WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, on wholesale changes among the borough’s opposition party
One-third of Croydon’s Conservative councillors will be standing down at the next local elections, in May 2022.
The collapse of the borough’s finances under Labour, who have controlled Croydon Town Hall since 2014, had already ensured that there will be a much-changed council chamber in nine months’ time, a process which began last May with five local by-elections following the resignation of the discredited council leader, Tony Newman, and a couple of his erstwhile cabinet members, plus the exits of two veteran Tory front-benchers, “Silent” Steve O’Connell and Vidhi Mohan.
Now, Croydon Tories have confirmed that another nine of the 29 councillors who were elected in 2018 will not be seeking re-election.
Some of the departures had already been flagged up: Tim Pollard (a councillor in Sanderstead for 20 years) and his wife Helen Pollard (who has been on the council 16 years) had announced their intentions during the first covid lockdown, when Tim Pollard stood down as the leader of the Conservative opposition group.
The extremely politically ambitious Gareth “Blubber” Streeter is standing down after just four years’ service, as was announced in July as he plans to move out of Croydon.
And they are to be joined on the political sidelines by Steve Hollands (Old Coulsdon), who has been a councillor for 28 years, Kenley councillor Jan Buttinger, Luke Clancy (Coulsdon Town), Simon Hoar (Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown), Stuart Millson (Selsdon Vale and Forestdale) and Oni Oviri (Purley and Woodcote).
Hoar and Millson might be regarded as surprises from that list, Hoar having only managed to get back on to the council in 2018 after having lost Waddon for the Tories four years before. His day job is as the “chief of staff” of a little-known Tory MP.
Millson was fondly regarded in the Town Hall as a sound and reasonable operator, both for his ward residents and the borough more widely, where his role as the Conservative lead on the General Purpose and Audit Committee saw him scrutinising the council’s finances in a forensic and calm manner.
Oviri probably won’t be much missed, as she hardly bothered to turn up for meetings during her first 18 months, to the point where she was close to becoming disqualified as a councillor. Oviri explained that she had been very ill, although she was not so unwell as to be unable to stand as a Tory candidate in the 2019 General Election.
The local Conservative leadership issued a gushing tribute to the cumulative 100 years of service provided by the departing councillors.
Among the items that they considered noteworthy was Councillor Hollands being “incredibly proud to have seen Croydon winning silver and gold in London and Britain in Bloom”.
Buttinger, according to Croydon Tories’ HQ, has served “her residents in numerous roles from flooding to noisy parties”.
The Tory leadership’s statement said, “We want to thank each and every one of them for the work they have put in to their communities.
“Croydon is a much better place for their dedicated service, and we wish them all the very best for their future endeavours.”
The Croydon Conservatives’ completed list of candidates across all 28 of the borough’s wards for the 2022 local elections is expected to be released soon – and while the Tories are expected to win a majority on the council this time, they won’t have control of the borough much before 2024, while the government-appointed inspectors on the improvement panel continue to call the shots.
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