CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: Leading figures in the council’s financial crash failed to declare any interests before taking part in vote against calling in the police to investigate possible fraud at the Fairfield Halls.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
Labour councillors Alison Butler and Paul Scott are the subjects of formal complaints to the council’s Monitoring Officer for their failures to declare an interest at the Extraordinary Council Meeting in the Town Hall chamber on February 3 and breaking the Nolan Principles for conduct in public life.
Sources suggest that the complaints – there seems to be more than one – revolve around the married couple’s failure to come clean, as might be expected, over their roles in the £67.5million Fairfield Halls fiasco.
The ECM was called to discuss the auditors’ Report In The Public Interest over the arts centre and the various unlawful actions that led to the refurbishment project being handed to Brick by Brick, the council-owned house-builders, without it ever going out for competitive tendering.
The project proved to be an unmitigated disaster from the very beginning, with Brick by Brick spending more than twice the budget and re-opening the Halls more than a year late with works unfinished and incomplete.
At this month’s Town Hall meeting the Monitoring Officer, John Jones, announced that he was having the RIPI’s findings reviewed for possible instances of fraud.
Butler and Scott were leading figures in the Croydon Labour cabal under leader Tony Newman that bankrupted the borough, playing key roles in the creation of Brick by Brick, the £200million-worth of loans handed to the failing house-builders, and the disasters surrounding the bungled refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls.
Butler was Newman’s deputy council leader for six years until the Town Hall financial crash in 2020. From 2014 until 2020, Butler was the council cabinet member for “homes and gateway services”.
Her husband, Paul Scott, was the architect (literally) of many of the Labour administration’s woes around overdevelopment, serving on the planning committee until 2020, for most of that time as chair. He was chair when the multi-million-pound property deal for College Green, an integral part of the nexus of arrangements around the Fairfield refurb, was granted planning permission.
When at the height of their powers in Croydon public life, Butler and Scott were between them receiving £93,000 per year in allowances from the council.
Both Scott and Butler attended the ECM earlier this month. Scott was even allowed to put questions to the auditors, Grant Thornton, about their report.
Both Butler and Scott voted against a motion towards the end of the meeting that recommended that the RIPI should be referred to the police for investigation.
And Butler is directly identified by the auditors in the Report In The Public Interest among a handful of senior officials and cabinet members who either commissioned unlawful acts, or failed in their duties to prevent such acts from taking place.
Indeed, in the auditors’ conclusions they state: “Throughout the project there were individuals with both the knowledge of the many issues with the project and who had duties and responsibilities which we would expect to require action to address the known issues.
“The lack of appropriate action, in our view, represents a failure to discharge the duties expected from a small group of senior officers… This group reported to the then Portfolio Holders (the then Portfolio Holders for Homes and Gateway Services, for Finance and Resources and the Leader) who were either not briefed by officers and should have requested briefings on the project given what they appeared to know or did not take effective action in response to concerns raised by the officers.”
As Scott asked his questions of the auditors, sitting alongside him in the Town Hall Chamber was Butler.
Yet neither Scott (as the partner of Butler and the co-owner of their home and properties) nor Butler made any public declaration of interests before addressing the meeting or voting against police action.
According to one of those who have raised this matter with the council’s senior legal official, “So much for this administration having some kind of ‘clean slate’ and clean break from the bad old days under Newman.
“The cabinet is still made up of those who were in Newman’s cabinet, and those who did lose their positions after Hamida Ali became leader, such as Alison Butler, Paul Scott, but also Stuart Collins, have carried on behaving as if nothing has happened.
“The seven Nolan Principles for conduct in public life are enshrined in the council’s constitution, and council employees and elected councillors: Selflessness; Integrity; Objectivity; Accountability; Openness; and Leadership. The seventh, and probably most important, is honesty.
“On the night of the Extraordinary Council Meeting, by not declaring their interest in the matter, I reckon Butler and Scott must have broken all of them.”
Croydon is London’s Borough of Culture 2023.
Read more: £67m fraud at Fairfield: Town Hall row over calling in police
Read more: Conflicts of interest, incomplete contracts, unlawful payments
Read more: £30m Fairfield Halls project never went to competitive tender
Read more: Kakistocracy: Butler forced into £6m bail-out of Brick by Brick
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