Council is forced to amend its Tory-biased press release

Officials in Fisher’s Folly have been accused of breaking the strict rules about public-funded announcements in the days before a local by-election. By our Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE

Photo op: Tory Mayor Jason Perry has turned every official occasion since his election into a personal publicity stunt

The council has been forced to change an article on its official website after receiving complaints that it has been breaking the strict pre-election purdah rules in order to favour the Tory Mayor and his Conservative colleagues.

There is a council by-election being held in South Croydon ward on Thursday.

Usually, in the weeks leading up to any election, local authorities are expected to moderate their output of tax-funded publications, removing any comments or quotes from politicians to avoid even the slightest suggestion that they might influence how the public votes.

But since the South Croydon by-election was declared, the propaganda bunker in Fisher’s Folly has continued to pump out a relentless series of press releases and social media posts, all very favourable to Jason Perry, turning the council’s official news page into the kind of thing you’d expect from  the part-time Mayor’s personal fan club. Or Tory Central Office.

Inside Croydon reported the fawning devotion of the council’s publicity department a month ago, saying, “The council website’s news page is adorned with photograph after photograph of Mayor Perry, in a manner which could embarrass even the propaganda machine in Pyongyang‎.”

Fawning devotion: the council’s official website has been turned over to the Jason Perry fan club

On Tuesday, the council issued a press release, published on its website and via their social media channels, under the heading, “Extra council support for residents through cost of living crisis”, with news of £3million of funding being released to various groups of Croydon residents.

The council’s original article might have been seen to suggest that this largesse was the initiative of Mayor Perry. “I know that families and households across Croydon are feeling the squeeze from current cost of living increases, which is why it is important we can support our most vulnerable residents through this difficult time with a range of financial support,” Perry was quoted as saying. The implication, the use of “we”, clearly intended to suggest that the funding was being provided by the Tory-controlled council.

Nowhere did the council’s original article state that the money was provided by the government, in April – a month before Perry was even elected as Mayor. The reality is that the council is merely acting as a funding distributor for Whitehall.

The Town Hall’s Labour group have cried “foul”, and filed a formal complaint to the monitoring officer, the most senior lawyer working at the council. Yesterday morning, Andrew Hunkin, the latest interim to hold that post, responded to the complaints, trying to brush aside the valid concerns.

Hunkin denied that the press release was misleading. But he then conceded, “However, I do believe that the press release should have been more explicit in identifying the funding source and to that end the comms team have agreed to amend the press release.”

Last night, the article was changed, with the addition of a sentence: “The council received £3million in funding from the government Household Support Fund.”

All change: the council press office was forced to add a sentence to its press release to make it clear that the hardship funds came from government, not Mayor Perry

But the borough’s Labour politicians remain sceptical about the on-going abuse of the council’s official press office – and the misuse of tens of thousands of pounds of public money – so that it can act as the mouthpiece of the Tory Mayor just ahead of an election.

According to Stuart King, the leader of the Labour group, the press release was “clearly written with the intention of misleading residents into thinking this funding has come from council funds”.

King told Inside Croydon, “I don’t know whether Mayor Perry wrote the press release or simply approved it, but I welcome the monitoring officer’s decision to intervene and hope the Mayor will be suitably embarrassed. From here on, he should resist the temptation to use the council’s communications team to promote himself for partisan advantage.

“The issuing of this and other press releases so close to next week’s South Croydon by-election is alarming given the need for the council to ensure its resources are not used for party political advantage.”

The council propaganda department was hard at work on Friday afternoon, not only amending their party politically biased press releases but also issuing new ones, including one that claimed credit for Mayor Perry in adopting the Residents’ Charter as protection for council tenants, and for “procuring a new repairs service”.

Undaunted: the council’s propaganda department continued to issue politically biased material via its social media platforms today

This in the week when the Mayor had rubber-stamped a decision by council execs to keep contractors Axis – who were at the centre of many of the complaints of dire service and incompetence that led to the Regina Road scandal – working in the borough for another year.

The propaganda drive continued this morning, pumping out Perry-fawning tweets from the council’s official Twitter account. The Croydon Council Twitter account has 24,500 followers; Mayor Jason Perry’s Twitter account has just 2,350.

“Perry carried on his election campaign from the week after polling day, but he has been shamelessly using the council press department, and Council Tax-payers’ money, to promote himself for the past six weeks,” a Katharine Street source said.

“He knew there was a by-election coming up – he caused it, after all, by standing as a candidate in South Croydon ward as well as running for Mayor, when he knew he could not do both.

“It’s a cynical abuse of public office, and if this is a sign of how Perry will run the council for the next four years, then it looks like Croydon’s been lumbered with our own version of a half-arsed Boris Johnson mini-me.”

Read more: Tiverton. Wakefield. Can South Croydon be an election shock?
Read more: Tory Perry wins historic Mayor election by less than 600 votes
Read more: Council releases £3m of extra funds for cost of living crisis

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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
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4 Responses to Council is forced to amend its Tory-biased press release

  1. Part-time Perry, the full-time propagandist (at our expense, I might add)

  2. derekthrower says:

    It sounds like we have found the heir to Mario Creatura in Councillor Luke Shortland who appears to be fulfilling the social media functions of Part-time Perry as he did for Barwell. Straight out of University and onto public funds and expenses. So we can expect the same level of inisight and complete ineptitude.

  3. Lancaster says:

    ” It’s a cynical abuse of public office ”

    It’s a sign of how alluring the position of power is over the desire to serve the public efficiently and use public money frugally.

  4. Martin Drake says:

    Despite pitiful transparent attempts to disassociate his “local” Conservatives from the lying criminal in Downing Street (who he presumably voted for in 2019) Perry truly is Johnson junior.

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