How closely did the Tory Mayor work with notorious motoring lobbyist over a council question that opposes the Brighton Road cycle corridor?
WALTER CRONXITE, political editor, investigates
After a lengthy absence, Coulsdon motoring lobbyist Peter Morgan, a character so divisive he was once declared to be unacceptable even to be a member of UKIP, has made a reappearance at council meetings – putting up a patsy question for Jason Perry, the Croydon Mayor, to parade his pro-pollution credentials.
There was once a time in Croydon when not a day could pass without Morgan circulating lengthy, rambling emails about the state of roads, council parking policy, or being involved in activities to undermine public consultations on motoring issues such as school streets and the borough’s 20mph speed limits.
In the days before Putin-backed bots were a “thing”, Morgan was implicated in creating multiple bogus identities on social media to spread fake news on behalf of the motoring organisations with which he was associated, as an official of the Association of Bad Drivers.
Twenty-five years ago, it was Morgan who ran a one-man campaign to have the Croydon tram network blocked.
In the meantime, Morgan has attracted ridicule for claiming that walking to school is bad for children’s health, and public disgust for his efforts to prevent a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor from giving a talk to a meeting of the East Coulsdon Residents’ Association.
Morgan has been a serial local election candidate, for UKIP as well as an independent, without ever attracting much public support. He has also been a leading figure involved with the racist apologists at the Croydon Communities Consortium.
Yet all that seemed to come to a stop around 18 months ago, with the compulsive campaigner Morgan suddenly silenced. No explanation was forthcoming.
Until, that is, the meeting of full council last month, when he had a question accepted for Mayor Perry.
Morgan, who is in his late 60s or early 70s, and lives on Cordrey Gardens, did not attend the meeting in person, although it was confirmed in the Town Hall Chamber that he was the questioner.
“As South Croydon councillor and candidate for Mayor a year ago, you campaigned strongly against the council proposal for a segregated cycle lane along the Brighton Road between Purley and South Croydon,” Morgan’s question began.
“Please set out the reasons you gave last year for why this was a bad idea and should be scrapped.
“I say your reasons then were correct.” What a surprise!
“You now say the council is short of money and must avoid unnecessary expense.
“Why then have you now as mayor spent our taxes imposing this dangerous cycle lane which damages travel on this key main road?
“Why should we trust you?”
It was typical, unreformed Morgan, making wild and false accusations with barely any regard for things like facts, or the truth…
Some felt that Morgan’s question – “Why should we trust you?” – was excessively aggressive and probably in breach of the council’s constitution, which forbids questions are “defamatory, frivolous or offensive”.
But it seems very likely that Mayor Perry wanted to have the question placed in the public domain, so he could showboat his own anti-cycling agenda while rabble-rousing more ill-informed opposition to the important piece of new infrastructure.
In the 16 months since he took office, Perry has already presided over the scrapping of a school street scheme which will have improved safety for thousands of children attending three schools in South Croydon, but which might have diverted some motor traffic down the road near Lloyd Park where the Mayor and his family live in a £1.3million mansion.
It is also a sign of how increasingly desperate Perry, the man who hiked Croydon’s Council Tax by 15per cent, is becoming to attract any support that he is prepared to give a voice to the likes of Morgan.
In his reponse to the question, Powerless Perry did his usual “nuffink to do with me, guv” routine. The £550,000 Brighton Road cycle lane, funded through a Local Implementation Plan – therefore using cash for the purpose allocated from the Tory Government – “was agreed by the council prior to my election as Mayor”, Perry said.
“I have personally opposed the Brighton Road cycle scheme since it was initially proposed,” puce-faced Perry went on.
“Whilst we need to provide safe routes for cyclists…”, which is nice of him, “… I also recognise the concerns that Brighton Road may not be the right location for this kind of cycle route, given the wider impact it has on the effective management of the highway and the potential to increase congestion on an already busy route.” None of which has ever been demonstrated.
“Whilst I was not able to stop the scheme going ahead,” Perry said, labouring the point (no pun intended), “I insisted that TfL agreed significant changes including protecting parking for local businesses, reducing the number of ‘wands’ and ensuring access to the recycling centre wasn’t affected.”
So it seems very likely that it was Perry himself who gave the order for costly extra work to remove the protective wands just days after they were installed, and at a stroke undermine the safety of the cycle route, for motorists and motorbike-riders as well as cyclists.
Perry’s response continued: “The scheme was introduced under an Experimental Traffic Order which means that it will come to an end in 18 months, though a further decision may be taken earlier…
“The results of [statutory] consultation will be fully considered when any decisions are made about whether to retain the cycle lane following the trial period,” said someone who has clearly already made up his mind that he will do everything he can to undermine the cycle land scheme and scrap it at the earliest opportunity.
What troubled some who attended the Town Hall meeting was that in his desperation to play to the anti-woke, anti-vax, anti-mask conspiracy theorists and climate crisis deniers, Perry has in some way given encouragement to Morgan to break cover and make a return to council business.
It is barely 18 months since Morgan was suspected of “a troubling act of valdalism” to a hedge alongside a primary school on How Lane, to the deep concern of many parents, with a Conservative ward councillor publishing a report on his local party’s website notifying residents that he had notified the Metropolitan Police and Surrey Police (How Lane runs close to the borough/county boundary).
“How Lane is just over the Croydon borough border in Reigate, but multiple eyewitnesses tell me that the culprit lives in Coulsdon,” the Tory councillor wrote at that time.
“Not only is this a case of clear vandalism, potentially hazardous to vehicles, and creates waste that could block our already struggling sewer system – but it also creates a child safeguarding issue with holes in the hedge meaning the field is there for all to see,” wrote Coulsdon Town councillor Mario Creatura.
“It is completely unacceptable.”
Now, though, 18 months on, it is apparently completely acceptable for Mayor Perry to take questions from Peter Morgan to shape the borough’s roads policy.
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