Our south of the borough correspondent, PEARL LEE, on the latest controversy caused by Coulsdon’s most witless councillor
Councillor Mario Creatura, the failed Conservative parliamentary candidate, has caused fury among local businesses and residents in the ward he is supposed to represent by appearing to blame them for the absence this year of Coulsdon’s Yulefest and Christmas lights – even though he knew as long ago as June that he would not have any ward budget available to support the annual festival.
The Tory councillor for Coulsdon Town, once the Westminster aide to MP Gavin Barwell and a Downing Street special adviser, posted a 2,000-word diatribe on the local Croydon Conservatives’ website at the weekend, ostensibly explaining why Yulefest has had to be cancelled in 2021, as it was in 2020 (in one word: covid).
But as Creatura, inevitably, used his post to try to score political points against the Labour administration at the cash-strapped council, he came unstuck himself.
Social media pages have been lit up over the weekend by angry traders and residents, who accuse Creatura of trying to pass the buck to them for the Yulefest cancellation, blaming them for failing to raise enough cash to pay for the Christmas lights, and critical of his attempts to avoid answering questions over his own part in the funding shortfall.
“This infuriated me,” one Coulsdon Town resident told Inside Croydon.
“He’s blaming businesses that he’s made no effort to talk to and asking residents who weren’t even informed of the situation… then telling people to donate or Yulefest won’t come back… pointing out ‘not a penny donated so far’, to a fund nobody knew about.
“And guess what? He hasn’t donated himself.”
At one point in his verbose diatribe, the former gobby factotum wrote, under the clearly patronising heading “A note to local businesses”.
Here, Creatura bemoaned the fact that local businesses had rejected a scheme he wanted to impose upon them.
“I have been a councillor in Coulsdon since 2014, and in that time we have tried three times to set up a Coulsdon Business Partnership,” he wrote.
“Sadly, every time we’ve tried to set it up it falls at the first hurdle: no local business is willing to step forward to help run it… it seems no local business is willing to invest the time to make it a success. That’s a terrible shame.” Diddums.
And Creatura played the blame game again elsewhere, writing about the funding shortage for the Christmas festival, again taking a swipe at the owners of Coulsdon’s hard-working SMEs – small and medium-sized enterprises – the sort of businesses that have been hardest hit by the pandemic and resulting lockdowns.
“There are simply not enough local businesses and residents willing to volunteer their time or donate funds/services for Yulefest to carry on forever,” the councillor lectured his readers.
“Every single year the small band of Yulefest volunteers tries their hardest to get local traders and more from the community involved only for it to fall largely on deaf ears… the truth is that their reticence to support Yulefest stretches back way before covid was a thing.
“It’s no good complaining online that it’s not happening this year, we need everyone reading this right now to email and offer to help the team out in whatever way they can – big or small.”
And then there was the little, passive-aggressive threat at the end. “I worry that if we don’t have more of you supporting it, then Coulsdon Yulefest may never return to our town.”
According to Creatura, Yulefest costs approximately £10,000 to stage each year. Hiring the lights and having them installed has gone up from £3,500 in 2019 to £6,100, in large part, Creatura suggests, because council contractors Skanska – now calling themselves Mile Infrastructure – have piled in with installation charges for a service which used to be provided free under the council contract.
For five of the seven years that Coulsdon Yulefest has gone ahead, Creatura and his two fellow Tory councillors have taken money from the Labour-controlled council in their community ward budget to help pay for the Christmas lights – about £3,700 each year.
But, just in case you had not heard, a year ago, Croydon went bankrupt. Ward budgets were immediately axed altogether, then reinstated in May, before being pulled again come June.
In the last 12 months, it emerged yesterday, Creatura and his fellow ward councillors had failed to bother communicating that their ward budgets would not be available this year and, it is reasonable to assume – with another £38million of cuts coming our way – probably not for 2022 either.
When news of this made it to various Coulsdon Facebook groups, Creatura was bombarded with complaints, as well as questions about when he knew there would be no ward budget available.
He appeared to be less than eager to provide a straight answer about his own part in this sad sequence of events. No surprise there, then.
Oddly, no one has yet suggested that Creatura and his former boss, Barwell, could seek a £3million donation towards Yulefest from a rich Conservative Party donor, in return for a seat in the House of Lords. Or to get a two-job Tory MP to dip into the hundreds of thousands of pounds extra that they have been earning, working for some tax haven or other similarly questionable organisation, and put it towards such a good cause…
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