CROYDON LABOUR IN CRISIS: There’s probably a reason that Val Shawcross has neglected to publish details of who is working on her very well-funded Mayoral election campaign: it includes seven councillors who helped to bankrupt the borough. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
With just two weeks until election day on May 5 and Labour’s “New Direction” candidate to become Croydon’s first executive Mayor has yet to publish full details of who is working in her campaign team.
But Inside Croydon has obtained a list of members of Shawcross’s inner circle and can reveal that it is full of long-term supporters of Tony Newman, the discredited former council leader who bankrupted the council.
“I’ll make a clean break with the financial problems of the past and run a tight ship,” the Labour candidate has promised in her election literature.
Yet that “clean break” has seen Shawcross include in her team no fewer than seven past or present Croydon Labour councillors who all worked closely with Newman in the years leading to the council’s financial collapse.
Under Newman, the Labour-run council neglected long-suffering residents in mould-infested council flats, prompting a national scandal; it had the borough’s children’s services declared “dangerous” by Ofsted; and they oversaw the financial disasters of the failed Brick by Brick building company, despite lending it £200million, and the £67million Fairfield Halls refurb – which is being investigated for possible fraudulent conduct.
Just in the past few months, these same Labour council figures have agreed to cut Meals on Wheels to the elderly, axed the council’s grafitti team, closed the Purley Leisure Centre, reduced many of Croydon’s libraries to two-days-a-week opening, and cut Council Tax Support for 20,000 of the poorest households while hiking council rents by 4.1per cent.
According to sources, Shawcross’s team was pulled together three months ago and “represents the structures in the party”.
Although Inside Croydon approached Shawcross in February to request the names of her campaign committee or to be advised when she might publish the identity of its members on her website, we have never received a reply, nor has the website been updated to identify her “team”.
It is now clear why: Shawcross’s campaign is not so much the promised “New Direction for Croydon”, but more of the same old Croydon Labour stooges and hacks who created the mess in the first place.
It is barely six months since most of those on Shawcross’s campaign team were out knocking on doors telling the Croydon public not to vote for a change to the Mayoral system. Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North, even made videos about the perceived dangers of a “fat cat mayor” (how that must have delighted Labour Mayors such as Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham), while Labour leaflets featured pictures of burning £20 notes.
In her campaign literature, Shawcross promises, “Value for money”, though as far as getting elected is concerned, there’s no expense spared by the Labour campaign.
Labour is out-spending all rivals in these local elections, with around £80,000 to lavish on leaflets and letters to try to get Shawcross elected, with 30 or more candidates expected to be carried along on her coattails to the Town Hall as councillors for the next four years.
Half of the Shawcross campaign budget has been drawn from an impost on the borough’s existing 40 Labour councillors’ special allowances. So effectively, £40,000 of Shawcross’s budget is being paid for by the same Council Tax-payers who will be picking up the bills for the Brick by Brick and Fairfield Halls disasters for years to come.
And while Shawcross has emphasised, publicly and privately, the need for councillors and candidates to follow the Nolan Principles of Conduct in Public Life – “Learn them,” she told one of her early campaign meetings – her own campaign team is full of chancers, incompetents and buffoons, and at least one self-admitted law-breaker.
Here, for the first time, Inside Croydon is able to name the members of Val Shawcross’s campaign team when it was formed earlier this year.
Joel “Bodger” Bodmer: Chair. The acolyte of MP Steve Reed, Bodmer also chairs the Local Campaigns Forum which blundered its way through a chaotic candidate selection process, managing to include among council candidates someone who the High Court ruled was not fit to be a trustee of a charity, and another who issued a slew of racist tweets without anyone in his party bothering to check.
Maddie Henson: Campaign secretary and in charge of social media. Councillor since 2014, her seat in Addiscombe East is under threat from the Tories on May 5.
After eight years as a councillor, the best that a Katharine Street colleague could offer about Henson’s skills was, “She makes an OK cup of tea, I suppose.”
A Newman loyalist throughout her time at the Town Hall, Henson was rewarded by having two years in civic robes as the ceremonial deputy mayor and then mayor, with a few bob in extra allowances thrown her way.
With husband Mark Henson (also on the Shawcross campaign committee; see below), their family business supplies IT services to the Labour Party, after General Secretary David Evans gave them the gig without any competitive tender, an arrangement that Labour sources maintain was entirely above board and where there was nothing dodgy about it whatsoever.
It was Evans’ Croydon-based firm, The Campaign Company, that was handed £200,000-plus worth of council contracts shortly after he helped Newman and his numpties win the 2014 election campaign. All above-board and nothing dodgy about that, either.
We will need to wait until the election expenses are published to find out how much the Hensons “donated” to the Shawcross campaign.
Mark Henson: Data analysis. Was desperately disappointed when Labour members in Addiscombe East rejected his application to be a candidate alongside Maddie Henson. Has never yet been selected to stand in a safe Labour ward. But has been included in Shawcross’s inner circle.
Carole Bonner: Treasurer. Like Bodger Bodmer, another who has presided over the clusterfuck that has been the rarely-convened LCF. In the middle of a campaign. Bonner acts as treasurer at the LCF, too.
Until she stood down in 2018, Bonner was a councillor in New Addington, where she worked closely with key Newman aide, Simon Hall, the cabinet member for finance who crashed the council’s finances.
Hall has been suspended by the Labour Party since early 2021 while his conduct in the borough’s financial collapse is investigated.
Stooge Collins: Print. A councillor since 1993, he 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 accordingly never uttered a peep of dissent.
Thirsty Fraser: Group whip. 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”.
Julie Setchfield: Central Croydon liaison with Sarah Jones. A candidate in Fairfield ward. Has never been a councillor before.
Anthony Ellis: Croydon North liaison. The paid employee of the Labour Party, laughably described as a “borough organiser”. Actively tried to encourage Labour members to vote multiple times on an online poll on this website (a ploy that failed, miserably), though that now appears to have been adopted as Croydon Labour policy, with election candidates openly encouraging the public to “vote early, vote often”. Which, of course, is illegal and a serious breach of electoral law.
John Sailing: a grass-roots member.
Chris Clark: Union liaison. Croydon councillor (Fairfield ward) since 2018, was appointed by Newman as the chair of planning. Also implicated in the Sirisena cover-up as well as fixing the selection of candidate for the November 2019 Fairfield council by-election.
Patsy Cummings: Councillor since 2017, serving under Newman. Was deputy cabinet member for finance to Simon Hall when their finances crashed and burned. Was Labour’s London Assembly candidate for Croydon and Sutton last year.
Appu Dhamodaran: Community outreach. Probably would have liked to have become a Newman numpty, had he been given the chance by being selected for a winnable ward in 2018.
This time around, has been selected for safe Labour ward Norbury Park.
The president of the Croydon Tamil Sangam and secretary of Steve Reed’s Constituency Labour Party.
Sherwen Chowdhury: Typical time-serving councillor, having first been elected in 2006. Newman loyalist. Survived deselection this year to scramble back on the allowances gravy train after the LCF cocked up the candidates in another ward.
Rowenna Davis: Standing for election to Croydon Council for the first time in 2022, in Waddon ward, where she lives in a £1million Gothic mansion. Was part of the “slate” of candidates put together by Jamie Audsley. Whatever happened to him?
Blue Labour who thinks that writing for The S*n is somehow a good thing. Said to have had a significant role in drafting Shawcross’s manifesto.
Grassroots Labour members and activists have been thin on the ground so far in the campaign, many disaffected by the shift to the right made by the party nationally under Keir Starmer and Reed, but also because of the deep embarrassment felt over the way Newman and his numpties ran the borough into the ground.
As one told Inside Croydon today, “Val’s campaign is all about ‘plausible deniability’. But her campaign is being run by Newman supporters and those who are close to Steve Reed.
“Does she think the public are stupid to believe that this is somehow a ‘clean break’? Putting the same people in charge who bankrupted the borough will really go down badly with voters.”
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: Mayor candidate Shawcross’s ‘new’ direction not so new at all
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