Jewitt says there was no wrong-doing – by her charity’s boss

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Many senior figures in the local Labour Party continue to try to deny that there was anything wrong with the way the former leaders behaved in the lead-up to the borough’s bankruptcy, as a speech at the Town Hall last week demonstrated.

On the job: Karen Jewitt’s boss is the partner of ex-councillor Simon Hall

A Labour councillor made a speech in the Town Hall Chamber last week that even her party colleagues have described as “incredibly poor judgement”, and which Mayor Jason Perry’s Tories spent the weekend ridiculing as some kind of sick April Fool’s joke.

Councillor Karen Jewitt had been nominated by the Labour group at the Town Hall to speak to a Conservative motion which bigged-up the decision taken a week earlier to report discredited ex-leader Tony Newman and his former cabinet member for finance, Simon Hall, to the police for investigation for possible misconduct in public office, an offence which carries a possible life sentence for those convicted.

But what Jewitt failed to mention when she got to her feet and opposed seeking legal action against former councillors is that one of those accused, Hall, is a trustee of the charity where she works. And Hall’s partner, Rob Elliott, is the chair of trustees at South Norwood and Woodside Community Association, where Jewitt is the manager. Effectively, they are Jewitt’s bosses.

Jewitt’s declarations of interest appear to be all in order, in that the council website shows that she is employed as the manager of the South Norwood and Woodside Community Association.

But that connection to Hall and Elliott, and their position of influence with Jewitt, went entirely unmentioned last Wednesday. Senior council figures, from Labour and the Conservative parties, were unaware of the connection when Inside Croydon spoke with them today.

Jewitt used her allotted three minutes’ speaking time, and a bit more, to defend the records of Newman and Hall, saying that there were no lessons to be learned from the Penn Report and arguing that Fairfield Halls fraud report was a waste of time and public money.

Proper declaration: but listing Karen Jewitt’s job is only half the story

At a disciplinary committee meeting a week earlier, Labour’s leaders had both voted in favour of sending the Penn Report and the more recent Kroll report to the Met Police.

And accordingly, at the council meeting last Wednesday, Labour’s councillors all voted with the Conservatives on the Tory motion.

Jewitt’s speech, therefore, was entirely out-of-step with her colleague councillors, and especially with the Croydon public. Indeed, King repudiated his councillor’s comments when he was called to speak a few minutes later.

It seems entirely possible that the reason that Jewitt’s speech last Wednesday sounded so much like one of the statements issued by the “crisis management” PR agency acting on behalf of Newman and Hall since their hurried resignations in the wake of the council’s financial crash in 2020 is because she works for a charity where the trustees include Hall and his partner.

There were lines in Jewitt’s speech which sounded remarkably similar to some of the non-apologies issued on behalf of Hall, and Newman, since they resigned from the council in March 2021.

“There’s a difference between things going wrong and wrong-doing,” Jewitt told the Chamber, echoing one of the lines trotted out by Hall’s public relations advisers.

Jewitt added that she did not see evidence of wrong-doing, “in particular for the then members”, she said, referring directly to Hall and Newman. It was all “personal vendettas”, Jewitt said, like some life-sized ventriloquist’s dummy.

Close connections: how the Charity Commission records show the trustees of the community association that employs Karen Jewitt

The Penn Report, Jewitt asserted, “does not provide any lessons to be learnt”. Which might be a trifle worrying for anyone of a more objective disposition who has pored over the damning findings in the report.

And it should be very worrying for those who remember Jewitt as the sometime chair of GPAC, the influential General Purposes and Audit Committee, a position to which she was effectively elevated by Newman and Hall, and handed an extra £10,000 per year in allowances for her troubles. Chairing GPAC has been taken out of the hands of the council’s bigger political parties and handed to an independent outsider since the bankrupting of the borough – one of those lessons learned from the crisis created by Newman and Hall and their chums.

Yet despite the “incredibly poor judgement” evident in Jewitt’s speech, she received warm applause from many of her Labour colleagues, like performing sea lions, when she finished making her remarks. And when it came to a vote on the Tory motion – “Those who caused Croydon Council’s financial downfall must be held to account. It is vital that all avenues are pursued to ensure that residents’ anger and desire for accountability are recognised” – Jewitt, like every other Labour councillor present, voted in favour.

“That goes beyond poor judgement,” said one Katharine Street source, “and approaches the levels of imbecility that got us in this mess in the first place.”

Trustee: Simon Hall joined the charity’s board in Jan 2021

Outside the Town Hall Chamber, Jewitt has been widely recognised and rightly praised for her unstinting hard work in her low-paid job as manager at the South Norwood and Woodside Community Association, which operates a day centre, a lunch club for older people and an activity centre for adults with learning disabilities, as well as a range of other events to support some of the most vulnerable in the community.

The community centre managed by Jewitt is facing an existential threat. Inevitably, this has been caused by the cash-strapped council running out of money – though Jewitt might not spot the connection.

According to its latest accounts, in 2022 the SN&WCA had total income of £45,127. Of that, £28,000 came in grants from Croydon Council.

Under the 2023 budget cuts recently approved – with Jewitt and every other Labour councillor abstaining – the community association seems likely to be one of the dozens of charities and voluntary sector organisations in the borough that will be losing all of their funding from the council.

Pretending that there has been no wrong-doing, and effectively speaking on behalf of a trustee of her charity employers, as Jewitt did, is unlikely to alter that situation any time soon.

Read more: Councillors agree to chase Negrini for golden handshake cash
Read more: Ex-councillor Hall says: ‘Sorry to be direct, but this is a lie’
Read more: Newman’s defence slips: there’s ‘no evidence’ of wrongdoing

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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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3 Responses to Jewitt says there was no wrong-doing – by her charity’s boss

  1. Leslie Parry says:

    This councillor’s views on behalf of the Labour Group is why the public do not trust Croydon Labour and why people like me ceased membership. This individual is in complete denial of factual events by Newmans cohort and why they were and are protected by existing councillors. It also shows very weak Leadership due to her conflict of interest with her employers. Shame on them all !!

    • Most of these “10 signs of a cult” (written by ex-Mormons Tanner Gilliland and Samantha Snyder) apply to Croydon Labour (and the Conservatives in government):

      1. The leader is the ultimate authority

      To members, it doesn’t matter what the evidence or logic may suggest, the leader is always right, and their misdeeds are always justified. Criticism of the leader is forbidden.

      2. The group suppresses scepticism

      Cults view critical thinking as an infectious disease and every effort is made to suppress it. People who contradict the group are viewed as persecutors.

      3. The group delegitimizes former members

      If former members speak out, they are dismissed as bitter, angry, dishonest or evil.

      4. The group is paranoid about the outside world

      Cults thrive on conspiracy theories, catastrophic thinking, and persecution complexes.

      5. The group relies on shame cycles

      If you need your group in order to feel worthy, loved, or sufficient, you’re probably in a cult.

      6. The leader is above the law

      A prevalent idea among cult leaders is that they are above the law, be it human or divine. Loyal cult members will perform any amount of “mental gymnastics” to justify or ignore the leader’s behaviour.

      7. The group uses “thought reform” methods

      If your serious questions are answered with cliches, you’re probably in a cult.

      8. The group is elitist

      If your group is the solution for all the world’s problems, you’re probably in a cult.

      9. There is no financial transparency

      If you’re not allowed to know what the group does with their money, you’re probably in a cult. A group that refuses to disclose its finances is a huge red flag. Ethical organizations have nothing to hide.

      10. The group performs secret rites

      If there are secret teachings or ceremonies you didn’t discover until after you joined, you’re probably in a cult.

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    Totally agree with Leslie. But is it not better to attend local party meetings and make that displeasure known along with everyone else? Leaving allows those who failed residents to carry on in their clique ad infinitum? Perhaps more decent people should actually join their respective parties locally and make their feelings very evident and vots on them accordingly.
    Perhaps then there may be a change.

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