All this spinning and u-turning was the subject of a scathing article in last week's Croydon Advertiser - together with one of the best front covers seen on the paper for age (it's so good we used it above). Democracy was trampled on again in the council cabinet last night as the Leader of the Council refused to allow opposition Conservative councillors to ask for an explanation of why he chose to secretly amend a decision taken at the previous cabinet. Cllr Newman evidently feels that it is totally un-necessary to explain to either cabinet or the public as to why he changed the decision.
At cabinet on 15 November cabinet approved an ‘asset strategy’ which included controversial clauses allowing the council to develop social housing on school playing fields and ancillary land, in spite of Conservative councillors’ protests. Labour cabinet members approved the policy whilst simultaneously tweeting that this was in fact not their policy!
The cabinet member responsible for assets, Cllr Simon Hall then gave an interview to the Croydon Advertiser confirming that development of housing on school land was, in fact, his policy and alluding to a list he had drawn up showing which school sites were, in his words, ’disproportionately large’ for their school population.
His cabinet colleagues continued to publicly deny the policy.
Then at council on 1 Dec the Conservative opposition put forward a motion asking the cabinet to rethink its policy and take an item to cabinet confirming that it had done so. All Labour councillors voted down the motion.
The next day the Leader used his legal authority to overturn cabinet decisions to remove one out of three references to the policy from the asset strategy.
All this spinning and u-turning was the subject of a scathing article in last week's Croydon Advertiser - together with one of the best front covers seen on the paper for age (it's so good we used it above).
So last night the leader of the opposition, Cllr Tim Pollard, attempted – before his microphone was silenced after just a few words – to ask the Leader to:
1. Formally inform cabinet of his decision and the reasons why he had changed cabinet members’ original decision.
2. Explain why he voted on the Monday not to change the policy and then changed it on the Tuesday!
3. Explain why Croydon Council’s Press Office issued a press release shortly after Council, confirming that council officers had not, as members of the cabinet had alleged, got ‘over-excited’ and issued a policy of which cabinet members where not aware. This press release makes it clear that some or all of the cabinet were not telling the truth.
4. Explain why he continues to back Cllr Hall when an FOI request put in by Cllr Mario Creatura has revealed that the council now denies the existence of any list comparing school site size to the school roll. Cllr Hall was recorded telling the Advertiser that such a list exists. Once again, it appears that he is not being truthful.
Cllr Pollard later said “The new Labour council maintains that it is an open and transparent council – so it is really disappointing that the leader of the council is taking important decisions in secret, refusing to account for those decisions and then refusing to let the opposition even ask questions about it.
“Far from being open and transparent, this is turning into the most secretive council we have ever had. Given the quality of the decisions they are taking I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t want to account for them.”