Two senior Conservative councillors, Steve O’Connell and Vidhi Mohan, announced today that they are standing down from the council.
It brings to five the number of ward by-elections that will need to be staged on May 6, the same day as the London Assembly elections.
O’Connell has been a councillor for the ubersafe Tory ward of Kenley since 2002 and has been Croydon and Sutton’s Assembly Member at City Hall since 2008.
By collecting a range of publicly-funded roles, by 2012 former mortgage salesman O’Connell had become the country’s “most overpaid councillor”, raking in £115,000 per year in “special responsibility allowances” from Croydon and with his City Hall salary on top.
After a spell of ill-health, it was let slip two years ago that “Silent Steve” was moving to dozy Dorset to retire from public life and that he intended to stand down from the GLA and Croydon Council in 2020. The postponement of the Assembly elections in 2020 because of covid-19 saw O’Connell have to delay his exit from Croydon Town Hall, too.
Last week saw the final meeting of the London Assembly before election day, when it has become the custom for City Hall politicians to pay tribute to one another’s sterling service as various members retire or stand down (this year, O’Connell and nine others of the 25 London Assembly Members have decided not to seek re-election). According to one City Hall source, “To be honest, we struggled to find anything to say about him.”
Susan Hall, the Conservative group leader at City Hall, in her end-of-session speech, spoke of O’Connell’s “passion” for the Police (he was vice-chair of City Hall’s police committee), and added, “You have had some difficult years recently.”
Today, O’Connell said, “It has been an absolute privilege.” Referring to the various community groups and organisations he had worked with during his time as a Croydon councillor, O’Connell added, “I will miss those groups, and my residents, and wish them all the very best for the future.”
Mohan has been a councillor in Croydon since he was elected in Fairfield ward in 2005.
Following boundary changes in 2018, he has represented the new one-seat ward Park Hill and Whitgift ward. According to Croydon Conservatives, he is standing down owing to increased work commitments.
“I’ve decided that it’s in the best interests my family and my residents that I stand down from Croydon Council,” said Mohan, who in 2015 stood for parliament in Croydon North, losing to Labour’s Steve Reed and losing votes to UKIP and Winston McKenzie.
Today, Mohan said, “I am sad to be ending my role as a Conservative councillor, but my residents deserve a representative who can give them the time and care they need.”
The Tories have already begun their internal process to select candidates to replace O’Connell and Mohan (his Park Hill and Whitgift Estate enclave voted 55 per cent Tory in 2018).
These two by-elections join those already announced for South Norwood, where Labour’s Jane Avis has stood down, and in Woodside and New Addington North wards, caused by the resignations as councillors of former council leader Tony Newman and cabinet member for finance Simon Hall.
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