CROYDON IN CRISIS: If former councillors Newman and Hall thought they would win over sympathy with their resignation statements, then they made another significant misjudgement. By STEVEN DOWNES
Tony Newman and Simon Hall’s efforts to claim victimhood when they announced their resignations as councillors last night failed to win them much sympathy from Council Tax-payers and council employees, or former employees who have lost their jobs in the Town Hall’s financial collapse and its aftermath.
And it was not long before all traces of the former council leader and cabinet member for finance were being erased from Croydon’s interweb, too.
“Well that went down like a cup of cold sick,” tweeted one former council employee who had lost her job and seen her entire department axed as a consequence of Newman and Hall’s part in the borough’s mismanagement.
Someone else, who had clearly been following closely how the Labour group leader had allowed councillor candidate selection to be fixed, wrote, “Newman came out with the same tosh about factually inaccurate and baseless allegations over a selection stitch-up – until it was found to be true.”
Other comments included: “Wow, no contrition at all.”
“The only honourable thing you have ever done. The South Norwood air smells cleaner already.”
“It’s always somebody else’s fault, isn’t it Tony? You’re a disgrace to the Labour Party.” That comment was tagged with the word “shameless”.
“You put your pride before the fall. You and others should have stepped down when you realised the mess that was being created. Brick by Brick, purchase of white elephant properties. The Council Tax-paying public have been screwed here, so please park your pity.”
And, “What a way to go. I feel so let down.”
In fact, a quick trawl of the twattersphere this morning could find only one message of thanks for Newman (Hall, perhaps anticipating a backlash, had turned off replies to his tweeted announcement).
The support came from someone whose business got a £3million loan from the council, as well as at least £500,000 in grant funding for events at his venue, money diverted from the council’s own arts festivals, thanks at least in part to Messrs Newman and Hall.
Roger Wade, of Boozepark, where Newman often enjoyed generous hospitality, wrote, “All the best Tony. Thanks for all your help and support!” Cushty.
Newman’s councillor profile on the council website had been amended this morning, and even he managed to do a bit of social media housekeeping: his Twitter handle of @CllrTony being at odds with his new status, he emerged this morning as @TonyJNewman77.
Hall, too, had been busy with online admin, showing more than a bit of pique in the view of some by archiving a Facebook group with which he and his three erstwhile councillor colleagues communicated much important information to the residents of the two New Addington wards.
“It seems that with Simon’s resignation, rather than transferring ownership of this well-known and previously well-used group with more than a thousand members, he has binned it.”
The remaining councillors have set up another group: “New Addington Councillors. Part 2”. So far, it has 20 followers.
Newman and Hall’s political colleagues and rivals had their own views on the situation, of course.
“We know that Labour have really messed up in Croydon,” said Peter Underwood, the Green Party’s candidate in Croydon and Sutton in May’s London Assembly elections.
“We haven’t had the full details of what happened yet but if some of the stories leaking out of the Council turn out to be true it’s no surprise they have resigned.
“The people of Croydon have suffered enough under this failed two-party state and it’s time there were some fresh Green voices on the council to start putting things right.”
The opposition Tories on the council were able to return to the theme they had pursued throughout Monday’s council budget-setting meeting, accusing the new Labour leadership of being too much like the old team under Newman and Hall which had bankrupted the borough.
“These resignations are clearly timed to avoid potential sanction by formal processes investigating their conduct,” a statement on the Croydon Conservatives’ website says.
“This is not what Croydon residents need from our council,” they added, somewhat oddly, since the local Tories have done little else than demand resignations and sackings since last summer.
“Whilst councillors Newman and Hall are among the key instigators of the culture of bullying and the policies that bankrupted Croydon – they did not do it alone.
“Every single Labour councillor backed their decisions, including the current leader of the council, Councillor Hamida Ali… No Labour councillor has rebelled against this demonstrably flawed leadership, despite Croydon’s Conservatives warning Labour about this very situation over many years.” Presumably, the Tories mean the same Croydon Conservatives who warned Labour about this very situation by voting in favour of Hall and Newman’s council budgets in 2019 and 2020?
For their part, Ali and the Croydon Labour group appeared stunned by the sudden resignations.
In a curt statement issued to Inside Croydon, a spokesperson endeavoured to say as little as possible, while confirming that there would be ward by-elections in Woodside and New Addington North on May 6, the same date as the London Mayoral election.
Newman and Hall’s resignations were otherwise being regarded as an unhelpful distraction. “Croydon Labour is focused on delivering the Council’s budget while protecting local services and the people who rely on them,” a spokesperson said.
Read more: Newman and Hall resign as councillors claiming a ‘witchhunt’
Read more: Croydon In Crisis: Council handed biggest bail-out ever
Read more: 28% – Newman leaves his Council Tax legacy to Croydon
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