Next week marks one year since the council was forced to declare itself effectively bankrupt. For some senior Labour councillors, it’s almost as if they played no part in the borough’s financial collapse.
By STEVEN DOWNES
Three members of Tony Newman’s council cabinet that bankrupted the borough now think that they could become the first executive Mayor of Croydon.
Councillors Callton Young, Manju Shahul-Hameed and Alisa Flemming all submitted applications to be selected as the Labour Party candidate for the mayoral election being held next May, senior sources within the local party have confirmed.
Others known to have applied for Labour mayoral candidate selection are Val Shawcross, the former London Assembly Member and Deputy Mayor, Donna Murray-Turner, a minority rights activist, and Jamie Audsley, another councillor who served under Newman in a minor position.
The deadline for applications under the Labour Party’s tight-turnaround selection system was on Monday, and while the borough’s three constituency Labour parties and the local Co-operative Party are expected to hold nomination meetings over the next week, Labour’s London Region, which is running the process, has yet to published a confirmed list of runners and riders for a race which will be determined by members’ votes next month.
Croydon’s Conservatives announced last month that their dull and uninspiring leader at the Town Hall, Jason Perry, would be their candidate for mayor.
At last month’s mayoral referendum, all 28 wards in the borough voted in favour of moving to the mayoral system.
All three cabinet members now seeking to run as Labour candidate for mayor also campaigned enthusiastically against the change in governance system.
According to one Katharine Street source, putting up someone as a candidate who had been part of the Labour team that saw the council issue a Section 114 notice last year, when they had effectively bankrupted the borough, “would be the ultimate act of political self-harm”.
They said, “Are these people really so arrogant? Do they really have no sense of self-awareness? Or shame?”
Under Newman, Shahul-Hameed was widely recognised as ineffectual when cabinet member for business. There has been a steady decline in the local economy throughout the past decade, most notably evidenced by the state of the town centre and the collapse of the Westfield deal to redevelop the Whitgift Centre.
Shahul-Hameed is now cabinet member for “communities, safety and business recovery”; last year, when handed millions of pounds from the government in covid emergency support grants for Croydon businesses on her watch, the council couldn’t even give away free money.
Flemming appeared to be a particular favourite under Newman, untouchable, even escaping the sack after presiding over a damning Ofsted report over the council’s “inadequate” children’s services department, which the inspectors deemed to be a danger to the youngsters in its care.
The council eventually dragged children’s services out of its failed status, but only after throwing £30million at the department over less than three years – the kind of spending which some suggest led to the collapse of the Town Hall’s finances.
For Flemming’s potential selection as Labour’s mayoral candidate, timing could be key. Ofsted inspectors were back at Fisher’s Folly in September, this time to check how Croydon’s SEND service is performing. Their report is supposed to be made public in the next fortnight, and it is not expected to be good news.
Young, who has an OBE after a 35-year career in the civil service, announced his application for selection to a meeting of Croydon South CLP on Tuesday night. His decision has surprised many members.
Since the S114 notice in November 2020, Young has been promoted to the important role as cabinet member for “resources and financial governance”, effectively replacing Simon Hall as the cabinet member for finance.
Last week, the current council leader, Hamida Ali, ruled herself out of mayoral considerations on the grounds that she is far too busy trying to fix the Town Hall’s finances for the distractions of a selection campaign. Such a consideration does not appear to bother the equally busy Young, who as well as overseeing £38million-worth of cuts to next year’s budget, last week pushed through the deal to flog off the Croydon Park Hotel for around £10million less than Newman and Hall got the council to pay for it in 2017.
Murray-Turner confirmed last week that she would be a candidate for mayor, issuing a late-night Twitter video which, perhaps oddly, did not mention the Labour Party at all.
During the summer, Murray-Turner was telling friends and followers that she had the support of the borough’s two Labour MPs, Steve Reed OBE and Sarah Jones. Party insiders suggest that Reed has shifted his support to Flemming, and now wonder whether Murray-Turner might be considering standing as an independent.
That might be the last resort for Audsley, too. Audsley is another current Labour councillor who worked under Newman and – like Young, Flemming and Shahul-Hameed – just a year ago voted that they had full confidence in his leadership.
Snubbed by Labour previously over the selection for candidates for the London Assembly, Audsley has already been rejected as a suitable candidate to seek re-election as a councillor next year. With the same London Region party machine being in charge of the Croydon mayoral selection process, few give the erstwhile Bensham Manor councillor any chance of getting on to the Labour candidate shortlist.
Read more: Former City Hall chief Shawcross enters Croydon Mayor race
Read more: Croydon votes 4-to-1 in favour of having directly elected mayor
Read more: Mayoral referendum: how Croydon voted, ward-by-ward
- Inside Croydon depends on subscriptions from our readers to enable us to continue to deliver exclusive, headline-making and independent journalism – the sort of scrutiny that Croydon Council would prefer did not exist. Please sign up today as a subscriber. Click here
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named the country’s rottenest borough in 2020 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine – the fourth successive year that Inside Croydon has been the source for such award-winning nominations
- Inside Croydon: 3million page views in 2020. Seen by 1.4million unique visitors