Councillors line up Stormzy for the Freedom of the Borough

More dither and delay by our cash-strapped council, after they are forced to  check whether the global superstar rapper will accept a civic honour.

Top blokes: Stormzy is no stranger to receiving awards, getting GQ’s Man of the Year title in 2019 from Jeremy Corbyn. Whatever happened to him?

Croydon’s Labour councillors want to give Stormzy the Freedom of the Borough.

Dating back to Victorian times, the Freedom of the Borough is supposedly the highest honour that the council can bestow. Only six people have received it since 2012 (and one of those was a journalist…).

But delays in bothering to check out whether the world-famous rapper and son of South Norwood will actually accept the bauble from the cash-strapped council and turn up for the ceremony in May has caused officials in Fisher’s Folly to stall on publishing the announcement.

The civic award nominations are supposed to be rubber-stamped at a special meeting of the council on Wednesday night, a brief assembly held immediately before the full meeting in the Town Hall Chamber.

Many happy returns: Merah Louise Smith on her 110th birthday last November

As well as Stormzy, the Freedom of the Borough is to be bestowed on Louise Smith, a 110-year-old retired nurse who is a member of the Windrush generation.

Smith was born in Jamaica in 1912, the same year that the Titanic sank. She says her longevity is due to a routine of regular physical exercise. Although the great-great-grandmother did give up kickboxing on doctor’s orders when she was 103.

Smith got a special card from the King and Queen Consort to mark her 110th birthday last November, when the only dampener on the day was a visit from Croydon Mayor Jason Perry.

There’s also the matter of the creation of 16 new “alderpersons” (for want of a more elegant, gender-neutral title) to be approved at the meeting.

The determination of which ex-councillors are, and who are not, to receive this particular bit of ceremonial tat has not been without controversy, either, and the list when eventually published included a couple of glaring omissions.

The Freedom of the Borough is an award with a history that stretches back to 1897.

The last time it was brandished, in 2018 when Tony Newman fancied a bit of reflected glory, Roy Hodgson got it for keeping Crystal Palace in the Premier League, and Donna Fraser, the former Olympic athlete, was also honoured, nearly two decades after she raced at the Sydney Games.

But according to one Katharine Street source, the choice of Stormzy is “a different gravy”.

They said, “We might be forced to stage the awards meeting in Boxpark.”

Proud moment: Roy Hodgson and Donna Fraser get their Freedom scrolls five years ago

The Town Hall insider also suggested that maybe the choice of Stormzy was being used cynically to further the personal political ambitions of one councillor.

“This is all about allowing the current ceremonial Mayor, Alisa Flemming, to be photographed with Stormzy, and for that picture to appear on her candidate publicity when she next seeks selection.”

Flemming is thought to be among those jostling to be Labour’s candidate in the new parliamentary seat created in Croydon by the Boundary Commissioners. The thinking seems to be that a photo op with Stormzy might distract party members from the fact that Flemming was cabinet member responsible for the council’s children’s services, which in 2017 were condemned in a Ofsted Report as placing youngsters in serious danger.

Fixing Croydon’s children’s services cost the council an extra £30million over the next two years – additional spending which played a part in the council’s eventual financial collapse.

But as late as Wednesday morning, council officials were still refusing to confirm that there had been any nominations to receive the Freedom of the Borough, their own published reports managing to contradict themselves.

Meanwhile, the alderman and alderwomen honours are doled out usually once every four years, following the local elections, like long-service awards for those who stood down or lost their council seats.

In the council paperwork ahead of the nomination meeting it says, “In line with the London Borough of Croydon Constitution (paragraph 6.1 Part 4A, Council Procedure Rules), nominations for the awards of Honorary Aldermen and Honorary Alderwomen must be people who are former elected members of the London Borough of Croydon, who have either:

“4.1.1 Rendered eminent service in their capacity as Member, considering the contribution they have made to the borough, including roles served and how their service rendered is above and beyond that expected of all Members; or,

“4.1.2 Served a period of twelve years on the Council.”

The report first appeared on the council website late last week.

Significantly, it also says: “4.2 Freedom of the Borough is an award dedicated to ‘Persons of distinction who have rendered eminent service to Croydon’. No nominations were received at this time.” Our italics.

But that was not the case.

No nominations: the council report, without any nominations for Freedom of the Borough

There was a scheduled meeting of the “Civic Mayoralty and Honorary Freedom Selection Committee” last Wednesday, chaired by Perry, when the two larger political groups, Labour and Conservative, both did their routine bit of mutual back-scratching.

That meeting lasted barely five minutes before Perry took it into secret, “Part B”, session (on the flimsiest of justifications that the deliberations were all somehow highly confidential).

Council sources say that the suggestion of offering the Freedom of the Borough to Stormzy took the Conservatives, and council officials, by such surprise that they adjourned the meeting, resuming two days later when they had a chance to consider whether the music superstar would turn up to accept it.

The appendix, with the all-important names of those being put forward for the civic honours, was withheld. Council staffers working for Borough Barrister Stephen Lawrence-Orumwense refused to answer questions about the reasons for their delay.

Changed their tune: how the council has adjusted its position on the Freedom of the Borough

When the appendix to the report was published on the council website on Tuesday afternoon, the council had changed its tune.

Under Freedom of the Borough, it now said, “To follow (if applicable)”. Which sort of suggests that the previous version, that “No nominations were received” was, in fact, untrue.

Tory and Labour sources both deny that the adjournment and delay in announcing the list of aldermen and alderwomen was anything to do with offering the position to Hamida Ali, the Newman numpty in the Labour council that crashed the borough’s finances, and who took over as council leader in October 2020 after her mentor did a bunk.

Ali’s name is on the list of those nominated, the only one nominated this time who has not served the minimum 12 years’ service as a councillor (Ali was councillor for Woodside from 2014 to 2022). So “eminent service” and “above and beyond that expected of all members”.

Alder way: one of these ex-councillors is to get a civic honour, and one isn’t

On the list of nine former Conservative councillors is Badsha Quadir, who died in office last summer. It is believed that this is the first posthumous alderman-making to have occurred in Croydon for more than 40 years.

“This looks like typical Croydon Council, making it up on the hoof,” said another Katharine Street source.

“Can alderman appointments be posthumous? If so, why were other long-serving councillors who died in office, like Gerry Ryan and Maggie Mansell, not put forward?”

As expected, there’s to be no long-service awards for the Gang of Four who did so much to bankrupt the borough: Newman and his closest colleagues Simon Hall, Paul Scott and Alison Butler.

But also omitted from the list is Jane Avis, a left-winger who stormed out of one Labour group meeting after warning of the financial rocks the council was about to hit, and Jerry Fitzpatrick, who stood down as councillor for Addiscombe West last May after adding another four years to the previous 16 he had served on the council. Sources close to the former councillor confirm that he was not offered an aldermanship. “Perhaps they forgot,” said a colleague, saddened by the oversight of 20 years’ respected public service.

Also missing from the list is Andrew Pelling, who was a Croydon councillor for a total of 32 years, first for the Conservatives and then, from 2014, for Labour.

Pelling defied Newman and his Blairite colleagues in calling for reform of the way the council was run, became a whistleblower over the mismanagement of the finances, and he also broke the Labour whip to vote against moves to cut residents’ benefits. He was expelled from the Labour Party in early 2022.

Forced out of Labour, Pelling stood as an independent candidate for Croydon Mayor last May, finishing fourth in the first preference votes – many of which might have otherwise voted for Labour’s Val Shawcross.

The Katharine Street source expressed surprise that Pelling was not nominated to be made an alderman: “Surely Jason Perry should have nominated Andrew Pelling?! He owes his Mayoralty to Andrew!”

Those being nominated as alderpersonages of Croydon are:

Steve Hollands
Jan Buttinger
Tim Pollard
Helen Pollard
Luke Clancy
Simon Hoar
Steve O’Connell
Vidhi Mohan
Badsha Quadir (Posthumous)
Pat Clouder
Bernadette Khan
Shafi Khan
Toni Letts
Pat Ryan
Louisa Woodley
Hamida Ali

  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at
  • As featured on Google News Showcase
  • Our comments section on every report provides all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content
  • ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named among the country’s rottenest boroughs for a SIXTH successive year in 2022 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine

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
This entry was posted in Alisa Flemming, Alison Butler, Andrew Pelling, Badsha Quadir, Bernadette Khan, Croydon Council, Gerry Ryan, Helen Pollard, Jane Avis, Jerry Fitzpatrick, Louisa Woodley, Maggie Mansell, Mayor Jason Perry, Pat Clouder, Paul Scott, Shafi Khan, Simon Hall, Simon Hoar, Steve Hollands, Steve O'Connell, Tim Pollard, Toni Letts, Tony Newman, Vidhi Mohan and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Councillors line up Stormzy for the Freedom of the Borough

  1. Bob Hewlett says:

    If there was a vote for any individual listed in the nominations then it would be for Hamida Ali and it is for this reason:
    When I was Chair of the Croydon Central CLP, the racists and fascists came to Croydon to harass asylum seekers and refugees, outside Lunar House. Croydon Labour Party members, trade unionists, Croydon Trades Council delegates and some Croydon Council Labour Councillors gathered to oppose the racists and fascists.

    I can still recall those Councillors…Jamie Audsley, Jane Avis, Karen Jewitt and Hamida Ali.

    A very big presence there was Hope Not Hate. Their Organiser asked me to speak but I thought the more appropriate person should be Hamida.

    I spoke to Hamida and given the very short notice and totally unexpected request to speak, Hamida consented. She spoke from her heart and faced them down.

    People can criticize her record as Labour Councillor/ Leader with justification, but when it came to the politics that sometimes really matters, it is this recollection that springs to mind. I cannot honestly remember any other person on the list being alongside us.

    • Nice anecdote, Bob.

      Does it make up for the six years of being a knowing, willing and eager participant in all the scams and abuses that went on under Newman? Does it amount to service “above and beyond”?

      Should we need to run a poll?

  2. David White says:

    Croydon councillors have almost no power these days. All the major decisions are made by the Government appointed Improvement Panel. A few minor decisions are made by the executive Mayor.

    So the councillors fill their time with meaningless ceremonial nonsense such as flag raising and appointing their mates (even deceased mates) to honours such as described in this article. They have to do something to make themselves feel important I suppose.

  3. Pointless gesture. Freedom of the Borough, Alderpeople – meaningless anachronisms that need to be consigned to the dustbin of history. Imagine telling people you’ve been ‘awarded’ Freedom of the World’s Worst (official) Borough!

  4. Bob Hewlett says:

    Thank you kind Editor,
    The answer to each of the questions is a ‘ of course not ‘. But I do give credit where credit is due.

  5. Sarah Bird says:

    Words fail me of the list of alderpersonages of Croydon .

Leave a Reply