Former Croydon Council leader says he was ‘scapegoated’ following sudden resignation

By Tara O’Connor, local democracy reporter

After 27 years as a councillor, the former leader of Croydon Council has resigned.

Tony Newman stepped down as council leader in October as a financial crisis gripped the authority – but until Wednesday he remained a councillor for the Woodside ward.

He announced his resignation on the same day as ex-cabinet-member for finance Simon Hall.

Mr Newman has now slammed a report from the Local Government Association investigator Richard Penn.

Claims in the report are believed to be why Mr Newman and Mr Hall were administratively suspended from the national Labour party last month.

In a statement, Mr Newman said: “Every action I have taken as a councillor or council leader has only ever been made with the best interests of the residents of Croydon at its heart including, as I said publicly at the time, stepping down as leader in October, to allow someone new to take forward the council’s funding discussions with government.

“As a result of the success of these negotiations I was pleased to vote for Labour’s budget earlier this week.

“The council’s auditors report last year was critical and I, as leader at the time, and the cabinet accepted in full all of its recommendations. Their report made it crystal clear that the challenges the council faced were corporate and all should accept their share of the responsibility.

“It was therefore disappointing to finally see a draft copy of Penn’s report and conclude that he is clearly seeking to scapegoat individual politicians in a report that is riddled with factual inaccuracies and anonymous political gossip.

“I have taken advice from leading counsels and my position could not be clearer. Penn has not followed the terms of reference upon which the report was commissioned.

“The report is based upon subjective evidence, is skewed and fails to incorporate key factual evidence that contradicts the scapegoating narrative.”

Mr Hall also claimed that he had been scapegoated in the report and said that he and his family had been harassed.

It is understood that the draft report has been seen by the council leader Hamida Ali and has not yet been released publicly.

After Mr Newman announced his resignation on Twitter, members of the public were not too sympathetic.

One wrote: “Can’t wait to hear your interpretation of the ‘factually inaccurate report’ then. No doubt at some point during that 27-year tenure you did something right. But you’ll forever be associated with your monumental FAILED tenure as leader of Croydon Council.”

And another Tweeted: “When are you paying the money back? £1.5bn in debt….poor Croydon, literally.”

The two resignations have led to renewed calls from the council’s opposition Conservative group for more resignations from those that served as cabinet members in the lead up to the cash crisis – this includes current leader Hamida Ali.

The group said: “These resignations are clearly timed to avoid potential sanction by formal processes investigating their conduct.

“This is not what Croydon residents need from our Council. And whilst cllrs Newman and Hall are among the key instigators of the culture of bullying and the policies that bankrupted Croydon – they did not do it alone.

“Every single Labour councillor backed their decisions, including the current Leader of the council, cllr Hamida Ali. Cllr Ali was the Deputy cabinet member for Finance, served loyally in cllr Newman’s Cabinet for six years and is his Woodside ward colleague.”

But the Croydon Green Party pointed out that the Conservatives also voted for Labour’s budgets in previous years.

Peter Underwood, Green Party candidate for Croydon & Sutton in the London Assembly election. said: “We know that Labour have really messed up in Croydon.

“The people of Croydon have suffered enough under this failed two-party state and it’s time there were some fresh Green voices on the council to start putting things right.”

 


 

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