CROYDON IN CRISIS: Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, on the latest part of the break-up of Tony Newman’s ‘dream team’
Alison Butler has resigned as the deputy leader of the council’s Labour group, triggering another internal party election, which is to be held on Friday.
The candidates to have declared themselves in the running so far may not fill everyone with total confidence.
All three have been long-term members of Tony Newman and Butler’s now widely discredited cabinet: Alisa Flemming, who was in charge when the borough’s children’s services department failed its Ofsted inspection; Manju Shahul-Hameed, who could not manage to distribute millions of pounds of “free money” in government covid grants to the borough’s businesses; and Stuart King, who just a couple of weeks ago opted out of running for leader in order to spend more time with his family.
Certainly, alongside Newman loyalist Hamida Ali as his replacement as council leader, it is hard to see any of the three candidates being able to halt the criticism that the “new” leadership team is little changed from the “old” team that created the council’s financial crisis in the first place.
Butler was part of Newman’s “Gang of Four”, the cabal of Blairites which considered themselves to be Croydon’s “dream team”, but which end up creating a nightmare for hundreds of council staff who have lost their jobs and tens of thousands of residents who will lose their council services.
Many within Croydon Labour had considered Butler’s departure an inevitable consequence of Newman’s resignation as leader. Given how fiercely critical the Grant Thornton audit report is of Brick by Brick, the mismanaged housing company which Butler had helped to create, it is a small wonder that she had not gone even sooner.
When he heard of Butler’s departure, the unapologetic Newman issued a gushing email praising her achievements – and exposed his own cluelessness, as he signed himself off as “Tony Newman – Leader LB Croydon“.
“Now he’s no longer council leader, without the two staff in his office to wipe his own arse for him, he probably doesn’t know how to change something as simple as the configurations on his email,” a Katharine Street source said.
“It seems hard to imagine, until a couple of weeks ago, someone that personally incompetent really was in charge of the council.”
Butler’s position as council deputy leader came through a vote of the Town Hall Labour group, and it will be the borough’s 41 Labour councillors who will select her replacement from Flemming, Shahul Hameed and King, just as they did when anointing Ali a fortnight earlier. Then, in a two-candidate race, Ali beat Flemming by 22 votes to 19.
In his 300-word tribute to his old mate, Newman forgot to mention council homes or Brick by Brick. That might seem unusual, given that Butler was in charge of the borough’s housing policy for six years.
With BxB owing £110million to the council, after having managed to build the not-so-grand total of just three purpose-built council homes in its first four years, it probably isn’t surprising that Newman managed to overlook such a significant contribution by Butler to his administration’s ultimate demise.
“Comrades,” Newman wrote, “Can I place on the record my thanks to Cllr Alison Butler…
“Since 2014 we have been lucky to have with Alison a cabinet member who has the respect of both the public and fellow politicians from across London. And that respect was well earned, led by Alison we were the first council in the country to install sprinklers in our tower blocks post the Grenfell Tragedy, and our innovative private landlord scheme improved the lives of literally thousands of local residents.
“Our radical approach to Gateway services and support for rough sleepers were driven by Alison’s commitment, and were why housing deputy mayors at the GLA, both James Murray and more recently Tom Copley, have such huge respect for Alison and the work she has led on.”
Which doesn’t say much for the judgement of either Murray or Copley.
- To read auditors Grant Thornton’s Report in the Public Interest in full, click here for a pdf version
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