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Labour piles the pressure on Mike Fisher as Steve Reed calls on David Cameron to suspend ex-council leader over secret pay rise

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LABOUR continue to pile the pressure on Mike Fisher and the Conservative Party over the ex-council leader's secret £10,000 pay rise.

Current council leader Tony Newman yesterday called on his rival to consider his position as leader of the Tory group in Croydon. MP Steve Reed went a step further and said Cllr Fisher should resign ahead of a full investigation.

Mr Reed, MP for Croydon North, has now written to Prime Minister David Cameron and urged him to force Cllr Fisher to go.

The Shirley councillor, who was council leader for eight years until losing to Labour in May, also faces criticism from within his own party, with senior figures calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the controversy.

Labour, however, has been quick to seize the opportunity to criticise Cllr Fisher and also raise questions about his cabinet colleagues, who say they were unaware he had asked for his annual allowances to rise from £53,000 to £62,352. In his letter to Mr Cameron, which he posted on Twitter, Mr Reed said Cllr Fisher appeared to be in breach of the Nolan Principles of Conduct in Public Life, and possibly the law.

An independent body recommended in 2010/11 that the council leader and his councillors should receive a pay rise but the Conservative cabinet said publicly that they were "minded" not to accept the increase. 

Cllr Fisher did not claim the extra cash in 2011/12 or 2012/13 but, in the lead up to May's local elections, decided to claim the money. Senior colleagues within the party said they had advised him not to take the pay increase but that, by the time he asked for their advice following the election defeat, he had already been given it.

Mr Reed's letter continued: "Even if this was not illegal, it certainly appears to be an attempt to deceive the public."

He called on Mr Cameron to support his call for an independent inquiry and to suspend Cllr Fisher as leader of Croydon's Conservative group.

Sarah Jones, Labour's prospective Parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central, is to write to the Audit Office to call for an inquiry and also urged an "overhaul" of councillors' pay.

"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," she said.

"But, what is unforgivable, is that the Conservatives would do this behind the backs of the electorate – who foot the bill."

Mrs Jones said councillors allowances should be controlled by an independent body and criticised her Tory rival, incumbent MP Gavin Barwell, for failing to call for Cllr Fisher to quit.

Mr Barwell released a statement on his website yesterday saying that his friend and colleague had been "doubly wrong" – for taking the payrise and doing it secretly.

He later tweeted: "Home for 4.5 hours sleep after a truly depressing day. Waste of time as I'm so angry I won't sleep.

Labour piles the pressure on Mike Fisher as Steve Reed calls on David Cameron to suspend ex-council leader over secret pay rise


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