CROYDON IN CRISIS: The ghost of Tony Newman has come back to haunt one of his former councillors, as purges begin against those who dared to question the council leader who bankrupted the borough.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
The “very controlling” inner circle of Croydon’s Labour councillors has moved to block one of their colleagues from standing for re-election next May – all because he has dared to suggest that continuing to run the council under the same system that bankrupted the borough is not a very good idea.
Jamie Audsley, a Labour councillor for Bensham Manor ward since 2014, has been told that his application to be a candidate in next year’s local elections won’t be going forward because of his support for the switch to having a directly elected mayor.
Croydon Labour has been interviewing applicants to be election candidates in May. This “panelling” process is conducted by three senior councillors from outside the borough.
But according to party sources familiar with the process, the panel was “nobbled by Newman’s Numpties”, in a deliberate effort to scupper the application of Audsley, and anyone else who dares divert from their Groupthink.
Tony Newman was the leader of the Croydon Labour group of councillors for 15 years until his abrupt resignation last year, just before the financial shit hit the fan.
When in charge, Newman blocked attempts to revise or reform the council’s governance system, which uses the “Strong Leader” model. Newman was utterly against any change which might have removed the power he held through patronage, using millions of pounds of council allowances to buy the loyalty of colleagues.
Newman was elected as leader of the council by just a handful of Labour councillor colleagues. A borough-wide mayor would need the mandate of more than half of all of Croydon’s voters.
There is a referendum being held on October 7 to offer residents the option of switching systems.
The Town Hall group of largely Blairites, including Alison Butler, Paul Scott, Stuart Collins and Clive “Thirsty” Fraser – all card-carrying members of Newman’s clique – decided that Labour councillors should be forbidden from campaigning for a directly elected mayor. This despite their having conducted a “consultation” of party members in which a (narrow) majority said that they preferred the council to be run by a directly elected mayor.
During his years as a councillor, Audsley had repeatedly incurred the wrath of Newman and his cabal, who froze him out of the Town Hall cabinet and frustrated his efforts to stand for higher office. According to Katharine Street sources, Audsley, an Oxford-educated former schoolteacher, was regarded as “too clever for his own good” by the not very bright Newman.
Audsley had been expected to seek the Labour nomination to run for Croydon Mayor next May, if the switch in systems goes ahead, as expected, after the October 7 referendum.
Audsley received his rejection note in the same week that Croydon’s Labour-run council was ridiculed in the national press as “Chaos Central”.
The panel, in rejecting Audsley’s application to be an “approved” candidate, claimed he had broken the Nolan Principles, the guide to conduct in public service.
“There’s a level of hypocrisy here, from the people who have fixed party selection votes, failed to report serious sexual assaults to the police and handed juicy council contracts to their mates, that go beyond breath-taking,” a senior local party source said.
“Most of this lot think that ‘Ethics’ is a county on the east coast.”
Last year, Audsley conducted his own unofficial poll of Labour Party members in the ward he has represented for seven years. No one called for him to stand down as councillor.
Audsley is understood to have appealed against the decision to refuse his application.
It was a Rapid Review, conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government following the council’s financial collapse, that found that Croydon’s “failings are attributable to the poor leadership and poor management of the council over a number of years.
“It is said that the strong leader and cabinet model allowed the former leader to create an inner circle of a small number of cabinet members who have been very controlling in their management of the council and its finances.”
It is this same system that Croydon Labour, under former Newman protégé Hamida Ali, now wants to campaign for ahead of the October referendum. The blocking of Audsley also demonstrates a desperate desire to silence all critics.
Recently, Audsley had called for the immediate resignation of the chair of scrutiny, Sean Fitzsimons. Fitzsimons is a leading apologist for the Newman regime. An independent investigation into the council’s financial collapse suggested that Fitzsimons’ scrutiny committee failed to sound the alarm, despite repeat warnings from auditors, over the council’s financial troubles.
Audsley has also recruited a large number of Labour activists to back the Croydon Labour for Mayor campaign. This was despite efforts by Steve Reed OBE and Sarah Jones, the borough’s Labour MPs, to scupper a supporters’ meeting by ordering two Labour mayors in other London boroughs to pull out.
“The party locally has already lost dozens of members in the past year, and it is struggling for credible candidates to stand for election next year,” the source said.
“Now they do this. It’s as if they don’t realise how ridiculous they already look.”
And a member of the current Labour leadership at the Town Hall, when asked how the group might approach the likely scenario of campaigning against a directly elected mayor, and then, from October 8, having to select and support a candidate for the position, conceded, “It has its challenges.”
- Click here for the government’s Rapid Review report into council mismanagement and Newman’s ‘controlling’ inner circle
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