Last week, we provided the low-down on the new council cabinet under £81,000 per year Tory executive Mayor Jason Perry.
Now our Town Hall reporter KEN LEE provides a briefing on the newly unveiled shadow team
Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.
Stuart King has the dubious pleasure of leading the largest group of councillors at the Town Hall, but they find themselves in opposition to all-powerful Mayor Jason Perry. We’ll never know whether the former Labour parliamentary candidate had such a lofty ambition in mind when he first put his name forward to become a Croydon councillor way back in 2013.
What we do know is that when the council – of which he was a leading member – crashed the borough’s finances in autumn 2020, King ruled himself out of contention for the Labour Town Hall leadership, muttering something about not spending enough time with his young family.
Eighteen months on, and after Val Shawcross’s bid to become Mayor floundered, King is settling in to the role as opposition leader (and the £29,648 special responsibility allowances that go with the job).
King spent those past 18 months as deputy leader of the council with responsibilities for finance and property disposals which saw him have a hand in the 4.1per cent council rents rise and the axing of Council Tax Support for 20,000 households around the borough. He also sold off – at a multi-million-pound loss, naturally – the Croydon Park Hotel. This is where things all get a little sticky for Councillor King.
After a career in various public sector gigs including Crapita and managing events for Dods plc (the “unrivalled intelligence, media, events and training specialists”), last year King landed himself a day job is senior account director for The Terrapin Group, who claim to be a market-leader in the arena of politics, property and development.
It was one of Terrapin’s clients who sealed the deal to buy the cut-price Croydon Park Hotel, with King maintaining that he removed himself from all discussions where he may have had a conflict of interest.
The questions that were raised then apply all the more so with King now the leader of the opposition: given the council’s parlous financial position and its interests in property, development and planning, is he even able to perform the role as opposition leader if he has to leave the room every five minutes because his employment with Terrapin might lead to the perception that he is in some manner compromised?
King has decided to go with having two deputies (they will split the opposition deputy leader’s £7,520 special responsibility allowance between them), both of whom have also been given shadow cabinet portfolios.
Retired senior civil servant Callton Young (council allowances: £21,067.20) is the shadow cabinet member for finance. Young got his OBE for public service as a civil servant. He is one of the few that stood up to discredited council leader Tony Newman, when he voted with the Tories against Labour over the local police’s racist policy on bashment music events. Let that sink in.
His community credentials are impressive, with him having been at one time chairman of the Croydon African Caribbean Family Organisation (CACFO) and chair of governors at St Giles School for children with disabilities, and an advisor to Windrush Action.
Unfortunately, that reputation has become tarnished by his involvement with the sell-off of the Grangewood Park Lodge in his Thornton Heath ward and other public assets, where he claimed, “We were determined to achieve market value for the Croydon Park Hotel and the College Green sites before agreeing any sale, which is why we brought in highly-experienced and independent property specialists to get the best possible return.”
Tell that to the auditors.
It was the loss of a community centre in New Addington, the long-time home of the local boxing club, that saw Labour lose three of its four council seats there at the elections. Young unwisely said of this debacle, “We have a good track record of helping the club’s work for the local community, including donating a demountable boxing ring when providing their temporary accommodation, and will continue to help however possible.” New Addington was clearly unconvinced.
Janet Campbell (allowances: £21,067.20), one of King’s West Thornton ward colleagues, has been promoted to group deputy leader in the post-election reshuffle. She also gets to look after health and adult social care.
The mother of Clive Campbell, the founder of the successful Croydon FM radio station, Janet Campebell’s experience includes being a foster carer for 14 years.
Campbell only joined Labour in 2014, saying then that she wanted to be involved in decision-making at a local level. She’s on record as saying that “we can be led from the bottom up and not the top down”, a concept at odds with how Labour conducts itself locally and nationally.
Mike Bonello (shadow cabinet allowances: £17,307.20) is another promoted by King.
Bonello has been a councillor, for his home ward, Woodside, only since May 2021, elected at the by-election following the resignation of the discredited Tony Newman.
A social worker by profession, and a former vice-chair of the health equality and rights organisation charity, Bonello is now shadow cabinet member for children and young people.
His appointment has been broadly welcomed in Labour circles, both because of his experience in the area but probably more so because he replaces Alisa Flemming, who appeared unsackable under Newman and later Hamida Ali, despite her part in the council’s children’s services department failing its 2017 Ofsted inspection. The £30million spent to repair that damage to children’s services went some way to beginning the path to the council’s bankruptcy.
Challenged just before his election in 2021 about Labour’s threat to close the old South Norwood Library building, Bonello said he would not vote to close it, and deflected blame for the borough’s dire financial straits away from his predecessor’s incompetence and recklessness with: “Why are we facing this… Hamida Ali, the leader of our council, is faced with a situation 78per cent [cuts]… that is where we have been put by this government.”
“Thirsty” Chris Clark (shadow cabinet allowances: £17,307.20) has been handed a front-bench job in Croydon for the first time, largely to compensate him for Labour giving up the chairing of the planning committee.
After a couple of years as Paul Scott’s puppet chair of planning, transport union official Clark is now shadow cabinet member for planning and regeneration. A former local councillor in Kent, he has been a parliamentary candidate in national elections in Tory strongholds, most recently in 2017 in Sevenoaks.
In his own words, Clark is “a dedicated anti-fascist activist, a trade union rep and a seasoned campaigner to bring Britain’s railway network into public ownership”, none of which prevented him from playing a part in the tawdry fixing of a candidate selection in Fairfield ward in 2019 to oust a democratically selected member of the BAME community in favour of one of his friends. The loss of support for Labour in Fairfield – where the Greens won two council seats – is widely attributed to Clark’s notoriety.
Croydon Labour insiders said that they were “shocked” when they heard the news of Nina Degrads (shadow cabinet allowances: £17,307.20)appointment as shadow cabinet member for streets and environment after, as they put it, four years as a councillor without making much of a mark.
A councillor for Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood, she is a former pupil at Harris City Technology College who for a while ran a building company in Streatham. Town Hall observers will be awaiting her first serious speech as a shadow cabinet member with much interest…
This time last month, Brigitte Graham (shadow cabinet allowances: £17,307.20) was not even a councillor. After being a late selection to contest a safe Labour seat in Woodside (after Hamida Ali decided at the 11th hour not to stand again), Graham has straightaway been made shadow cabinet member for communities and culture. Little is known about her, apart from the fact she is a director of a New Addington-based company called Copious Lodge that is more than a little overdue with its accounts and facing compulsory strike-off.
That tells us that the people who selected her probably think Due Diligence is some kind of American hillbilly whiskey.
Another newcomer to the council is Chrishni Reshekaron (shadow cabinet allowances: £17,307.20), the third West Thornton councillor in King’s shadow cabinet, and she gets the job of shadow cabinet member for homes.
In May 2021 she impressed the local party leadership when standing in the Park Hill and Whitgift by-election.
In her canvassing material then, she described herself as “an immigration lawyer” working for a domestic violence charity, although Inside Croydon can not find any public record of the Law graduate ever being called to the Bar or actually being registered as a qualified solicitor.
In a very non-Labour way around selective schools, Reshekaron has also said that she has also tutored children sitting for the 11+ entrance exams. Which is nice.
King has included in his shadow cabinet three women who are first-time councillors.
The third of them, Enid Mollyneaux, is the brand new councillor for Bensham Manor – Alison Butler’s old patch – and now also shadow cabinet member for community safety.
Mollyneaux (shadow cabinet allowances: £17,307.20) is a committee member of Pollards Hill Residents Association. She was a director of a dormant management consultancy and is the director of a company managing a property in Purley. In the past, she had an arrangement with Reading Borough Council to provide accommodation under the Guaranteed Rent Scheme.
Finally, we have another newbie, Rowenna Davis, a first-time councillor in Croydon who has been immediately installed in the powerful role as chair of scrutiny.
Strictly speaking, Davis is not a member of the shadow cabinet. The scrutiny chair is a backbencher, there to keep those in power in check (not that that ever stopped her predecessor, Sean Fitzsimons, from attending behind-closed-doors shadow cabinet policy-setting meetings under Newman and Ali).
But with council allowances of £32,634, Davis is on more council cash than any 2022 Labour councillor, even including her group leader. And unlike the shadow cabinet, and King himself, Davis does actually have some say and power over how the council is run.
As chair of scrutiny, Davis will probably get more and longer opportunities to question Mayor Perry and council chief exec Katherine Kerswell and her directors than any other member of the council.
“Blue Labour royalty” Davis has a degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Balliol. She was also a director of Fairbnb, an ethical alternative to the ubiquitous lettings giant
The author of Tangled Up in Blue (no, not a Tory version of Fifty Shades of Grey, but a 2011 critique of Labour’s community spirit), she has worked as a teacher at a Croydon secondary and was a founder member of Croydon Covid-19 Mutual Aid.
A close associate from her uni days of ex-councillor Jamie Audsley, despite her best efforts, Davis’s attempts to be selected – either for council by-elections or as Labour’s London Assembly candidate – were rebuffed under Newman and his numpties, who were clearly wary of anyone intelligent enough to have ever read a book, never mind written one.
Davis’s promotion by King is good news for educated Waddon voters who, having lost Andrew Pelling to Newman’s Pol Pot-style purge of the intellectuals, once again have an Oxbridge graduate to represent them.
And anyone who disagrees is clearly an oik and a pleb.
Read more: King ends front-bench sinecures for most Newman numpties
Read more: £100,000 Mayor Perry unveils his old team as the new team
Read more: MPs’ gofers and failed businesses: new cabinet’s back-stories
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All of King’s ladies
and all of his men
don’t let the Numpties
gain power again
I am utterly flabbergasted somebody so stupid they would propose Fitzsimons as a member of the planning committee. This is the individual who chaired the scrutiny committee whilst the council was capsizing and he didn’t say a word!
Fitzsimons (Fitzstupid to many who know him) will present himself as the Paul Scott continuity figure. He hates the southern parts of Croydon in the same way Scott did.
Please, Please, no more blundering Fitzsimons. Can we move on?
I think the whole borough groans when they see some of the characters in that photograph. Especially the leeches who were in Tony Newman’s cabinet.
And what is Reed doing there? He’s not a councillor? Why doesn’t he fuck off and concentrate on his day job.?