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Croydon MP Gavin Barwell brands ex-council leader's secret £10k pay rise 'doubly wrong'

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GAVIN Barwell has branded the £10,000 pay rise taken by former Conservative council leader Mike Fisher "doubly wrong".

The Croydon Central MP said his colleague and friend should not have sought an 18 per cent pay rise when council officers, "many on quite low salaries", were getting just one per cent.

He said Cllr Fisher - who faces calls from Labour to resign as leader of the Conservative group - had then compounded his error by keeping the decision private until after May's local elections.

Cllr Fisher asked council officers for his allowances to be increased from £53,000 to £62,352.

In a statement published on his website today (Wednesday), Mr Barwell said: "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 Advertiser revealed this morning that Cllr Fisher, the former council leader, had taken a £10,000 pay rise which had been recommended by an independent body in 2010/11 but the cabinet had said at the time it was "minded not to accept".

Mr Fisher has admitted the request for a pay rise was submitted to council officers before polling day in May.

Senior Tories are understood to be "livid" that he asked their advice as to whether he should take the pay rise - which he was told would be "crazy" - AFTER he had accepted it.

Mr Barwell has not publicly called into question Cllr Fisher's position as leader of the Conservative group or a councillor.

But, in his statement, he added: "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."

Steve Reed, Labour's Croydon North MP, urged Cllr Fisher to do "the honourable thing and resign".

He said: "It is outrageous that he helped himself to £10,000 of public money without telling the voters and after 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 syphoned 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."  

Cllr Fisher earlier told the Advertiser that he had declined the pay rise in 2011/12 and in 2012/13. Labour council leader Tony Newman, who defeated him in May's election, warned him against trying to claim the back pay.

He added that, earlier this year, circumstances had changed: "The fact is I hadn't had a pay rise for eight years and I decided I was going to need to take some of the money, which is what I did."

He accused Cllr Newman - who has called on him to resign - of "stirring things up". 

Croydon MP Gavin Barwell brands ex-council leader's secret £10k pay rise 'doubly wrong'


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