Scott and Butler among the ‘numpties’ looking to stand again

CROYDON IN CRISIS: No shame, no accountability, no remorse – Tony Newman’s ‘inner circle’ at the council who helped bankrupt the borough to seek selection to stand again. By STEVEN DOWNES

Paul Scott and Alison Butler, two of the leading Town Hall figures who helped to bankrupt the borough, are understood to be seeking re-selection by Labour in order to stand in next May’s council elections.

Alison Butler: is she ready to stand for election again?

And they are not alone.

Early indications suggest that most of “Newman’s numpties”, members of the unaccountable Labour leadership who were criticised publicly for their “corporate blindness” and bullying culture as the council finances careered out of control with debts of £1.5billion, have shown no shame at all about seeking another four years on taxpayer-funded allowances.

A government-commissioned report published in February was categorical where the blame lay for Croydon Council’s  financial collapse.

The report said that former leader Tony Newman’s “inner circle of a small number of cabinet members… have been very controlling in their management of the council and its finances.”

With Town Hall elections coming up in May 2022, all political parties are underging a recruitment process to find candidates to try to fill the 70 councillor vacancies that will arise. Despite the scandals uncovered in the borough over the past 18 months, Inside Croydon understands from sources across the borough’s three constituencies that many of the discredited former leader’s favourites having applied to be selected as candidates.

Of that “inner circle”, only Newman himself and former finance chief Simon Hall, who had their Labour memberships suspended, have resigned as councillors.

Others, while losing their front bench jobs and most of their generous allowances, have nonetheless retained a voice in the way that the Labour group, and the council, is run. There are strong suspicions that Newman retains some influence with his old mates.

The likes of married couple Butler and Scott, plus ex-deputy leader Stuart Collins, Sean Fitzsimons, the chair of non-scrutiny, and “Thirsty” Clive Fraser, who as chief whip saw himself as some kind of “enforcer” in the Town Hall Labour group, all remain as councillors, and apparently some of them see anything wrong in their seeking selection to stand for the council again.

Labour’s deadline for applications was last weekend, and multiple sources within the local Labour Party suggest that most sitting Labour councillors have decided to seek selection.

Supporter: Steve Reed OBE, left, was a staunch supporter of Tony Newman when he was council leader.  Now the MP has taken closer control of his  local party

In Croydon North, Progress MP Steve Reed OBE has been taking a very close interest in proceedings, just as he did over the selection of his Westminster aide, Louis Carserides, for the South Norwood council by-election in May.

And the Blairite officials who control Labour’s London Region have also taken a hand in Croydon’s council candidate selection process.

“Now, it will be down to Labour members to save the party locally and the borough from the electoral catastrophe of endorsing Newman’s old team as suitable candidates in 2022,” one angry party activist said today.

All 41 of Labour’s sitting councillors were told that they must go through the full vetting process, including an interview panel, “to assess their suitability as a potential Labour candidate”, as Labour’s Local Campaign Forum put it.

The interview panels tend to be formed of senior figures from outside the borough, often hand-picked by London Region and therefore with a tendency to favour candidates from the right of the party.

The last time that selections were held to find 70 candidates was in 2017, at the height of “Peak Corbyn”, with many members of Momentum, enthused from having helped Sarah Jones win the marginal Croydon Central parliamentary seat from the Tories, keen to step forward as candidates themselves. But that situation has changed drastically in the last 18 months.

Since Jeremy Corbyn stood down as party leader in early 2020, Momentum in Croydon, which never developed a reputation for being a particularly well-organised body, has all but evaporated. Croydon’s three Constituency Labour Parties have lost a steady stream of members (one, Croydon South, has failed to organise any members’ meetings, virtual or otherwise, since February 2020). According to one source, “We’ve tried to get members on the left to stand as candidates, but few want to know.”

Architect of  Croydon’s collapse: will Paul Scott be looking to stand for election again?

With Labour’s credibility in Croydon already at rock bottom because of council scandals, it is understood that overall there is a dearth of candidates prepared to stand for what looks likely to be at least four years as councillors in opposition, if they get elected at all.

And in the midst of all that, anyone successful in being selected as a Labour candidate will also have to stand on a platform alongside the unapologetic architects of the borough’s bankruptcy, including a handful of Newman loyalists.

Butler was Newman’s deputy leader, widely seen as the power behind the throne.

She was certainly the driving force behind housing company, Brick by Brick, whose failure to repay any of its £200million loans or make any profit was cited as a major cause of the council issuing a Section 114 notice, effective admitting it was bankrupt, last November. Yet even 12 months ago, Butler was still trying to push through another £30million of council borrowing in her efforts to shore up Brick by Brick.

As the cabinet member for housing, it was also Butler who oversaw the repairs contract for the council’s housing stock with Axis being renewed last year – more than three years after the problems in the residential blocks on Regina Road which caused a national scandal were identified, while dozens of families were forced to live in “slum-like” conditions.

And Butler was also responsible for the council’s landlord licensing scheme, which was unceremoniously dumped by central government because the council failed to develop a housing strategy to go with it.

Together: Butler and Newman handed the refurb contract for the Fairfield Halls to Brick by Brick. It has now cost Croydon tax-payers £69m

Her husband, Scott, enjoyed six years, much of the time while the chair of the planning committeee, in which he never once had to declare an interest, despite his working as an architect for a London-based firm.

On Scott’s watch when chair of the committee, not a single scheme submitted for planning permission by Brick by Brick was ever turned down. And with cabinet responsiblities for  planning across the borough, Scott managed to inflate Croydon’s housing targets to levels much higher than was required under the Mayor’s London Plan.

Butler has been a councillor for 18 of the last 19 years and represents Bensham Manor ward. Scott has been a councillor in Woodside since 2002, where his councillor colleagues were, until very recently, Newman and Hamida Ali, the new leader of the council.

Bensham Manor and Woodside wards are both Labour strongholds, where whoever is given the party’s endorsement as a candidate next May seems certain to be returned as councillors.

It is now for the Labour interview panel, and the party members in those wards, to determine whether those who carry such a toxic history during their time in charge of the borough deserve to be on a ballot paper ever again.

Read more: Council forced to declare itself bankrupt
Read more: Newman and Hall are ‘administratively suspended’ by Labour
Read more: Officials to investigate possible wrong-doing at council
Read more: New councillor Bonello quick to meet with discredited Newman

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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6 Responses to Scott and Butler among the ‘numpties’ looking to stand again

  1. To quote the Blessed St John McEnroe: “You cannot be serious!” Its disgraceful, shameful, arrogant, unfeeling and insulting of them to think the electorate might think them worth re-electing.

  2. Croydon Labour’s difficulty is not so much a dwindling talent pool from which to choose, but an unemptied cess pit clogged with a couple of big turds that have floated to the top and won’t budge.

  3. moyagordon says:

    I guess accountability for failure doesn’t exist in politics. The powers politicians and councillors are given mean they can affect people’s lives so deeply as seen with Regina Road residents and their children, left to endure horrendous living conditions by these councillors seeking re-election. I hope local people in the areas where these councillors represent come out and vote and hold them to account.

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    This is the downside with Party Politics. The pair were in charge as it went wrong and it looks quite bad, but it also depends on what they have done right for their respective wards and how much support they have within the Ward. Even if not selected by the Party they could stand anyway as Independents as Ken Livingstone did.
    The real key matter here for the party to determine is the matter of disrepute. Win or not it is possible this will bring the Constituency into disrepute and more so the whole party considering their involvement. I would not like to be Keir Starmer facing a Tory spokesperson who refers to what happened in Croydon when he raises issues with Tory Cronyism.
    I can imagine the response going like.
    ”Well Keir clearly it appears we are all at it. But at least our cronies do not bankrupt the body they are leeching off, do they?”

    We can point out that it was a Tory Government that in withholding money, tipped the Borough into bankruptcy, but honestly if they had paid us £30 million last year it would have gone down the same cake holes.

    Both should also have an opportunity to answer for themselves, perhaps at a Public enquiry and defend all the allegations made. To often those in Public posts are gagged from speaking out in defense of themselves. We still do not know if this shambles was honest error, systemic mismanagement, incompetence, greed, stupidity, malicious derailment by others wanting investments to fail or criminal acts.
    One thing is certain the outcomes and impacts on the Residents of Croydon is wrong and morally criminal,if not legally.

    • Ian, there’s nothing stopping Alison Butler and Paul Scott from explaining themselves. You have to ask yourseflf why they’ve chosen to say nothing. Guilt? It’s certainly not shame.

  5. Lancaster says:

    The problem with nearly ALL Councillors, and more worryingly a significant number of MP’s, is that sadly they are NOT politicians but activists. Having an opinion without reason or rational logic does not make you fit for public service. And to frustrate the delivery of public services Croydon has about 70 of these egotistical individuals. I have struggled for over 5 decades to understand the local government system of ‘elected members’ – other than their relentless self serving desire to climb to West-Monster to spout their ‘opinions’.

    Central government legislate; the staff of a ‘non-political’ local authority, (local civil servants), are there to implement; and THEN 70 councillors, fight, interject, interpret and screw up with their pseudo, self serving or opposition-hating ideas, regularly stopping the delivery of logical, benifitial outcomes.

    The problem is over the last 25 years, elected members have forgotten that they are elected to ensure the outcomes benefit those that elect them – the residents, and not their individual political careers. At the same time, increasingly weak authority chief executives lack the skills and strength to ‘guide and advise’ councillors, and have failed to stand up to political pressure; preferring to take sides and nail their flags to the post ! Councillors now regularly contact authority teams and staff and request / demand work and actions – and sadly the staff are to weak and ignorant to do anything other than jump. Once upon a time the only interaction between councillors and authority staff was through experienced diplomatic authority chief executives.

    I simply don’t know why we need 70 councilors or ANY to be honest; other than to give the residents the impression and illusion that democracy works and they have a voice – ha ha !!!!

    Two sayings come to mind…

    1: if voting achieved anything they would abolish it.

    2: opinions are like assholes; everyone has one.

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