No apology for demeaning comments about those on benefits
10/12/2015 16:10:00......Posted by Mario Creatura
On Monday evening the 70 Croydon Councillors gathered to have another of our regular meetings. Several interesting subjects were debated: the impending closure of Fairfield Halls; Labour’s cuts to the green garden waste service; the poor spending choices Labour are making and the de-designation of green belt land around the borough
At the meeting I tried to ask Council Leader Tony Newman a question about the shocking remarks of his Senior Cabinet Member, Cllr Alisa Flemming. At another meeting a few weeks before she had said: “While it would be a nice idea to get one payment a month, there are so many residents within this borough that do not, unfortunately, have the skills and capability to manage their money in such a way that at the end of the month their bills are paid and their children are fed and looked after”. Cllr Flemming went on to say: “[There are] increasing levels of betting shops in the borough and, with one single payment, I'm sure we will see an increase in where that money is going."
People wrote letters into the local papers, Councillors and Trade Union groups in Croydon called on Cllr Newman to condemn these demeaning comments and for Cllr Flemming to apologise for her assumption that poorer people choose to gamble instead of feed their children.
After Cllr Newman refused to comment on the story, I thought I would try to seek his views in the Council chamber by asking him in public and directly. Labour and Cllr Newman have made a big song and dance about them being champions of ‘openness and transparency’. Here is what I asked Cllr Newman in writing:
‘Can the Leader of the Council please tell me whether he agrees with his senior Cabinet Member, Cllr Flemming, (expressed in Cabinet on 16th November) that benefit claimants can’t be trusted with their money and will spent it in betting shops rather than feed their children? I and thousands of Croydon residents find this view very offensive, does Cllr Newman?’
To which Cllr Newman, in writing, replied:
‘I will not be taking any lectures from a member of the party that has presided over massive cuts to council services that impact on the most vulnerable residents of Croydon.’
That’s not really an answer is it? In fact, it’s not anything to do with the question that I asked. Is this the new ‘open and transparent’ Council that the residents of Croydon were promised?
On Monday I sought to get an answer from Cllr Newman. Straight answer came there none. You can watch the rather heated exchange between myself, Cllr Newman and Cllr Flemming here and judge for yourself. Did Cllr Flemming apologise for her words and any offense caused? Did Cllr Newman let the Council know what he thought of her actions? Does Cllr Flemming genuinely believe her words were taken out of context by journalists with a hidden agenda? Is this ‘open and transparent’? I think the answer to all these questions is both obvious and deeply sad.
Other highlights from the meeting can be viewed here:
Cllr Phil Thomas on green garden waste: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/1280000
Cllr Tim Pollard on green garden waste: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/1876000
Cllr Sara Basford on Council budget cuts and Labour knowing exactly what they were getting into before the election: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/5002000
Cllr Helen Pollard on Council budget cuts: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/5439000
Cllr Jason Cummings on Council budget cuts and the choices Labour are making: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/5638000
Cllr Jeet Bains on Fairfield Halls: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/6645000
Cllr Lynne Hale on Fairfield Halls: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/7253000
Cllr Tim Pollard on Fairfield Halls and not being given information by 'open and transparent' Croydon Labour: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/7567000
Cllr Mike Fisher on the de-designation of green belt in Shirley: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/11118000
One resident on Fairfield Halls: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/3109000
A second asking about Fairfield Halls: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/3173000
A third asks about Fairfield Halls, the future of the apprentices and where the audiences will go: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/3973000
A supplementary about Fairfield Halls: http://www.croydon.public-i.tv/core/share/open/webcast/0/0/560/202178/0/0/start_time/4046000