CROYDON IN CRISIS: The Conservatives at the cash-strapped council are still wasting public money when it comes to doling out meaningless bits of ceremonial tat to their mates. By WALTER CRONXITE, political editor
Mayor Jason Perry, who earlier in the month pushed through the 15per cent Council Tax hike on long-suffering residents, has authorised the spending of thousands of pounds of public money to pay for commemorative certificates to hand out to some of his old chums at a special mutual back-slapping ceremony to be held at Croydon Town Hall in May.
But a long-serving former councillor who was omitted from the list of hand-picked recipients said that the decision not to recommend him to be made an alderman of the borough “sends out a worrying message to whistleblowers: you will be punished for whistle-blowing”.
The latest meeting of the cash-strapped council took place in the Town Hall Chamber on Wednesday, where Alisa Flemming, the be-gowned civic Mayor who wears a Dick Turpin hat, spent 25 minutes giving a rambling justification for her decision to offer the Freedom of Croydon to rap star Stormzy and 110-year-old retired nurse Louise Smith, a member of the Windrush generation, as was first revealed exclusively by Inside Croydon.
The usually routine announcement of aldermen and alderwomen and the Freedom of the Borough had been expected to take just five minutes.
One of the astonished councillors in the Chamber described Flemming’s self-indulgent rant as “Extraordinary.”
They said, “Perhaps she was delirious. The civic Mayor arrived very late, apparently because she’d been bitten by a dog and had to have a tetanus jab.”
Flemming, who was a Labour council cabinet member under discredited former leader Tony Newman, is known to have thrown her hat (not the Dick Turpin one) into the ring for selection of her party’s candidate to stand for Parliament in the new “Croydon West” seat.
So her having a council-funded photo op with Stormzy, one of the biggest music stars in the world, will do her selection prospects no harm whatsoever.
Flemming was unclear, though, about whether Stormzy had actually accepted the offered honour, or whether he has agreed to show up at the Mayor-making council meeting in mid-May.
Given that it has been decided to make Tony Pearson, a nasty little racist who is a Conservative councillor in New Addington, the civic Mayor for 2023-2024, Stormzy’s presence in the Town Hall Chamber that evening could add an extra frisson to the otherwise ridiculous, Trumpton-esque ceremonials.
As also predicted by this website, the cash-strapped council has decided to create 15 aldermen or alderwomen of the borough – former councillors, recently retired from the council. Nine of them are the £82,000 per year Mayor Perry’s former Conservative colleagues, including one generous donor to the local Tories who died last year. There is no known precedent for posthumously making someone an alderperson.
Simply the designing, printing and framing the citations to be presented to the new alderpeople is to cost the council £2,400. That’s before the hidden administration and organisation costs are considered. “What happened to the Government’s rule of no non-statutory or unnecessary spending while the council is under its S114 notice?” a Katharine Street source asked. “This is just about as ‘unnecessary’ as it can get.”
Croydon residents will at least be assured that the honour is not being given to some of the figures at the heart of the Newman regime that bankrupted the borough, including the ex-leader himself, Simon Hall, Alison Butler and Paul Scott.
An irony of Newman’s omission is that it was changes introduced under his leadership that withdrew automatic qualification for such an honorary title to based just on a minimum time period in elected office.
But included in the alderpeople listings are Hamida Ali, Louisa Woodley, Pat Ryan and Toni Letts, all of whom were at some point given official appointments during Newman’s rule.
Aldermen or “Ealdormen”, was originally an Anglo-Saxon nobleman, the King’s enforcers across the county. They were older or wise men. There are plenty of the former on Croydon Council, but recent experience suggests very few of the latter.
Croydon used to have aldermen who were previously long-serving councillors appointed to the council without having to face the indignity of having to be elected. Honorary aldermen have no voting rights.
Aldermen, alderwomen or, if they prefer, alderpersons, are expected to have, “Rendered eminent service in their capacity as member [meaning councillor], 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, served a period of 12 years on the council.”
Hamida Ali, who was council leader from October 2020 until May 2022, is the only one being made an alderperson who did not qualify under the 12-year rule. During her time in charge, Ali put forward a council budget with what Croydon’s Tories say was full of “mistakes”.
She also failed to reveal a £40million “admin charge” to the Housing Revenue Account which has been described by an official as “incompetence or wilful pilfering”.
The council constitution was amended under Newman to reduce the qualification time from 16 years. The automatic nature of the time-serving qualification was also removed with a bit of an emphasis on selecting on merit.
The nominees for the title are made by party political groups. It’s the ultimate old pals’ act.
Perks that come with the title have been invitations to civic events and receptions, and keycard access to the members’ rooms and the Town Hall car park, which is very handy when the fee for parking in the nearby Surrey Street car park for the evening is £14 a time.
Bizarrely omitted from the list of civic awards are former Labour councillors Jane Avis, Jerry Fitzpatrick and also the sometimes controversial figure of Andrew Pelling.
Avis served on the council for 23 years, after first being elected in 1998, Fitzpatrick did 20 years in two spells dating back to 1986, and Pelling was a councillor longer than any on the list, a total of 32 years dating back to 1982, for Conservatives and later Labour, with an interruption when he was London Assembly Member and MP.
One Katharine Street source described the omissions as, “Typical Croydon Council culture: either incompetence or malice and spite, or probably a bit of both.”
Pelling, having been expelled by the Labour Party early in 2022, had voted against the party whip on benefit cuts and had been a whistleblower over some of the excesses of the Newman regime.
Today he said, “Under the circumstances, not receiving an award from a council of Croydon’s poor reputation has its merits.
“I think those deciding on these awards need to consider how serving in office can lead to significant sacrifices by family and friends of elected politicians.
“A concern, though, is that this sends out a worrying message to whistleblowers: you will be punished for whistle-blowing.
“Tony Newman may be long gone, but Croydon’s degraded culture has not changed.”
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Another reason to bump of the council tax to 15%!!
Maybe we should have a POLL TAX REVOLT not paying our Council Tax , if 18 million people can do it in 1990 so can we and win an appeal!
Does being an Alderman still entitle you to free parking in the staff car park under Bernard Weatherill House?
Is that the place where all the bodies are buried along with all the evidence of graft and debt by debt and fairfield hall finances?
I see part time has started playing his fiddle as Croydon burns.
Many of the long serving Councillors have made mistakes. Some have had errors in judgement, some have played follow the leader and like the pied piers rats have drowned in the shit.
Public life is a diffcult role to take on, with brickbats and refuse chucking an occupational hazard for the office holder – and thats just by the opposition!
The question is has this Council raised the bar of sledging to vindictive nasty and malicious to match their actions towards some residents?
In the matter of Pelling they are perhaps – no not perhaps – have – lost the publicity war. Some of the slander abounding about the man is pretty rank. A lot of what he did was for the benefit of the Borough (sans errors )- Sometimes people have ethic’s and take a stand alone against a particular issue because it is right and has to be done.
Mr Pelling has great courgage to take that road not once but on a number of occassions. I would be honoured to have such a person on the team but perhaps not too many of him, as that is difficult to manage, and the heart is not so strong these days!
Sometimes that stance is so wrong and so out of touch and is not factual and despite many offers to see sense the person does not and goes down in flames.Sometimes they learn and are stronger for it and manage to do the same but the right way the next time.
However there is the other side. When a person is so right, so spot on with the analysis, and goes against everyone else to prevent a serious wrong. Then it is the rest that are left with egg on their face. Then sometimes as I have seen the great cover up begins and fictional events are created post incident.
The outspoken person is pilloried, despite the actuality bearing out exactly what they were saying.
Then the excuses come out about the manner in which it was said or the 30th time the person had to repeat and was frustrated by the group (for deniability) – oh the person is not right in the head – they have a personal issue – he could not be listened to as they had lost the confidence of the team – the (doctored and/or tailored) evidence at the time did not support that analysis – or for other purposes or agenda’s or dogmatism.
Should they be, like Pelling ostracised and those others honoured?
I listen to the criticism that a person is not a team player. I would argue that a person pulling a group to their senses and preventing them making a huge error is exactly that – a Team player.
I would suggest that a person knowing that they will lose friends colleagues in going forward to do the right thing for those they all represent – is a person particularly of honour, and should be recognised as such. Not subject to slander and osctracisation.
He is not alone in that. That is the example. They are the exceptions that prove the rule
Others like that have also fallen foul and been pilloried. Wrongly or for the wrong reasons.
But Honours are just that. The nomination process should ignore the honest mistakes but not the catastrophes that caused detriment. The Honour should be for an outstanding act – or a long term of high performing service to the Borough as a whole.
Those failing to act or prevent the scandalous misuse of Public funds in Croydon from both Parties should not be honoured. Those that sat silent and failed to speak up for the Boroughs residents should not be honoured – they did nothing courageous or selflessly after all did they? In fact they acquiesced to the unforgivable.
But again the whole career should be looked at in balnace and justified
It should be weighed and weighted appropriately.
A person being silent at a crucial piece of regulation in their first meeting as they get to grips with a new role is one thing and far different from a Councillor of 20 years experience knowingly being silent whilst bad regulation of applications are given approval.
One would question all the Conservative and Labour Councillors and ask who spoke up against Fisher and Newman? – Remember there shenannigans went on for years and both contributed to this massive debt. Which one of those receiving an honour spoke out against what was done?
Which one was a team player and raised concerns to prevent their party being brought into disrepute?
There is the answer to whom should be receiving an award/honour or Alderperson status.
Any meeting that should be welcomed and praised to the rooftops and accepted in this borough as trying to do the best for this community.
There is even a role for a special alderman advisor when a particular person has skills required and are valuable. Perhaps Mr McArdle would fit into that category? Perhaps Kerswell does not – who knows?
If the Council gifting these honours can honestly say and show the Residents of Croydon how they deserve those honours and how some others do not especially those who have sacrificed a lot for the Borough then let the show begin and sod the cost as they are worth it.
If they can not show that – then I would hope that Stormzy does not sully his image attending that event – as it could be said they are misusing him for self aggrandisement fame washing their regime and indulgant fictional merit and performance awards.]
Perhaps we the residents of the Borough should look to hold our own nomination and award system just for people who have given to this Borough or brought kudo’s and benefits for the common good – Now that would be an event worthy of Stormzy or anyone of note attending.