioned how the proposal from Fraser on behalf of the leadership might be seen as censorship. Sean Fitzsimons, who was expected to be re-appointed as chair of the council’s scrutiny committee, pointed out that the process of coming to a decision on Inside Croydon was “inappropriate”.
According to Fitzsimons, a lack of engagement with challenging facts had been a problem “going back years”.
“We’ve only just agreed a social media policy, and now its back with a policy on Inside Croydon merely arising out of a whip’s report,” he said.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fraser – nor Newman – chose not to put forward a formal motion on the matter. That way, there will be nothing formally recorded.
But after nearly an hour of ritualistic shit-bagging, the meeting reached a consensus – what one has described as a “self-denying ordinance” – that Labour councillors should not retweet or like Inside Croydon content.
None of which, of course, will stop Newman’s Labour councillors from reading Inside Croydon.
Indeed, according to internal emails sent by Newman the following morning, such is the council leader’s finger on the pulse of what is happening around the borough that it is clear that our report of Tim Pollard standing down as leader of the Town Hall’s opposition Tories was the first that Newman knew of it.
On Thursday morning, Inside Croydon contributor Newman wrote to colleagues, “As the record over a number of years proves, the greater the attacks on our administration or others in the Croydon Labour family from this site, the bigger both our majorities, number of councillors and MPs get.”
The next council elections are due to be held in May 2022.
So far, in June 2020, Inside Croydon has been read by 92,000 unique visitors. And one of them is Tony Newman.
- 2010 to 2020: Inside Croydon has been delivering local community service and local community news for 10 years. To support independent local journalism in Croydon, please sign up today as a supporter. Click here for more details
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and BBC London News
- Inside Croydon named Journalist of the Year at 2018 Anna Kennedy Online Autism Heroes Awards
- ROTTEN BOROUGHS AWARDS: For three consecutive years, 2017, 2018 and 2019, Inside Croydon has been the source for award-winning nominations in Private Eye magazine’s annual celebration of civic cock-ups
- Inside Croydon had 1.6million pages viewed by 721,000 unique visitors in 2019