Election results leave Labour supporters angry and dismayed

With the final declaration in, WALTER CRONXITE reports on the state of the council after the 2022 elections

By the end, the emotions on show at the Croydon Council election count at Trinity School were less those of shock, disappointment or even anger, more just simple exhaustion at the end of a four-day marathon.

It was nearly 7.20 on Sunday evening, at elections where the polling stations had opened at 7am on Thursday. Having announced the last result from the last ward to declare – Peter Underwood’s fourth-placed finish in Fairfield ward – Katherine Kerswell, the Returning officer who’d presided over the mayhem and disarray from the moment the ballot boxes had arrived at the counting centre, allowed herself a little frisson of a hop and a punch of the air with both arms. It drew a few jeers of derision from those who had the misfortune to still be in the hall.

The underlying causes and concerns surrounding the arrangements for the count have been laid out elsewhere. But the outcome of the voting at the centre of it all promises to have repercussions for many years to come.

The north-south divide: for the first time in 20 years, the political map of Croydon is not just red and blue

Jason Perry arrived at the Town Hall this morning to take up office as Croydon’s first elected Mayor. How the new Conservative Mayor rubs along with a council chamber where the largest single party is Labour seems certain to define his administration.

There are two quasi-judicial committees, for example, planning and licensing, which have the chair appointed by the council, not the Mayor.

Council in cover-up shocker: as Private Eye might say. Mayor Perry greeted at the Town Hall by council CEO Katherine Kerswell this morning

Planning officials on various residents’ associations across the borough, people who have followed the Machiavellian machinations of Paul Scott and Heather Cheesbrough over the last eight years, are keenly awaiting the line-up of the new planning committee.

After all, how do you possibly divide up the 10 committee members when there are 34 Labour councillors, 32 Tories and three LibDems and Greens?

And then there’s the thorny issue of the composition of the scrutiny committee and GPAC, the general purposes and audit committee.

The cash-strapped council was ordered last year to appoint an independent chair of GPAC, while Labour resisted calls to have an opposition councillor chair scrutiny, in place of Tony Newman’s loyal placeman, Sean Fitzsimons. Will that position change now the Tories have the upper hand through the Mayor?

And what of the role of the chief executive, now that we have an executive Mayor? Katharine Street sources noted how Kerswell had inserted herself in an official council video at the start of the election campaign period, almost as if she was in charge of the appointment of the Mayor, rather than the electorate. And, again this morning, Kerswell positioned herself conspicuously at the heart of matters with a photocall with Perry on the steps of the Town Hall.

“What’s that all about?” one councillor said to Inside Croydon. “You don’t see the head of the Civil Service welcoming a new Prime Minister to Parliament after a General Election, do you?

“Kerswell’s up to something.”

Spoilt ballot: not everyone was content with the choice of candidates on offer

The smart money is that what Kerswell is “up to” is protecting her cushty £190,000 per year salary or, as happened with a change of administration when she worked at Kent County Council, trying to ensure that she gets another £420,000 pay-off.  After all, it’s not that Croydon isn’t already notorious for making overly generous payments to under-achieving executives…

Kerswell did herself no favours with the chaotic conduct of the election count. At one point on Sunday, with not enough space in the sports hall or theatre, the count for one ward, Waddon, was being conducted in the school canteen.

Complaints about mis-assigned bundles of votes and scrutineers and agents being excluded from the count for a crucial 20minutes on Thursday night won’t impress the Electoral Commission, and did not impress the candidates and public who was bystanders at the latest Croydon Council car crash.

The long, long count of councillor votes, the start of which was delayed until Saturday evening, brought a drip-drip feed of agony for Labour’s supporters, but little in the way of great joy for the Tories. The impact of Boris Johnson, Partygate and the other associated scandals at Westminster undoubtedly played a role in the way people voted.

And the way the council had been mismanaged by Labour also impacted.

As the results came in, ward after ward in the red strongholds in north and central Croydon told the same story through the dire turn-out: Labour supporters, even members, had not bothered to turn out to cast their votes, with three-quarters of electors in some areas not troubling the ballot box.

Top of the polls: Yvette Hopley

Selhurst had 26per cent turnout, New Addington North 25.6per cent, Broad Green 26.5per cent. Contrast this to Conservative wards, such as Park Hill and Whitgift (42per cent), Old Coulsdon (45.8per cent) and Sanderstead (48.4per cent), where Yvette Hopley was returned to the council with more votes than any other councillor candidate, 3,826. This in an election where some of Croydon’s councillors were elected with fewer than a thousand votes.

It was this battle of the turn-outs that had doomed Val Shawcross’s hopes of becoming Mayor. The Tories simply made sure more of their supporters voted.

Yet despite bankrupting the borough, 14 of Newman’s numpties still scrambled back on to the council allowances gravy train today – nearly half of the new contingent of Labour councillors.

Of the borough’s 69 elected councillors (Perry’s first act as Mayor has been to cause a by-election for the South Croydon councillor seat he is unable to take up), 27 are Town Hall newbies – although one, Holly Ramsey in Purley and Woodcote, has just had four years in the vipers’ nest that is Sutton Council.

Labour lost seats in Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood (where Claire Bonham won the LibDems’ first council seat since 2002) and Fairfield, where the Greens took two seats, yet the electorate still returned Newman numpty Chris Clark.

Spring shoots: Croydon’s first Green councillors, Esther Sutton (left) and Ria Patel

They also lost one seat in Waddon, where the party was quick to point the finger of blame at Andrew Pelling, their former councillor who, some seem to forget, had been forced out of the party by their own officials for the heinous offence of… talking to the press.

“Andrew had been democratically selected by local Labour Party members to be a Labour candidate in Waddon only to then be deselected by Local Campaign Forum shenanigans,” said now ex-councillor Robert Canning, who was a Waddon ward colleague of Pelling’s for eight years.

“That’s why he stood as an independent and the several hundred votes that Andrew secured split the Labour vote in Waddon.

“The chair of the LCF, Joel Bodmer, and those other members of the LCF who supported the decision to re-panel Andrew, whose actions have gifted the Conservatives a seat in Waddon, should be ashamed of themselves and resign immediately.”

Canning was not alone in questioning the position of Bodmer and his “top team” at the LCF of Carole Bonner and Nuala O’Neill in the shambolic Labour election campaign.

The real blow to Croydon Labour’s solar plexus came in New Addington, where three seats were lost across the two two-seat wards. Not for 50 years has a Tory been elected in what is now New Addington North, where former Labour member Adele Benson got on the council as a Conservative alongside returning Kola Agboola. The second Labour candidate there, Sangeeta Gobidaas, got fourth with a paltry 653 votes.

Labour members in New Addington South had no doubt why their two seats were seized by Tony Pearson (back on the council after eight years, and a dalliance with racist far-right parties) and Laura Fish: they blamed their two Labour councillors of the past eight years, Louisa Woodley and Ollie “Shit Show” Lewis, two of the numptiest of Newman’s numpties.

Housing schemes imposed on New Addington by the Labour council’s failed housing developer, Brick by Brick, including building on kids’ playgrounds or seeking to destroy parts of a nature reserve, also undermined Labour’s case.

But simmering resentment created by two outsiders who took the “safe” Labour ward for granted will not be quickly forgotten.

Woodley did not seek re-selection, while Lewis could not get selected by party members in any ward. “Louisa and Ollie should hang their heads in shame,” one New Addington resident told Inside Croydon.

“Their many years of doing fuck-all for our community has resulted in this.”

Read more: From bankrupt to laughing stock as council count continues
Read more: Tory Perry wins historic Mayor election by less than 600 votes

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in 2022 council elections, 2022 Croydon Mayor election, Andrew Pelling, Broad Green, Chris Clark, Claire Bonham, Coulsdon, Croydon Central, Croydon Council, Croydon Greens, Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, Esther Sutton, Fairfield, Jade Appleton, Jason Perry, Katherine Kerswell, Kola Agboola, Louisa Woodley, New Addington, New Addington North, Oliver Lewis, Park Hill and Whitgift, Paul Scott, Peter Underwood, Planning, Robert Canning, Sanderstead, Selhurst, South Croydon, Steve Reed MP, Tony Pearson, Val Shawcross, Waddon, Yvette Hopley and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Election results leave Labour supporters angry and dismayed

  1. Eugenie Bryan says:

    I am no fan of the Tories, but am ecstatic that Labour is having a torrid time, given how they’ve wrecked Croydon. Hopefully, we can look forward to a revamp of Croydon town centre, which is currently a very poor shadow of its former self.

    • Rod Davies says:

      How specifically do you imagine that the Conservative Mayor, Mr Perry, will deliver a revamped Croydon town centre? He talks big but offers no substantive proposals how to achieve it.
      In the early 1970’s I came down from my home in Sunny Birkenhead to attend a gig by Amon Duul II. Croydon was a stark contrast with my home town that was still wearing all the marks of WW2 and the post-war decline in industry. Croydon town centre was vibrant with lots of young mothers out shopping, and seeming to have a lot of disposable income compared with their counterparts on the Mersey. There was evidently full-employment.
      The Whitgift Centre was bright and cheerful and prosperous, because Croydon was bright & cheerful and prosperous.
      That Croydon is gone and young mothers, with pushchairs, don’t move about the town in a carefree manner as they did, and enjoy a coffee with friends. And that’s because if you are young with a family you are more than likely to be struggling to pay the bills; you probably rely on two incomes to keep a roof over your head and spend your days balancing work and childcare. So you don’t have the spare cash to spend freely in the Whitgift Centre or elsewhere.
      The brutal fact is that shopping centres like Whitgift rely on the young families to come and buy the plethora of daily items they need as their family evolves. New clothes, toys, food, furniture etc etc. It’s not the relatively well off 50’s Plus who spend their money there. So if the burden of lower purchasing power and increasing cost of living weighs more heavily on the young, then centres like Whitgift and Centrale will struggle to stay afloat.
      The largest single cost is housing, largely because supply is limited and its therefore a sellers market. The only way it will change is if large numbers of affordable houses are built very quickly, and incomes are diverted away from paying rent or mortgages and into buying things in the shopping centres.
      So how will Mr Perry either increase earnings & thus purchasing power, or reduce the cost of living and thus purchasing power? Whatever his plan, maintaining the status quo or blocking the mass construction of affordable homes isn’t the answer.

    • James Seabrook says:

      I honestly couldn’t agree more.

      In my opinion the Tories aren’t exactly the innocent party when it comes to politics, however the local contingent are probably more trustable than the national.

      But the main point is, local Labour is an utter disgrace. More a case of working not for the people, but for their own greedy pockets, as illustrated very well by this article.

  2. David WHITE says:

    The decision by Labour’s hierarchy to re-panel Andrew Pelling after he had been selected by Waddon ward Labour members and started campaigning for Labour was one of several disastrous moves by Labour which in my view contributed to Val Shawcross’s defeat.

    As a result of being ousted by Labour, Andrew stood as an Independent. This led to some potential Labour voters casting their votes for Andrew and ignoring Labour. More importantly Andrew was able to be an effective critic of the previous Labour administration, which Val was unable fully to dissociate herself from.

    • Hazel Harrison says:

      Labour lost because of the antics and legacy of Clr Paul Scott. It’s as simple as that.

      • David White says:

        There were far more reasons than that in my view, though clearly the planning issue was paramount for some, particularly in the south.

        Although I disagree with many of Paul Scott’s actions it’s important to recognise what his motivation was.

        He was trying to alleviate the housing crisis and provide homes for the homeless and those in housing need, of whom there are a great number in Croydon. The implementation was however misconceived, particularly in the case of Brick by Brick.

        • That wasn’t his motivation, David.
          The proof is all around you, in the hundreds of unaffordable “luxury apartments” that have done nothing to ease the housing crisis, but all helped to bolster considerably the bank balances of developers, and architects.

          The number of new council homes built between 2014-2022 was pitifully small – the final figures only boosted belatedly by the firesale of some BxB developments, using Housing Revenue Account cash to reduce the failed company’s losses.

          That Scott was given “special dispensation” for eight years, much of that time chairing planning, never to disclose any interests, while also a director of a firm of architects allowed him carte blanche with any associations he had in the industry, including over Westfield.

        • Sally says:

          If that were the case, he wouldn’t have pushed so forcefully for the destruction of family homes for flats that contained no affordable housing whatsoever. There was nothing honourable about his intentions. For all the building going on in Croydon, very little is affordable – hence the volume of empty flats in the borough.

    • Chris Flynn says:

      “This led to some potential Labour voters casting their votes for Andrew and ignoring Labour.”

      Presumably they voted Pelling first choice, and Shawcross second?

      • David White says:

        Some would have done but I suspect others cast only one vote or voted for Peter Underwood of the Greens second, or one of the other parties. The feeling of unfairness about the way Andrew Pelling and Jamie Audsley and others were treated by Labour had an effect I believe.

  3. Hazel Harrison says:

    I had no idea Katherine Kerswell got a (very) big pay-out from Kent Council when she ‘left’.

    What is going on? She was dropped onto Croydon by the Government to make people redundant – I can’t believe they foisted someone who has a track record of getting payouts from local authorities – that is outrageous.

    And who in Croydon Council gave her the full time job – knowing she had a track record of squeezing her employer for compo.

    Can see how this now unfolds. She’s clearly not up to the job – she’ll eventually be forced to leave at which point the hand pops out seeking compensation.

    Why are we paying for an executive CE when we have an able executive mayor?

    I’d be embarrassed seeking a huge pay-out from the public sector – something really distasteful about that. Why is she at Croydon?

  4. David Bryce says:

    Please, no more Chris Clerk on the planning committee and certainly not as Chair. He’s like an amateur DJ at a primary school disco.

  5. Catherine says:

    Eugenie, you are forgetting it was a Tory who promised to “revamp” Croydon in the first place. Boris, when he was mayor of London. The mayor of Croydon will be the same, all words but no action. Not even to claim a triumph over the Council who messed it all up and trashed the deal with Westfield. The only way the town centre will be saved is with a monumental bail out from central government, and it is much bigger wheels than Perry can ever aspire to influence that will have to turn for that to happen.

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