Mayor Perry accepted hundreds of pounds of gifts in first year

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Recently published declarations of interest from the borough’s elected Mayor show someone who enjoys a free lunch and just doesn’t know when to say ‘No’. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

Medallion man: Jason Perry likes a free lunch

There’s hardly an official opening or a charity visit that goes by at which Croydon’s elected Mayor, Jason Perry, won’t accept a gift, a free meal or a bottle of gin, it seems…

Freebie tickets to Selhurst Park to see Crystal Palace play, a meal for four (for four!) at Croydon’s poshest restaurant, lavish entertainment courtesy of one of the country’s most notorious developer lobbyists, and a neck tie from a former Labour councillor are among the various gifts that Mayor Perry has declared in the time since his election, according to official documents released by the council this month.

Croydon’s first elected Mayor, who gets paid £84,000 per year for the job, has accepted gifts worth hundreds of pounds during his first months in office.

While there’s understandable shock and anger over the latest Westminster row about how MPs greedily accept invitations to prestige events or generous donations (though why anyone should be surprised at all is a mystery), here in deepest south London, Croydon’s part-time Mayor is doing his best to show that, when it comes to sticking his snout in the trough, he’s as bad as the next politician.

None of what Perry has done may be corrupt, per se, but the Mayor has managed to show very poor judgement in accepting many of the often nou doubt well-intentioned gifts. As Alex Beatty, of Spotlight on Corruption, said this week of the Westminster scandal, “Hospitality enables private interests with the deepest pockets to access and potentially influence…

“This can undermine the quality and integrity of the decision-making away from the public interest and towards whatever company forked out for the strawberries and cream.”

Planning permission: Crystal Palace was granted planning permission for its £100m new main stand in October 2022

Perry accepted a council pay rise earlier this year around the same time he was increasing Council Tax by 15per cent and axing all grants to the borough’s charities and voluntary groups. But apparently, even his generous salary – more than 50per cent more than used to be paid to the old-style council leaders – is not enough.

The council has just published an updated set of declarations of interest from the Mayor.

They show that from May 2022 to August 2023, he has been supplementing his income with dozens of gifts, ranging from a £6 coconut from a Surrey Street stall-holder, through to more than £800-worth of tickets and meals in three separate trips to Selhurst Park.

There is no suggestion of impropriety on the part of Perry, although his acceptance of many of the gifts may well give rise to questions about quite what was being expected in return from the Mayor for the various favours.

For example, in his election campaign materials, Perry claimed to be a Crystal Palace season ticket-holder, so has no real need to accept any freebies or hospitality at the ground, unless those providing it are in some way seeking to influence the borough’s executive Mayor.

Five a day: the Mayor has twice declared gifts from one of Surrey Street’s most popular stall-holders: a £5 bag of fruit and a coconut

On October 29 last year, Perry attended the Palace game against Southampton. His declaration fails to state who provided the tickets, or how many tickets he accepted. The declaration says “£125 per ticket (Mayor paid for the tickets)”. The declaration makes no mention of what Perry did with his own season ticket for that game – perhaps he let someone else use it for nothing?

Eleven days earlier, he had attended the match against Wolverhampton Wanderers, receiving “tickets and dinner” this time. Again, no mention of who was so generous as to invite the Croydon Mayor, though this gift was estimated to cost £300.

There’s a little more (but not much) clarity surrounding Perry’s invitation to Selhurst Park on May 22, 2022: those tickets were provided by “CEO CPFC” and had an “estimated value” (no price on the tickets, Jase?) of £180. That must have been a belter: Perry had just got elected a fortnight earlier, and here he was, hob-nobbing it in the posh seats, seeing Wilf Zaha score the winner in the last match of the season against Man United. Oh happy days!

Where this is more than a tad awkward, and in some ways questionable, is that at that time, Palace were still in discussions with the planners over planning permission for their £100million new main stand.

Of course, Mayor Perry will say that he had no say over the granting of planning permission for such an important scheme.

But this was not the only time when he accepted freebies from organisations with active planning applications.

And just what was going on last month when Mayor Perry was taken out for a meal by the Terrapin Group? This website has reported before on the dark arts practised by Peter Bingle, the former Bell Pottinger PR-iste who set up Terrapin in 2012 to help developers get their schemes approved with a minimum amount of fuss, or public opposition.

Terrapin were hired in by Crystal Palace FC last year to smooth the way for their new stand scheme, when they kept Selhurst residents excluded from key meetings.

Grub’s up: Peter Bingle is a notorious ‘schmoozer’

But they have also been active in Croydon since, helping another client make massive profits from buying the Croydon Park Hotel site from the cash-strapped council at a knock-down price.

The buyers, Amro Partners, reckon the development could be worth at least £200million. They purchased the Croydon Park Hotel from Croydon Council for a mere £24.9million.

That’s all business under the bridge, though. So just why was Bingle’s Terrapin wining and dining Mayor Perry last month?

Perry’s declaration is more than a little vague on that very important matter, just offering a laughably low estimate of the value of his meal: “Dinner £50-£75”.

“Ha!” said one Katharine Street source when told of this potentially dangerous liaison. “The first bottle of wine at a dinner with Peter is rarely less than 50 quid…”.

Perry clearly needs to do some work on the accuracy of his value estimates.

His declarations show that he made a visit to flash new, private membership hotel Birch (Selsdon) in May. No date is given, but it is presumably this year, soon after the plush venue – what used to be the Selsdon Park Hotel – opened its doors for the first time.

Don’t spare the Birch: the set menu at the Selsdon hotel suggests Perry low-balled his declaration

With memberships costing £2,100 per year (including joining fee), Birch is going for the top-end, corporate market, both in terms of its accommodation, activities and bistro and restaurant: “Elodie is Birch (Selsdon)’s flagship restaurant and a focal point for Michelin-starred chef Lee Westcott’s farm-to-fork and flavour-to-fun ethos.”

What they call “a seasonally focused five-course menu” costs £69. Per person. Drinks are extra.

According to Mayor Perry, on May 6 he was treated to “Dinner for 4 people – £100”. What a bargain!

There’s no Royal Opera House tickets or days out at the races on Mayor Perry’s declarations. Not yet, anyway.

But what Jason Perry’s declarations seem to show is that (a) he does enjoy a lunch or a burger whenever he’s offered one; and (b) even on the briefest of visits to schools, places of worship or charities, he is unable to say “No” whenever offered a box of chocolates or a personalised Monopoly set from one of the borough’s developers.

Jamie Driscoll, the elected North of Tyne Mayor, says he’s been offered “tickets for the executive boxes at St James’ Park, expensive dinners by lobbyists, hospitality for sporting events – and I turn them all down”.

Driscoll said, “I just think it is wrong to take perks when you’re elected to do a job.”

What Croydon Mayor Perry has done in the first year and four months in post might not amount to low-grade graft at all. But what it does look like is just simple, straightforward stupidity.

Read more: K-erch-ing! Lobbyists consult on £200m scheme for hotel site
Read more: Crisis for Selsdon charity hard hit by council’s double-whammy
Read more: Here’s the Mayor and 33 Croydon Tory councillors who THREE times voted in favour of hitting you with a 15% Council Tax hike

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This entry was posted in Birch (Selsdon), Business, Croydon Council, Crystal Palace FC, Mayor Jason Perry, Planning, Restaurants. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Mayor Perry accepted hundreds of pounds of gifts in first year

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    Come on folks — Mr Perry is part time but takes full salary. One should not be surprised at his supplementary activities free gratis.

    I do have to wonder how he fits in all those ”free” activities in such a busy schedule. Assuming he sleeps 8 hours that only leaves 7 for his role as Mayor and 8 for his Business and the hour for shit like well that, Marks and Sparks in the Whitgift Centre a quick stroll and 20 mins in front of the mirror repeating I am wonderful and a godsend to fiscal prudence – thank you Fisher for guiding me! Ok scrap the thanks

    Now, would it not be wonderful if he, whilst at Footie or other jolly, logged those hours towards his duties as Mayor?
    At the least one could reasonably ask that it be made public information with all the little details of the jolly and what data he was takng on board and influencing?

    Anyway the gifters have wasted their gifts as to get the OK they need Mr McArdle and co.

    And that would mean Perry is just shining them on like he does the residents of Croydon. Go on Perry! Go large! Grift those grifters, Squeeze em like Milch cows and then say McArdle say no – I dare you.

    Go forth with a tongue so forked it makes spaghetti junction look like a through route!!

  2. Arno Rabinowitz says:

    No wonder he is always smiling.

  3. derek thrower says:

    So we finally discover that part time does have a specialist skill. That is in freeloading. Now he is duplicating the role of the ceremonial Mayor it seems part time is devoting all his time to amassing as many gifts and benefits he can in his one term mare of a mayorship. Normally the joke is on the public as influence is exerted on decision making to favour the donor, but haven’t these donors noticed he doesn’t make any executive decisions. For how long before they notice nothing happens in return as part time furiously checks his emails for the next freebie.

  4. Don McNair says:

    Let’s face it, I don’t think anyone is surprised he’s accepting free meals

  5. Ian Leggatt says:

    Does Mayor Perry check what is submitted on his behalf? In part D of the disclosure, ‘gifts and hospitality’, he has two attempts to spell ‘school’ and gets both wrong.

  6. Jo Green says:

    One can only dream of a political figure attending the Royal Opera House (though it would be better if they paid their own admission). It’s difficult to justify sniping at Croydon’s inability to run a decent cultural venue like Fairfield, whilst simultaneously relying on tired tropes about opera being absurdly elitist. Perhaps if politicians were encouraged to attend cultural venues, they might understand what a decent one looks like?

  7. chris myers says:

    No surprises here but interested to know what Croydon’s ‘other’ mayor has accepted. BTW, refusal would always be considered rude.

  8. Laurence Fisher says:

    He’s a chiselling little worm not fit to combust a compost heap.

  9. croydivision says:

    Are we sure all four lunches weren’t for him?

    • Cruel.
      But fair

      • Ian Kierans says:

        You have to admire the frugality – Classic Dickens Christmas Carol early pre-ghost Ebenezer.

        To paraphrase ‘Ol Charlie

        I wish to be elected mayor then left alone, said his corpulance. “Since you ask me what I wish to do for the Borough, gentlemen, that is my answer.
        I will make merry myself at Christmas, any holiday or any day in office as long as it is free and not an open conflict of interest. , but I can’t afford to give residents anything other than higher taxes and no voice.
        I help to support the establishments I have mentioned in my declaration—they gifted enough: and those who are badly off must go Foxtrot Oscar and queue at the London road food giveaway and stop giving me indigestion.

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