Any ‘clean break’ with the incompetence and graft of the past at Croydon Town Hall that is being offered by Labour Mayoral candidate Val Shawcross appears doomed by her own campaign’s deep-rooted connections with discredited Tony Newman and some of his most loyal supporters. STEVEN DOWNES reports
Plausible deniability will only get you so far.
As Croydon’s “Local Conservatives” are discovering to their cost, as hard as they might try, they cannot completely distance themselves from the lying, philandering, corrupting, tax-dodging Tory shambles at Westminster under Boris Johnson.
In much the same way, the local Labour Party, dominated by the malign influence of Blairite MP Steve Reed, has been hoping, desperately, that the voting public would not draw the dots between the wretched Town Hall administration of his mate Tony Newman and their Mayoral candidate, Val Shawcross.
The Shawcross campaign colours have been purpled, toned down from Labour’s traditional red.
And the campaign motto is “A New Direction for Croydon”. All taken straight from the playbook of Blair’s “Prince of Darkness”, all very Mandelson.
Except everywhere you look in Shawcross’s campaign team and among the Labour councillor candidates, there are the very same people whose old direction drove the council’s finances off a cliff.
Just six months ago, these same politicians were avidly campaigning against having a directly elected Mayor, and threatening and ostracising any Labour supporters who took a different view, despite directly-elected mayors being a national party policy.
On October 7, when the Mayoral referendum took place, Reed and Croydon Labour were shown to be so completely out of touch with the voters in Croydon that all 28 wards in the borough ignored their “Fat Cat Mayor” campaign and voted for a change in governance.
Yet today, at the centre of Shawcross’s Labour-managed Mayoral campaign, are more than a dozen council candidates who all happily served at the dark heart of Newman’s administration, many of them handsomely rewarded for looking the other way over scandals such as Regina Road, Brick by Brick and the Fairfield Halls.
Here are just some examples of prominent players in Croydon Labour and members of Newman’s cabal who are shamelessly seeking re-election on May 5 …
Broad Green ward
Collins (right) was Tony Newman’s deputy leader from 2014 to 2020, during which time he will have received around £300,000 in “special responsibility allowances”, and never uttered a peep of dissent. Has been a councillor since 1993.
Was in charge of the borough’s “clean green” campaign which ultimately failed to end the scourge of fly-tipping, nor managed to keep our streets swept and our bins collected reliably, while adding an extra £21million to Veolia’s contract in 2020.
Campaigned vigorously against “Fat Cat Mayors”, opposing any change in the council’s electoral system. Today, Collins is a leading member of Val Shawcross’s campaign team.
Addiscombe West ward
Clive Fraser was de-selected last year by Labour members in his home ward of South Norwood, who were angry over a multitude of short-comings, including the councillor’s wanton neglect of council tenants living in Dickensian conditions in flats on Regina Road.
Deemed no good enolugh for South Norwood, Fraser (right), somehow managed to get selected in Addiscombe West – which means Fraser will have sought to represent three different wards in three successive council elections.
Fraser is a former Lambeth council employee who worked in housing, at a time when Steve Reed was council leader at Brixton Town Hall.
From 2018, Fraser was Newman’s “enforcer” at Croydon Town Hall, as the Labour group chief whip, receiving additional special allowances. Was implicated, with Newman, in the cover-up of the violent sexual assault of a young woman by one of his Labour councillor colleagues, Niro Sirisena, and more recently has boasted publicly of further law-breaking over the illegal handling of stolen data.
Campaigned vigorously against “Fat Cat Mayors”. Today, like Collins, Fraser is a member of Val Shawcross’s campaign team.
A councillor since 2014, Henson has strong, commercial links with the Labour Party nationally. A Newman cheerleader throughout her time as a councillor (pictured right), she was never seen by the leadership to be capable enough for a cabinet position. So in 2018 Newman offered Henson the sop of the ceremonial civic robes as deputy and then Mayor of Croydon – with the handy extra cash that goes with the non-executive role.
Her family IT business was handed a contract by controversial Labour General Secretary David Evans for their Anonyvoter system. Henson is seen to be vulnerable to the Tories in this election, but she has received much personal support from MP Sarah Jones and Shawcross, with visits from Labour parliamentary front-benchers.
Henson campaigned against “Fat Cat Mayors”. Now, together with her husband and business partner, Mark Henson, she is part of Val Shawcross’s Mayoral campaign. Maddie Henson is the campaign’s secretary and runs its social media, an area on which she is so inexpert, that she recently blocked Inside Croydon on Twitter. Bless.
A councillor, on and off, since 1994, Fitzsimons was appointed chair of the council’s scrutiny committee in 2014. Supposedly a back-bencher appointment, from 2018 Newman whacked up Fitzsimons’ special responsibility allowances to a cabinet-level £42,000 per year.
So taken was he with this largesse and endorsement from his “Strong Leader”, that Fitzsimons (right) took to attending Labour cabinet meetings, despite his supposedly “independent” scrutiny status. He became the subject of regular and legitimate questions about his impartiality.
On Fitzsimons’ scrutiny watch, the series of multi-million-pound disasters over Brick by Brick, the Fairfield Halls and the council’s parlous finances passed by as if unnoticed.
Fitzsimons is thought to be a key influence in Croydon Labour opposing proposals for future chairs of scrutiny to be drawn from the opposition group. He is the brother-in-law of Dave Hill, the editor of a lobbyist-funded London website which, coincidentally, ran a couple of embarrassingly favourable pieces in the final days of Newman’s crumbling empire. Fitzsimons campaigned against “Fat Cat Mayors”, but is not known to have any formal role in the Shawcross campaign.
Another, like Collins, who is almost certain to be re-elected to the council from a super-safe ward, Shahul-Hameed (right) served unquestioningly in Newman’s council cabinets from 2016 through to 2020 (after a spell as ceremonial Mayor), and then continued as a member of the cabinet under Hamida Ali over the past 18 months.
Supposedly in charge of business programmes in the borough, the council’s shambolic record in failing to distribute urgent covid grants to small and medium-sized businesses whose cash flows were devastated in the first lockdown occurred on her watch. Another who is so sensitive to justified criticism that, rather than defend her record (yeah, well…), she has secretly blocked Inside Croydon on social media.
Campaigned against “Fat Cat Mayors”. Then ran an uninspiring campaign to be selected as Labour’s candidate for Mayor. Not known to be a member of the Shawcross campaign team.
Has received more than £330,000 over the last eight years in special responsibility allowances as a council cabinet member under Tony Newman and then Hamida Ali.
Flemming has always reacted angrily to any criticism of her part in the damning report from Ofsted on the council’s “dangerous” children’s services department in 2017. But Flemming (pictured right with Steve Reed and Tony Newman) has never managed to provide a convincing case for why she should not have been fired five years ago.
It took an extra £30million to fix the issues within that children’s services department – additional money that we know now the council never really had “spare”. Since the council’s bankruptcy in 2020, reports from auditors and commissioners have regularly observed that spending in Flemming’s departments lack proper controls and disciplines.
Meanwhile, on Flemming’s watch two large secondary schools were forced to close, mainly due to falling rolls, while the council green-lighted the building of new secondaries for academy chains. Croydon’s SEND provision, another Flemming responsibility, remains a mess, despite a recent “pass” from Ofsted.
Campaigned against “Fat Cat Mayors”. Then stood to be Labour’s Mayoral candidate. Not known to be a member of the Shawcross campaign team.
Other former Newman supporters who are standing for election to the council include Chris Clark (installed by Newman as chair of the planning committee after Paul Scott), and Stuart King and Callton Young, who between them in the past few months have axed Meals on Wheels, taken Council Tax Support from 20,000 of the borough’s poorest households, and increased council rents by 4.1per cent, plus there’s Karen Jewitt, who lost her position as the chair of the audit committee in the aftermath of the financial collapse, as well as two other former ceremonial Mayors, Sherwan Chowdhury and Humayan Kabir.
All campaigned against “Fat Cat Mayors”. All are out canvassing to seek their own re-election and for Val Shawcross to be Croydon’s first executive Mayor.
Read more: Labour axed Meals on Wheels service to save just £24,000
Read more: Labour council benefit cuts will hit 20,000 ‘horrendously’
Read more: Mayoral referendum: how Croydon voted, ward-by-ward
Read more: Labour MP Reed accused of ‘bad politics’ by Blairite peer
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