Former council leader Tony Newman announced he was quitting as a councillor on Twitter but not before he had taken a swipe at the investigation probing financial mismanagement at the council describing it as a ‘witch hunt and a shambles’.
His ally former cabinet lead Simon Hall had resigned an hour before Newman claiming he was being made a scapegoat and that his family had faced harassment as a result of the council’s widely publicised bankruptcy.
The pair were already under an ‘administrative suspension’ imposed by the Labour Party pending an inquiry and had been allowed to stay on as councillors but were banned from taking part in Labour Party business, including policy meetings.
Newman, a councillor for 27 years stood down as Labour group leader, a position he held for 15 years, in October despite a vote of confidence in him by his colleagues. Hall had already resigned from the cabinet citing ‘personal reasons’.
As the full extent of the crisis being faced by the council began to unfold the Local Government Association’s Richard Penn was brought in to investigate and presented a draft of his findings to interim Chief Executive Katherine Kerswell months ago.
She has sat on the report but by standing down the former councillors are unlikely to face disciplinary action.
Clearly, it is content particularly upset Newman who criticised it for having ‘many issues’ adding that it contains ‘factually inaccurate and baseless allegations’.
Hall, who is an accountant by profession, similarly complained with both men taking advice from legal counsel. Hall said he viewed: “complaints against me from a flawed factually inaccurate draft report as baseless. But scapegoating and threat to family made situation untenable.”
The father-of-three said he was leaving the council a year before he had intended adding: “…..I have always acted in the best interest of New Addington and Croydon. If all of this were not serious enough, there has been an invasion of my and my family’s privacy and harassment, which has led to me having to take additional security measures to keep my family safe, on the advice of police.”
A government review published in February exposed that the former Labour council leader created an “inner circle of a small number of cabinet members who were controlling in their management of the council and its finances” with staff claiming there was ‘culture of bullying’.
It also said that council officers were pressured to reword cabinet reports to present a more favourable financial picture.
A May by-election has been called in both wards of Woodside and New Addington.