Pat Ryan, the veteran councillor for Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, tonight faces a confidence motion at a meeting of his Labour Party branch.
Ryan is a relic of the Labour regime under Tony Newman which bankrupted the borough. He is going into tonight’s meeting apparently with the backing of “a significant number of members” of the Open Our Rat Runs group, who campaigned against the council’s introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in the area.
Last month, Ryan voted with the Conservatives at a meeting to determine the future of the LTNs. He was subsequently removed from the Traffic Management Advisory Committee, but he has avoided taking part in a meeting with the Labour chief whip at the Town Hall, on grounds of ill health.
The agenda for tonight’s Labour ward meeting includes item 5.1: “This Branch has confidence in Cllr Pat Ryan”.
Local Labour members who support the Open Our Rat Runs group are also calling for the creation of an unelected talking shop – a “citizens’ assembly”, as advocated by Progress MP Steve Reed OBE – intended to delay or disrupt the council’s plans for CCTV to control road use in the side streets around Crystal Palace.
Eliska Finlay, the leader of OOR, has been conducting some conspicuous lobbying on behalf of Ryan on social media in recent weeks, including getting “paid-up Labour members” to direct message her, and distributing a message under a heading, “Cllr Pat Ryan is not retiring or leaving”.
Finlay’s message included an appeal, “To show our gratitude and solidarity”, for members of Open Our Rat Runs to post messages.
“It’s clear that OOR is trying to infiltrate the party,” one branch member told Inside Croydon last night.
“Whether Pat Ryan is retiring or standing down is not a matter for OOR. It is a matter for the councillor and the Labour Party. And there will be a selection process in the ward to choose candidates for the 2022 local elections later this year.”
Septuagenarian Ryan has been a councillor in the area since 1992, but in recent years has increasingly courted controversy at the Town Hall and within the local Labour group. The chair and the secretary of the ward branch, both women, resigned last year in protest at Ryan’s conduct towards them at a meeting, where he was accused of having “an embarrassing outburst” over the choice of speaker at a meeting.
The Crystal Palace branch chair, Sue Dzendzera, and secretary, Christina Brandenburg, quit after Ryan “went off on one” because he opposed allowing the meeting to hear a talk from local environmental activist Tom Chance about the community land trust which the (Labour-run) council had helped to establish in the area.
Ryan’s behaviour at that meeting is subject to investigation within the local party.
It has been suggested that the party officers were furious with Ryan after he obtained a ward members’ email address list – potentially breaking several party rules and the law on data protection in the process.
Prominent in his support for Ryan through this episode was Tony Newman, the now-disgraced former leader of the Labour group in Croydon. Newman sent a message of support for Ryan to all members in Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood.
Last week, Newman was suspended from the Labour Party for his part in the financial collapse of Croydon Council.
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