Town Hall leadership hatched plan to break election budget

EXCLUSIVE: Labour councillors who crashed the borough’s finances decided to ignore the Election Commission’s strict rules on spending for their anti-mayor referendum campaign. By STEVEN DOWNES

Hamida Ali: laid out plans to break election spending limits

Hamida Ali, the leader of the Labour group at the council, wanted to break the strict laws on election spending ahead of October 7’s borough-wide referendum over a directly elected mayor,  Inside Croydon can reveal.

Perhaps even more concerning, Ali appeared to have the unquestioning support of the local party’s leadership over this plan to break the law.

“Apologetic” Ali took charge of the council 12 months ago, after her mentor and ward colleague, Tony Newman, had crashed the borough’s finances.

Inspired by “strong leader” Newman’s performance at wrecking the Labour Party’s reputation in the borough so thoroughly, Ali (council allowances: £47,664 per year) and her mates have decided to oppose the proposal to switch to a directly elected mayor, largely on the grounds that they claim it would cost too much.

The Labour group has enthusiastic support opposing a directly elected mayor from Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE, someone who it has emerged, when a director of a Blairite group, somehow overlooked £800,000-worth of donations from wealthy backers for five years.

The Electoral Commission announced yesterday that it has fined Reed’s “Labour Together” £14,250 for its failure to make timely declarations of donations.

Under the rules of the Electoral Commission, a registered election or referendum campaign in a borough the size of Croydon is allowed a budget of no more than £18,783.

But in an email to colleagues a fortnight ago, Ali laid out a scheme to spend more than £24,000 on the Labour group’s referendum campaign – one-third above the Electoral Commission limit.

Newman’s numpties: Less than 12 months after their council went bankrupt through overspending, Labour councillors have been delivering leaflets showing a burning £20 note

The money to be used for the campaign would come from funds built up by the party locally, including contributions from Labour’s 41 councillors taken from their council allowances – effectively a political subsidy paid for by Council Tax-payers. Croydon’s Conservatives do much the same kind of thing.

Some of the cash to be used on the referendum and Croydon Labour’s misleading “Million Pound Mayor” campaign might have otherwise been earmarked for use ahead of May 2022’s Town Hall elections.

Inside Croydon understands that the decision by Labour to up the ante for the referendum was not discussed by the Local Campaign Forum, the LCF, the committee formed by the Labour group of councillors plus the representatives of the three constituency Labour parties in Croydon, and which is usually responsible for raising funds and determining campaign policy.

Valent projects: hired by Croydon Labour with £10,000 for one month’s work

The decision was taken by Ali and the executive leadership – including Sean Fitzsimons and veteran councillors Bernadette Khan and Joy Prince – on August 27. But none of this was shared with the LCF or other councillors for two weeks.

Ali and her colleagues decided that for the final weeks before the referendum, as well as using their full-time “professional” political organiser, Jack Buck, they wanted to hire specialist social media support and use an outside agency, Valent Projects.

Valent suggest that their specialism is “Misinformation battlefields”, and their company website opens on a picture of David Icke.

Ali’s email came under the heading, “Emergency Executive Decision on Group Contribution to Referendum Campaign”, and was received by Labour councillors shortly before one of their regular group meetings.

Eschewing the traditional socialist greeting of “Comrades”, Ali wrote:


I wanted to update Group on a decision the Executive took at an emergency meeting on 27 August on our financial contribution to the referendum campaign budget. There will be an opportunity to pick up on this at the conclusion of the Group budget session this evening if anyone has any questions.

I requested an emergency meeting of the Executive regarding our financial contribution to the referendum budget which the Chair of the LCF [Joel Bodmer] attended. We have already committed £10K from our 2021-22 budget for the campaign. The Chair of the LCF proposed that we commit to underwrite (not automatically fund) a further £9.3K so that we could urgently engage a communications agency, Valent Projects, to plan and deliver our social media campaign on the referendum.

The existing campaign budget consisted of:
– £10,000 – Group
– £5,000 – Croydon North
(£15,000 in total)

However, the campaign budget consists of:
– £14,500 for literature (although it is very unlikely this will be spent in full)
– £9,800 on social media

This left a shortfall of £9,300 – essentially the social media element of the budget – for which Valent Projects will undertake analytics, generate content, place advertising and provide considerable staff time to ensuring our messages are placed across a range of social media.

– The ask of us is not to fund the additional £9.3K automatically – Croydon Central and Croydon South will be asked to contribute £5,000 to the campaign (as Croydon North has done)
– The amount currently budgeted for literature isn’t likely to be required as we had planned to produce more than has been possible to date – so that may also mean that more of our funding isn’t required
– Our ALC subs [the amounts councillors pay out of their allowances] are significantly less than we had originally projected (due to the 20% cut to [Special Responsibility Allowances]) – which means we have around an additional £5,000 which is uncommitted

I hope that Group understand why we agreed to underwrite the social media budget and feel some assurance that the total we’ve been asked to underwrite is unlikely to be required.

In the course of the meeting, Executive also raised concerns about lack of regular information on the referendum campaign – so below is an update for colleagues:

– A weekly Campaign Committee has been meeting since 27 July
– The Campaign Committee is chaired by the LCF Chair and is made up of Group representatives, MPs and the LCF
– London Region have given us an additional staff member of theirs (Harry Le Page) who is now working with us 3 days a week now until the Referendum specifically on the referendum
– An A5 ‘out card’, the borough wide leaflet and the Postal Voter Direct Mails (targeted at Labour promise and voters with high propensity to vote) have now been produced and are in the process of making their way out
– Social Media campaign – Louis [Caserides, Reed’s  parliamentary assistant and South Norwood councillor] and Harry have met with Valent and they have started their work for us – which in the first instance is focused on analytics to begin with and by Tuesday’s Campaign Committee meeting we’ll have a more substantive update
– Polling Day – we’re planning for a GOTV {Get Out The Vote] operation across the three constituencies

I hope this is helpful – and happy to answer questions at the end of tonight’s meeting.

Best wishes


It is notable from this memorandum the prominent role apparently being taken in the matter by those close to the MP for Croydon North/Lambeth South, with Steve Reed’s parliamentary assistant, Louis Carserides, co-ordinating aspects of the campaign, and Joel Bodmer, until recently a party official in Lambeth, also involved in the discussions.

Steve Reed: his parliamentary aide closely involved in anti-mayor campaign

Anyone investigated by the Electoral Commission and found to have broken spending rules can face a range of penalties, from hefty fines to, in the worst cases, jail time.

But while the Labour leadership had been hatching their plan for two weeks, within 72 hours of her sharing the Labour executive’s spending with the rest of their councillor colleagues, Ali issued another email to announce a hand-brake U-turn, in which she stated that they would, after all, be keeping within the £18,783 spending limit during the referendum campaign.

Given Croydon Labour’s recent and repeated difficulties with numbers, especially those with pound signs attached, their campaign accounts, once they are made available, could be subject to some very close scrutiny.

Read more: Grassroots Labour Party members in calls to sack David Evans
Read more: Reed goes video ga-ga as Labour campaign gets desperate
Read more: Lecturer blocked by Labour for ‘anti-council’ library campaign

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This entry was posted in 2021 Mayor Referendum, Croydon North, Hamida Ali, Steve Reed MP, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Town Hall leadership hatched plan to break election budget

  1. The cheek of these people, lecturing us about the dangers to democracy of electing a mayor while scheming in secret against their members and fellow councillors and flouting election law. They don’t deserve our votes, just our contempt.

  2. Croydon Labour is going to break-up. It’s only a matter of time.

    The old-school, anti-mayor stances of Fitzstupid and Reed bears no relation to what Croydon Labour Party members want or what the future leaders of the local party need going forward. This is Newman and his cronies scuppering the vessel and trying to take everyone down with them.

    The door is being left open to the Conservative Party.

    If Croydon Labour want a chance of even getting close to having a Labour Mayor, they need to draw up plans to make some fundamental changes to Planning Policy Guidance SPD2.

    DEMOC came about because Tony Newman allowed Cllr Paul Scott to rampage, bare-assed through tried and tested planning policy resulting in Heather Cheesbrough’s SPD2,

    I suggest Ali’s only hope for Croydon Labour is to pick up the phone to Heather Cheesbrough and see what can be done about changing this massively damaging document.

    If SPD2 doesn’t change substantially, history will simply repeat itself.

    • Ian Kierans says:

      SPD2 is a guidance document. It is not planning law. I imagine Ms Cheesebrough wrote this document as a solution to the issues deriving from need and law. That was her role then and clearly SPD2 is delivering to those objectives. Ms Ali would probably be asked quite reasonably what would she suggest in it’s place? One would assume that 70 Councillors had time and discussed this before it was implemented also. (perhaps not and just Ms Negrini took the decision under another type of delegated authority)

      The fundamental problem with this document, planning and it’s application is it not just prioritizing developers needs over those affected. It is that it (appears?) there is no place at all for the consideration of current residents and their human rights anywhere at all in the Planning departments process or collective corporate mind.

      Even this is not an issue for them as any complaints by those affected are measured against the process and dismissed as other than the developer no one else is entitled to raise any objections at all. They are just allowed to comment.

      As Mr Gove also found out no matter who you are, the planing Inspectorate are all powerful and woe betide those that deign to raise issues.

      • Yes, I’m always at pains to state the SPD2 is a guidance document and a very important one too. In Croydon it explains how policies should be carried through into action.

        It is an important consideration in decisions on planning applications. It is also relied upon by the Planning Inspectorate when proposals go to appeal.

        That’s why SPD2 is an almighty fuck-up and it’s authors have sold this borough down the river when writing it.

  3. Anthony Brewer says:

    I wonder if Croydon Council had any ulterior motives around when they decided to send out the Mayoral voting cards. We only received ours after the return date where we could have applied for a postal vote. Due to this, we tried to get a proxy vote, only to find that we needed to request this from the council, who said they’d send us one in the post, and bearing in mind this was the day before proxy votes needed to had been returned !! Something is starting to smell very bad here. It seems Croydon Council are trying to deny people their constitutional right to vote !!

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