Croydon’s Tories are calling for Tony Newman to stand down as council leader immediately, saying the Town Hall finances “are in an appalling state”.
But with the slapstick comic timing of Frank “Ooo Betty” Spencer, the Conservatives’ criticism of Newman and Labour’s handling of the borough’s finances comes just as their own organisation has issued a begging letter to members and supporters that admits “there’s a significant hole in the local party’s finances”. Ooo.
It seems that even though Croydon Tories get tens of thousands of tax-payers’ pounds each year, they cannot make ends meet.
The entirely predictable call for Newman to follow the chief executive Jo Negrini out of the exit door was led by Tim Pollard, the leader of the council’s opposition group – or he is, at least until he stands down from that role next week.
Yesterday, reacting to the news that Negrini’s long goodbye had finally been settled, Pollard said, “There is no doubt that covid-19 has been hard on the council’s finances, but the seeds of this current crisis were planted long ago, when the Labour council ventured on an unnecessary spending spree, preferring to buy hotels and shopping venues to actually controlling their finances.
“This Labour council has left this borough defenceless against unforeseen circumstances such as covid-19.
“It is surely time for Councillor Newman to resign before he scuttles Croydon forever.”
Yet even before Pollard was issuing his condemnation of financial mismanagement at the Town Hall, Mark Johnson, the chair of the borough-wide Croydon Conservative Federation, had sent out his begging letters to the rapidly diminishing number of Tory members in the borough.
It seems that Croydon’s Tories can’t even operate a successful money-raising in-house raffle.
“These are challenging times for our country and for our party both locally and nationally,” Johnson wrote, portentously, to Tory members.
“The Croydon Conservative Federation set a budget for the current year but we have been unable to hold the anticipated fund-raising events due to the pandemic.
“We very much look forward to hosting these events in the near future as we get back to normality.
“But, in the meantime, there’s a significant hole in the local party’s finances that we would like to fill. Can you help us fill the hole?” Ooo, again.
Johnson’s letter goes on to outline various ways in which “the hole” might be filled, including buying a ticket – a 13 quid a time, no less! – for their 200 club.
With campaigning for next May’s London elections and 2022’s local elections to pay for, Croydon’s Tories find themselves in an unusual position in having only one MP in the borough. MPs and councillors all contribute a portion of their constituency budget or allowances into the local campaign fund.
Since 2018, the Tories have been reduced to only 29 councillors at the Town Hall, thus reducing their income from their Council Tax-payer-funded allowances.
Since 2017, when gaffe-prone Gavin, now “Lord” Barwell, lost the Tories’ Croydon Central parliamentary seat to Labour, a big chunk of income from that source has vanished – at least £6,000 a year in “rent” for use of the constituency office.
And since 2015, when “Tricky” Dicky Ottaway finally stood down as MP for Croydon South, his taxpayer-subsidised home in the Surrey stockbroker belt has no longer been available for summer garden parties, so valuable for fund-raising and for luring unsuspecting youngsters into the cult-like youth wing of the party.
But the admission that they’ve busted their own budget hardly inspires confidence in the Tories’ abilities to manage the Town Hall finances.
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