Ex-councillor Hall says: ‘Sorry to be direct, but this is a lie’

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Only two elected councillors have so far had their roles in the council’s financial collapse questioned, and Tony Newman and Simon Hall are still not saying sorry. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Budget balancing act: Simon Hall admits asking officials to look at the number of households paying Council Tax, just not ‘directing’ them to add 5,000

Tony Newman and Simon Hall, two of the leading figures at Croydon Council in the years leading up to its financial collapse, have issued further statements refuting any suggestion of “misconduct” on their part.

Newman, the discredited former leader of the council, and Hall, his cabinet member for finance, both resigned in October 2020, just days before the highly critical Report In The Public Interest was released by auditors Grant Thornton. They then both quit as councillors in early 2021, soon after Richard Penn had concluded his many interviews and the drafting of his report, which included in his recommendations consideration of whether the duo had broken the council’s code of conduct.

Newman and Hall had their membership of the Labour Party suspended soon after, a status which remains unchanged more than two years later.

Newman and Hall have resurfaced after months of silence, following yesterday’s council disciplinary committee meeting, where it was agreed, finally, to act on the recommendations of the Penn Report.

Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, has also called for the Metropolitan Police to investigate Hall for misconduct in public office, over allegations contained in the Penn Report that he ordered council staff to inflate the number of households in the borough for Council Tax calculations, to help balance the Town Hall budget planning.

Juggling act: budget figures could be manipulated if Council Tax bands are adjusted or numbers increased

Hall’s response was to share with Inside Croydon his written answer to a direct question put to him in December 2020 by investigator Richard Penn when researching his report.

Penn asked Hall: “I have been told that you instructed that 5,000 additional properties should be placed in Band D for Council Tax income calculation purposes. This would significantly increase the predicted income from Council Tax which would in turn assist with budget setting decisions. Is that correct?”

Hall’s reply was: “Sorry to be direct, but this is a lie.” In the version seen by Inside Croydon, the word “lie” is in bold type.

“First of all, I never had the power to instruct officers in this sort of way.” Which is true, and is pretty much the point at issue.

“Secondly, the Section 151 officer had to be satisfied about the reasonableness of all assumptions in the budget. We often had discussions about the assumptions, but came to an agreed position. Lisa commented on this on numerous occasions.” “Lisa” is Lisa Taylor, who became the council’s most qualified senior finance official after the resignation of her boss, Richard Simpson, in November 2018.

What follows appears to contradict Hall’s denial.

Hall wrote to Penn: “We did have a discussion about the budget assumptions in respect of the Council Tax base.

“To put this in context, as a council, we had, year-on-year, taken a very cautious approach to Council Tax base growth and ended up with a large collection fund surplus. When I saw the draft budget assumption (very early on in the process), I said that this looked very low given the year-on-year track record and the amount of construction activity going on in the borough.

“I did say that I definitely felt that this needed to be looked at again. The relevant head of service went away, spoke to his counterpart in planning, and the figure was revised upwards (I cannot find documents to say by how many the assumption was increased).

“However, I did not give a specific number nor instruct. I have not been made aware of any adverse variance in Council Tax Base, as against the budget assumption.”


Since their resignations as councillors in March 2021, Hall and Newman have been issuing their statements via a Covent Garden-based PR agency, crisis management “specialists” Palatine, founded by Conal Walsh, a former business investigations editor at the Grauniad.


It appears that the “agreed line” being taken is not that Newman and Hall have done no wrong, but there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

In a joint statement issued on behalf of the ex-councillors today, it said: “No evidence of misfeasance or misconduct.

“None of the three independent reports commissioned to look into Croydon’s bankruptcy have found any evidence at all of bad faith, dishonesty or malice,” the statement said.

Hello, hello, hello: might Tony Newman be getting his collar felt?

“Everyone who served as a councillor truly regrets Croydon’s financial crisis, and the constraints it continues to put on public services and families in the borough. But things can go wrong without there being any wrongdoing. All of our decisions were taken in good faith, on advice, and in the interests of the people of Croydon,” the Newman and Hall statement read.

They continued with familiar excuses.

“It would be wrong to attribute Croydon’s problems just to spending decisions…”.

“Croydon has also faced unique challenges…”.

“Croydon was also an epicentre for the UK’s covid outbreak…”.

This, we are told by Newman and Hall, “put enormous unanticipated strain on our care services and was the trigger for the borough’s final crisis…”.

Note that: “unanticipated strain”. Newman and especially Hall had received warnings from the council’s auditors for three successive years before 2020 about the dangerously reduced level of council reserves.

According to Newman and Hall, “Croydon was forced to issue a Section 114 notice because of a single ‘black swan’ event – namely the covid shutdown, which choked the council of revenue while adding enormously to its costs.” It’s almost as if the only local authority affected by covid in 2020 was Croydon.


“It was a perfect storm, and we were unable to weather it because of years of underfunding and austerity which left us with very limited financial room for manoeuvre.” Especially after ignoring those three auditor warnings over reserves, as well as borrowing north of £600million, and lending £200million of that to Brick by Brick.

And then there’s: “Even with hindsight some of the criticism of Fairfield Halls is misplaced…”.

And this: “It is of course regrettable that Fairfield Halls ran over budget, but it is hardly the first public project to do so.” So that’s all right then.

Oh, and because they resigned two years ago, Newman and Hall think they should no longer be subject to any scrutiny for their past actions. “Instead of doing their jobs, getting a grip and serving the people of Croydon, the council is wasting yet more time and resources trying to scapegoat people who have not been in office for several years.”

So that’s it. They are just scapegoats, and had no responsibility whatsoever for the extraordinary and catastrophic mishandling of the council’s finances during the years they were in charge.

Still no apology. Still no remorse.

Read more: MP calls for misconduct charges against ex-councillor Hall
Read more: The Audit Report: ‘Tony Newman always has been a coward’
Read more: Penn Report wanted police probe into possible misconduct
Read more: Cover-ups and denial over Brick by Brick failure

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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
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9 Responses to Ex-councillor Hall says: ‘Sorry to be direct, but this is a lie’

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    I am struggling to believe the following
    “To put this in context, as a council, we had, year-on-year, taken a very cautious approach to Council Tax base growth and ended up with a large collection fund surplus. When I saw the draft budget assumption (very early on in the process), I said that this looked very low given the year-on-year track record and the amount of construction activity going on in the borough”

    Not the fact that it was said but that not one person pointed out the glaring discrepency of reality. Does no one think there are no forensic investigators on the planet?

    So to really put this into context

    All households are registered with this Council – in fact every council. They have to be for electoral purposes. They all have rateable values and band letters. This is a simple excel summation on a spreadsheet. – please tell me this idiotic council knows what a spreadsheet is!

    All constructions are signed off and when complete go onto said register and as they are occupied people register but the developer has the responsibility to notify the council as do planning enforcement. Has this not happened with 5000 properties? Why then is Cheesbrough still employed?

    So what Mr Hall is stating is that no one informed him of that? No one told him that the number of houses in each band is relatively accurate?

    Now we know record keeping is bad – but 5000 households not being able to vote and non screaming about disenfranchisment? None complaining they have no credit rating unable to get a mortgage? How many are getting housing benefit and rate reductions?
    Was there any kind of accounting going on in that fools folly?

    I have no idea if Mr Hall is being honest or not. I have no idea if someone else fiddled those figures and he just idiotically accepted that huge increase which would defy creduality from a gullible twit let alone an experienced cabinet councillor.

    Maybe the whole thing is a ephemeral bad dream after they walked by Georges walk with a whole lot of skunk in the air.

    But frankly that pargraph is very worrying and someone needs to be having a strong reality check. Maybe Mr McAdrle can ask how the f**k do you not know how many households are in this borough to within the 100?

    That just raised so many more worrying questions as to what the hell was going on and yes definitely the Met forensic accounting team should be taking a long look at this.
    Here is an excert from the 2019/20 borough profile https://www.croydonobservatory.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/BOROUGH-PROFILE_JUN2021-1.pdf
    Croydon had 1,657 net additional
    dwellings in 2019/2020. This is a
    42% reduction on the 2016/2017

    If Croydon are screwed and do not know the number of households in the Borough perhaps they can just take a peep at the shit they published or was that a pack of shit also?. Maybe just walk and count at the next election?

  2. Bev says:

    ‘Newman and Hall’ are now a byword for incompetence, perhaps worse, similar to Bonnie and Clyde, Frank and Jesse James and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And Butler and Scott.

    The extra £600 on my council tax bill yesterday morning was directly attributable to this moronic pair.

    When we fail to claw back Negreedy’s undeserved 100’s thousands of pounds payoff, Kerswell, if she is miraculously still in office, will have to be sacked on the spot.

    Croydon desperately needs an Andy Street figure – the chap who used to run John Lewis – charismatic, socially aware and good with numbers. All the things Kerswell and Perry are not.

  3. derekthrower says:

    Does anyone have the address of the Circus Clowns Association? So Tony Newman can be reported to his professional body.

  4. Half a mo. Hall’s response was to share with Inside Croydon his written response to a direct question. Have Croydon Labour now legalised contact with iC?

  5. Wayne says:

    If a Director of Planning and Sustainable Regeneration and members of her team made statements in planning reports, at committee and in an email to a local councillor that were presented as facts but were unfounded, or blatantly untrue, withheld visualisations from a FOI request that proved a resident’s privacy would be breached by a development, claimed not to know that images from the developer were inaccurate despite it being brought to her attention multiple times, and allowed a developer to use a back-dated letter as legal notice, would that be misconduct in public office?

    Asking for a friend.

  6. Mark Farrelly says:

    The same names keep coming up but they are all happy to deny or wash their hands of their incompetent working for years – misuse of other peoples money ! The general public should be able to take these people to court over malicious practice, misuse of funds , also the BBB business now folded all the directors need investigation. So how is it a robber can get charged but a Councillor is beyond reproach?

  7. Rachel Jones says:

    Sorry to be direct, Simon, but you should never have held the cabinet post you did. You have no understanding of budgets or money or business or risk – that’s plain to see.

    Did you get your accountancy qualifications from a car boot sale??

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