Croydon’s former council leader Councillor Mike Fisher is under pressure to resign after it emerged he secretly gave himself an 18 per cent pay rise.
At some point during the last financial year Cllr Fisher privately told council officers he would like to be paid more of the allowance he was eligible for, increasing his income by almost £10,000.
This increase from £53,000 to £62,352 came at a time when council staff received just a one per cent pay rise.
The Conservative Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell has not publicly called on his friend (pictured together above) to resign but in a statement he said: “I am angry about – and feel very let down by – this news.
“First, I believe it is wrong for the leader of the council to get a £10k pay rise at a time when the people who work for the council, many of them on quite low salaries, were getting just one per cent.
“Second, I believe it was doubly wrong to keep this decision private until after the local elections were out of the way.
“Openness is one of the seven core principles of public life.
“If Mike felt he deserved a higher salary, he should have told people what he was doing.
“He didn’t tell anyone, not even his fellow Conservative councillors I understand, let alone the people of Croydon whose council tax payments fund his allowances.
“The hardest thing in politics is when someone who isn’t just a party colleague but a friend does something wrong.
“I have known Mike for nearly 20 years.
“He has been a great support to me as a parliamentary candidate and then an MP.
“Some in my party will be angry with me for issuing this statement.
“But residents rightly expect politicians to put what is right before party loyalty.
“If we don’t make it clear that what Mike has done is wrong, the actions of one individual will tarnish the reputation of the whole party.”
An independent panel established by London Councils in 2010-2011 recommended pay rises for councillors who spend much of their time on council business, including the cabinet and the mayor.
But at that time they decided it would be wrong to take a pay rise when the council’s staff were seeing their pay frozen.
Croydon North MP Steve Reed (pictured above) is calling for Cllr Fisher’s resignation, and for an investigation to take place into how the pay rise was allowed to happen.
The Labour MP wants an explanation about how Cllr Fisher was able to pocket the extra money without having to declare it until after polls closed.
Mr Reed said: “It is outrageous that Croydon’s Tory leader helped himself to £10,000 of public money without telling the voters after hiking up council tax and cutting public services.
“He and his Tory friends used a form of words that gave the impression they would not take pay rises but let them trouser the money later on.
“This looks like a deliberate attempt by the Conservative Party to deceive the voters over councillors’ allowances.
“The council must immediately set up an investigation to establish whether there has been any malpractice and which Tory councillors were involved.
“Public money cannot simply be siphoned off into Tory councillors’ bank accounts on the quiet.
“Cllr Fisher’s position as leader of the Conservatives on the council is no longer tenable and I call on him to do the honourable thing and resign.”
And Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central, Sarah Jones (pictured above), has written to the comptroller and auditor general asking him to set up an inquiry.
She said: “At a time when thousands of people in Croydon are forced to use food banks and pay day loan sharks, it is morally reprehensible that the Tory leader should give himself a pay rise.
“But what is unforgivable is that the Conservatives would do this behind the backs of the electorate – who foot the bill.
“It is very worrying that the local MP, Gavin Barwell, has refused to call for Fisher’s resignation.
“If Gavin puts loyalty to his Party before his constituents, when the facts are staring him in the face, how can we trust him to make the right decisions for Croydon?
“The Tories’ smash and grab approach has only come to light under the new Labour-led administration.
“It is time for an independent body to discover whether there was any wrong-doing.
“MPs have given control of their salary to an independent body and surely it is time to consider doing the same for local government.
“It cannot be right that councillors can award themselves huge pay rises in secret when the rest of the public sector have their pay frozen.”
Cllr Fisher was not available for comment when the Croydon Guardian called him earlier today.
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