Row after Labour councillor calls for scrutiny chair to resign

Backbench councillors who have been marginalised for years under Tony Newman and his cronies are beginning to ask some awkward questions.
KEN LEE reports

Jamie Audsley: call for scrutiny chair to resign

Jamie Audsley, a councillor consigned to almost permanent backbench status under the rule of former leader Tony Newman, started a full-blown row within the council Labour group at the weekend after he sent an email to Sean Fitzsimons calling for his resignation as chair of the Town Hall scrutiny committee.

The work of the scrutiny committee, and its failures to adequately flag-up the council’s failings over its finances, Brick by Brick and the then leader’s misadventures in the property market, were roundly criticised by the Report in the Public Interest from auditors Grant Thornton last month. Sarah Ironmonger, from Grant Thornton, repeated most of those criticisms in a coldly surgical examination of Croydon’s bankrupt council at last week’s extraordinary council meeting.

With Croydon Tories baying for more sackings and resignations – with their leader Jason Perry calling for Newman and his clique of Simon Hall and Alison Butler to be kicked out of the Labour Party – Audsley weighed in late on Friday evening with his email to his 40 councillor colleagues in the group which has controlled the council since 2014.

Sean Fitzsimons: scrutiny on his watch was ineffectual

Fitzsimons has been chair of scrutiny for six years, and had his council allowances almost doubled by Newman, to £42,000, in 2018.

Audsley wrote, “Thank you for your work and efforts to reflect upon the failings of scrutiny and overview in the wake of our borough’s financial and democratic crisis.

“Within both the forum of the Labour Group and at public meetings you’ve shown a desire to learn, improve and be open, which I have really valued, I’m sure others have too.

“Given the failure of scrutiny as reported by the Report in the Public Interest, I feel we need a new chair who can rebuild trust and credibility with residents, community leaders, and across the chamber. Our group and movement will be stronger if you stand down.”

Not everyone in the Labour group responded positively to Audsley’s advice.

Caragh Skipper, the unselected councillor for Fairfield ward and an arch-Newman toady, responded, “In my view, your behaviour is not in line with the extensive conversations our Labour group has had in the last few months about inclusive culture and the stress many of us have put on following due process.

“May I suggest you either follow the process in place if you believe this issue is worth pursuing or, if you are not willing to do that, cease this grandstanding.”

Skipper’s intervention left some colleagues unimpressed. “Given the dodgy circumstances in which Skipper was allowed to steal a council seat from another member of the party, she’s the last person who should be issuing lectures on following due process,” said one.

Unselected: Caragh Skipper

“But it’s good to know that the bad old habits of cover-ups and shutting down debate, which Newman was so expert at, continue even now.”

By the time of publication of this news report, Fitzsimons had failed to act on Audsley’s helpful suggestion.

Croydon Conservatives are expected to continue to emphasise how the new council cabinet, under Hamida Ali, includes many of those councillors who were in power under Tony Newman during the past four years or so, when the council increased its debts to £1.5billion while throwing public money at poorly run or badly misjudged projects such as Brick by Brick and the Croydon Park Hotel.

Five of the 10 in Ali’s new cabinet – Ali included – were loyal members of Newman’s cabinet for some or all of the period which brought about the council’s financial collapse and which now is subject to an investigation by officials from the Local Government Association.

Read more: Council forced to declare itself bankrupt
Read more: Council ignored five warnings on reserves
Read more: ‘An accountant could have foreseen this more than a year ago’
Read more: Officials to investigate possible wrong-doing at council

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This entry was posted in Caragh Skipper, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Jamie Audsley, Report in the Public Interest, Sean Fitzsimons, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Row after Labour councillor calls for scrutiny chair to resign

  1. Didn’t all the Labour group recently give a vote of confidence in their leadership. A bit late to be squabbling now.

  2. Peter scott says:

    Fitzsimons should go. He’s taken the money and failed dismally at his job. Perhaps he should consider a public apology and offer to refun some of his allowances obtained over the last six years.

  3. Fitzsimons should be embarrassed at the lack of scrutiny he provided in an administration that has financially failed on a massive scale. What is worse is that certain people in cabinet appear to have colluded to cover this up.

    And in the outside world Croydon’s reputation is tarnished further – can anyone put a price on that?

    Fitzsimons – you were clearly never up to the job. Go.

  4. Let’s hope the local membership support Jamie Audsley and that other Members get behind him as well to get rid of the ruling elite that has existed for so long. Revolution caps evolution when the chips are down and they are not only down but submerged in Croydon. I congratulate him for standing up, even at this stage. Carragh is another one who ought to be Skippered off the the field.

    • Marzia Nicodemi Ehikioya says:

      I salute Jamie Audsley for speaking his mind, better late than never. Where are the others?

  5. Some people are suggesting that Sean Fitzsimons wasn’t up to the job of scrutinising the Council. They might be right.

    But it’s possible that what really happened is Newman and his inner circle hid the truth, lied to keep it hidden and bullied people who asked awkward questions that could expose their misdeeds. Not quite Trump but getting there. It’s taken financial meltdown and external auditors to truly expose the scale of these misdeeds.

    Instead of playing pin the tail of blame on the donkey, there are bigger issues and questions on how Croydon’s council leaders past and present, Conservative and Labour, Members and Officers, have managed to pull off audacious and unsuccessful stunts with our money.

    A culture of deference and acquiescence, inside the Town Hall and outside it, have contributed to Croydon’s downfall. Cliques go hand in hand with groupthink. Political dogma replaced pragmatism, collaboration and compromise, all aided and abetted by our Cabinet system of local government.

    If things don’t change, we’ll have a repeat under our first Mayor.

    • You wrote:

      But it’s possible that what really happened is Newman and his inner circle hid the truth, lied to keep it hidden and bullied people who asked awkward questions that could expose their misdeeds.

      Fitzsimons became part of that clique when he doubled his allowances money in 2018, when clearly part of his brief was to block proper scrutiny, rather than encourage it.

      How can someone who has been in the role for six years only now discover that they are supposed to be a “Doubting Thomas” and maintain any credibility in the role at all?

      • Peter Scott says:

        Fitzsimons, and others, took increased allowances from Newman for keeping quiet and not questioning decisions. He has failed his constituents. Greed took over.

        If he, and others, had any sense of decency he would resign. But of course he won’t. He’s hoping that he can maintain his “It wasn’t me guv. I knew nothing about it” attitude and hope that come next Council elections we, the public, will have forgotten that he was part of the rotten group.

        My hope is that with a full investigation Fitzsimons, and others, will be barred from ever bey a local Councillor anywhere in the UK.

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