A plan for a new Mayor of Croydon

Author Mike Swadling

Mayoral and council elections are fast approaching in our borough.  Of course, it’s easy to heckle from the cheap seats if you’re not running, but if I may ask your indulgence, I wanted to share my thoughts on what I think our first elected Mayor should be focusing on in office.

  1. Find out how bad the problems really are

Croydon has twice issued a Section 114 notice, and is either about to, or came close perilously close to issuing a third one due to a misalignment of capital and revenue funds.  The new Mayor should go in and ask each department to ask them to rapidly ‘bring out your dead’, the officers need to let the new Mayor know every problem and add them to a risk or issue register, with an assigned cost to resolve.  The Mayor needs to be clear with the local officers that now is the time to come clean without prejudice, but anything they try to hide will be used against them in the future.  The mayors team can only fix the problems of Croydon Council once they truly know how bad they are.

“Why are the council continually arguing with their auditors?  Yes, auditors can be a royal pain, but that’s their job.  The Mayor should invite the auditors in to sit with department heads and detail the problems that didn’t make it to the ‘Reports in the Public interest’”

  1. Change the culture

Croydon council appears to have a frankly toxic culture towards the people of Croydon, quite a few of the staff, and some of the councillors.  The council recently voted to stop using their auditors Grant Thornton in what appears to be a response to the auditors continually finding problems in the running of the borough.  Why are the council continually arguing with their auditors?  Yes, auditors can be a royal pain, but that’s their job.  The Mayor should invite the auditors in to sit with department heads and detail the problems that didn’t make it to the ‘Reports in the Public interest’.  It’s far from just the Audits, it’s the planning department that doesn’t care to listen to residents, it’s the phones that go unanswered.  When the council was making national headlines for the problems at the Regina Road flats in South Norwood, it was clear the council lacked basic crisis management skills, no war room, no briefing for the Council Leader Hamida Ali, no plan of action to make some rapid improvements or even speak to residents.  The council needs to stop operating as if in a bunker where everyone else is the enemy and start acting as a professional partner and service provider.

  1. Fix planning

The councils’ involvement in planning is a mixture of policy setting and sitting in judgment on individual planning cases. The legal details that need to be met mean planning in the borough is far from a quick problem to solve.  Firstly, the local plan needs to be updated and approved, it appears all Mayoral candidates are committed to holding the submission of the plan over whilst they review and focusing on a new plan that doesn’t attempt to exceed the required numbers from the GLA would be a great start.  As would a greater focus on houses rather than flats, more in setting with most of the borough.  Planning is a legal quagmire, and any new Mayor is likely to disappoint more people (at least initially) than they please, but with some local sensitivity to planning and a much less aggressive attitude from councillors and council officers, things can improve.

“To suggest that a likely Labour or Conservative Mayor works with councillors from the other party may be a heresy to many, but that is part of the fundamental problem with Croydon’s politics”

  1. Work across the borough

One of the main selling points from the DEMOC (democratically elected mayor of Croydon) campaign was that a Mayor would need to secure votes from across the borough and would therefore govern for both Purley and Thornton Health, not being able to win re-election without a decent support from both.  Croydon is 2 to 3 different types of area, and many small towns brought together in one borough.  One size doesn’t fit all, and a town hall that respects that diversity will make for a much happier and more successful borough.    A new Mayor would do well to focus planning as locally as possible, target services at a local level, work with residents’ associations and dare I say it councillors in each local area for the success of the borough.  To suggest that a likely Labour or Conservative Mayor works with councillors from the other party may be a heresy to many, but that is part of the fundamental problem with Croydon’s politics.  I can understand why in the swing wards in Addiscombe this might prove impossible, but in safe wards like Sanderstead and South Norwood, there is no reason why collecting the bins needs to be a partisan issue, and a Mayor should try to bring together all elected officials to work to the betterment of each area.

  1. Children’s Services is spiralling out of control again

Croydon’s Children’s Services department has been in and out of Special Measures over the past few years.  Children’s Services looks after the most vulnerable people in our society, there is a moral as well as legal imperative that of all the councils’ services, this is the one that we make a Rolls Royce solution.  A new Mayor should move the best and the brightest into this department to make improvements.  Any blocker to increasing capacity needs to be removed, and we need social services working with key community services, forming hubs around local schools and medical practices.  No easy answers on how to do this, and a constrained financial environment won’t help, but keeping the Children’s Services on track should be an early focus of a new Mayor.

  1. Do something with the town centre

I fundamentally believe the best people to decide how to run a shop are shopkeepers, the best to decide how to run a pub are landlords, and the best to run a restaurant are restaurateurs.  In all these cases the worst people to decide how to run the business are politicians, with local government officers a close second.  If you needed any proof of this look no further than Croydon town centre.  Brilliant planning schemes have led to the collapse of our main shopping centre.  I think a Mayor would be best to leave the next steps for the town centre to the experts, the landlords, retailers and business groups that own and operate the towns main shopping areas.  That’s not to say there aren’t any areas the council can help with.  People need to feel safe in the town centre and the council can co-ordinate with services like the police to make sure Croydon is a safe place to shop.  People need to be able to get to the town centre, buses in Croydon seem to be routed ever further from the shopping areas, and car parking has become ever more expensive.  We do have new cycle lanes, but who seriously believes we will ever see large numbers cycle to go shopping or for a night out?  Get the basic infrastructure right and leave the enterprise to the entrepreneurs.

“buying hotels and shopping centres, new building companies, massive redevelopments of the Fairfield Halls, Boxpark, £10,000 for someone to defecate on stage, all bright ideas brought to you by Croydon Council in recent years, all ultimately helping lead to the borough’s de facto bankruptcy”

  1. Stop coming up with bright ideas

Westfield, buying hotels and shopping centres, new building companies, massive redevelopments of the Fairfield Halls, Boxpark, £10,000 for someone to defecate on stage, all bright ideas brought to you by Croydon Council in recent years, all ultimately helping lead to the borough’s de facto bankruptcy.  With the financial problems the council faces, the planning problems, the risks in Children’s services, and many more issues on the new Mayors plate, they need to stop coming up with new bright ideas and focus on these priorities.  This might not suite everyone, many at the council might want to undertake new and exciting work, well they can leave, that will help drive the cultural change the council so desperately needs.

  1. KPIs

The Mayor needs to ensure that the council can delivery its basic services well on the limited budget available.  They will be negotiating with central government for grants, investments, and probably more bailout funds, and they will need to show they are delivering the service to the people of Croydon.  The new Mayor will have few places to hide, the buck will stop with them.  As discussed, the councils’ offices need to undergo cultural change to start responding to the people of Croydon and focus on delivery of basic services on budget rather than generating big ideas.  One way to keep a large organisation like Croydon Council on track is to implement Key Performance Indicators or KPIs at each level to ensure departments are delivering on the tasks asked for.  KPIs aren’t a panacea, and it can lead to misaligned priorities, but all these priorities, misaligned or not will be on delivering key services not on big new bold spending plans. 

Let us know at croydonconstitutionalists@gmail.com what you think of these priorities.  If you have some of your own, why not write them up for us to publish?

Taxpayers’ Alliance – Town Hall Rich List 2022 – Croydon Council

Croydon adding insult to taxpayer injury with the highest paid executive, and once again leading the list of local boroughs with executives paid over £100K, according to report.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance have issued their 2022 Town Hall Rich List of council employees in the UK in receipt of over £100,000 in total remuneration.  The list covers the financial year 2020-21, covering the period since residents have seen services cut following the issuing of a Section 114 notice, when the council declared de facto bankruptcy.  It’s not hard to see why the council ended up in this position when despite years of complaining about a lack of funding, and years of maximum council tax increases, Croydon Council had 29 staff earning over £100,000 a year (up from 19 the previous year), and with the former chief executive, Jo Negrini, receiving the highest remuneration of any council employee in the country at £613,895, which included a loss of office payment of £144,356 and a pension strain payment of £292,851.

To put the overall Croydon figures into context, neighbouring Sutton had just 14 staff whose remuneration exceeded £100,000.  Merton 12, Tandridge 1, and Reigate & Banstead 1.  Whilst our inner London neighbours Lambeth 27 staff and Lewisham 19 (both fewer than Croydon), Barnet a similar sized borough made do with just 8 staff on over £100K.  Some of the numbers for Croydon indicate the high turnover of staff, but surely during a period of front-line staff losing their roles, and lost services for the public, something and certainly more should have been done to control executive pay.

When we reviewed the TaxPayers’ Alliance Town Hall Rich List for 2021, we asked how when private sector organisations often benchmark salaries against other similar organisations the council clearly did not. Within the council, schools are required to benchmark themselves on a range of financial measures against other similar schools.  When the council requires emergency government funding, and undertakes a fire sale of assets like the Croydon Park Hotel sold at a £5 million loss, how is it possible for the council to be so blind to the pay of its own executives?

With a crumbling town centre, Purley Swimming Pool closed, libraries’ opening days reduced, rent increases, Council Tax increases, damning audit reports, and some council tenants living in squalor, how can it be acceptable that at £613,895 Croydon Council’s former chief executive Jo Negrini, received the highest remuneration of any council employee in the country?

With local elections in May, we ask Croydon residents to ask those seeking re-election, how they can justify their council tax payments being spent this way, and how with this track record of oversight they can justify being returned to office?

Croydon Council Pay over £100,000, 2020-21:

NameJob title Salary Loss of office Pension strain payments Sub total Pension Total
Jo NegriniChief executive £151,474 £144,356 £292,851 £588,681 £25,214 £613,895
 Undisclosed £207,500   £207,500  £207,500
Lisa TaylorFinance, investment and risk and interim s151 officer £162,134   £162,134 £39,968 £202,102
Shifa MustafaExecutive director, place £156,060   £156,060 £40,888 £196,948
Jacquline Harris-BakerExecutive director of resources and monitoring officer £156,060   £156,060 £40,888 £196,948
 Undisclosed £192,500   £192,500  £192,500
Guy van DicheleExecutive director (interim) of health, wellbeing & adults £150,411   £150,411 £36,505 £186,916
Hazel SimmondsExecutive director of gateway, strategy & engagement £137,700   £137,700 £36,077 £173,777
 Undisclosed £147,500   £147,500  £147,500
 Undisclosed £137,500   £137,500  £137,500
 Undisclosed £137,500   £137,500  £137,500
 Undisclosed £137,500   £137,500  £137,500
 Undisclosed £137,500   £137,500  £137,500
Katherine KerswellChief executive £105,326   £105,326 £27,595 £132,921
 Undisclosed £132,500   £132,500  £132,500
 Undisclosed £127,500   £127,500  £127,500
 Undisclosed £117,500   £117,500  £117,500
 Undisclosed £117,500   £117,500  £117,500
 Undisclosed £117,500   £117,500  £117,500
 Undisclosed £117,500   £117,500  £117,500
 Undisclosed £117,500   £117,500  £117,500
 Undisclosed £117,500   £117,500  £117,500
 Undisclosed £117,500   £117,500  £117,500
 Undisclosed £117,500   £117,500  £117,500
 Undisclosed £112,500   £112,500  £112,500
 Undisclosed £107,500   £107,500  £107,500
 Undisclosed £107,500   £107,500  £107,500
 Undisclosed £102,500   £102,500  £102,500
 Undisclosed £102,500   £102,500  £102,500

Full Report: https://assets.nationbuilder.com/taxpayersalliance/pages/17477/attachments/original/1648806766/Town_Hall_Rich_List_2022.pdf?1648806766

Council-by-council breakdown of data: https://view.officeapps.live.com/op/view.aspx?src=https%3A%2F%2Fassets.nationbuilder.com%2Ftaxpayersalliance%2Fpages%2F17477%2Fattachments%2Foriginal%2F1648806321%2FTown_Hall_Rich_List_2022.xlsx%3F1648806321&wdOrigin=BROWSELINK

Press Release:

Report: Croydon at risk of another Section 114 Notice

On Friday 25th February the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) reported that Croydon Council faces “new financial collapse amid concerns it misused £73m”, and may need to issue a new Section 114 notice (de facto bankruptcy) following the 2 issued in 2020. 

The borough is seeking approval for £75m in loans covering the existing and next financial year.  This follows the towns auditors raising concerns about £73m from the sale of 350 properties, which LGC states that “Auditors have queried the way Croydon categorised that money as a capital receipt and spent it on transformation funding.”

The Chronicle reports “A dispute is understood to be ongoing between the council and its auditors Grant Thornton, which is still yet to sign off on the council’s 2020-21 accounts over the alleged misuse of the £73m”.

If auditors decided these funds should come from the revenue budget this could lead to a new Section 114 notice being issued, and no doubt further bad news for Croydon’s taxpayers.

Full article: https://www.lgcplus.com/finance/councils-in-anxious-wait-for-capitalisation-loan-approval-amid-s114-fears-25-02-2022/

Auditor’s damning report into Fairfield Halls redevelopment

In October 2020 Croydon Council’s external auditor’s Grant Thornton issued a report in the public interest which was a damning indictment of the council’s failings. In January this year Grant Thornton took the almost unprecedented step of issuing another report in the public interest, this time focusing on the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls.

Reports have circulated in the press and national media on the failings of Croydon Council set out in the report.  There have been calls for police involvement and indeed Croydon Council has undertake is undertaking its own internal fraud probe. Even a Labour Councillor has called on the council leader Cllr Hamida Ali to consider her position.

At 32 pages long, the report goes in to significant details of the £67.5 million pound refurbishment of the arts venue by Croydon’s found property developers Brick by Brick, set against an original £30 million budget.

We bring you some of the low lights of the report below:

“The legal advice showed that if the land transfer option was properly implemented, it was possible to avoid any public procurement process, although it highlighted risks. In our view these risks were significant. The key to avoiding a public procurement process, it was said was that there was no positive obligation on Brick by Brick to do the works”

“Neither the Council nor Brick by Brick have been able to provide a properly executed written conditional sale agreement”

“Neither the Council nor Brick by Brick have been able to provide a properly executed written conditional sale agreement (which would have been in place had Fairfield Halls been transferred to Brick by Brick in line with the land transfer option) or properly executed loan agreements covering the funds provided by the Council. Without properly executed written agreements key elements of the legal advice were not met. Further, it is our view that the Council’s arrangement was at risk of challenge under procurement law as Brick by Brick was given a detailed specification of works (effectively amounting to a positive obligation to carry out the refurbishment) and the Council did not assess whether Brick by Brick was not acting as an independent company, in line with the legal advice”

“In obtaining external legal advice and not fully considering or implementing that advice, it is our view that the Council failed to ensure it was acting lawfully”

“In obtaining external legal advice and not fully considering or implementing that advice, it is our view that the Council failed to ensure it was acting lawfully”

“As the Council was specifying the works it wished to see carried out, and the true objective of the licence was to oblige Brick by Brick to carry out those works, for the benefit of the Council, a public procurement process should have been carried out, and the entry into a licence without one did not reflect this underlying reality and in our view is therefore likely to have been found to have been a breach of public procurement law had it been challenged in court”

“This is a serious concern as to the Council’s financial and corporate management and also calls into question the lawfulness of the Fairfield Halls payments and suggests that the Council has not made proper arrangements for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources”

“The June 2016 Cabinet decision referred to a £30 million investment in the project; we have found that the final expenditure on the project was £67.5 million”

“The Scrutiny and Overview Committee (the Committee) was active in attempting to scrutinize the project, its progress and related costs. Reports presented to the Committee, in our view, did not highlight the known increase in costs. Financial position of the project The June 2016 Cabinet decision referred to a £30 million investment in the project; we have found that the final expenditure on the project was £67.5 million. Despite the June 2016 Cabinet report referring to a financial appraisal, the Council has been unable to provide any such financial appraisal without which we are unable to conclude whether the project additional spend in excess of the budget was caused by inadequacies in the original budget setting or in controlling costs or in changes in the scope of the work during the project. With no subsequent Cabinet decision recorded on the project budget we consider the original Cabinet-approved budget to be £30 million”

“The approval decision in June 2016 was for a £30 million project to be completed by June 2018. In October 2018 the tolerance of a £50,000 / 0.1% of the project budget overspend (as reported to the Growth Board) and delayed project into a future financial year had been significantly breached. It is not clear whether the significant additional spend was escalated to an officer led leadership team or via another Council process. In our view, the then Executive Director of Place, as Chair of the Growth Board, had a responsibility to escalate a reported spend in excess of budget of £15.89 million to a formal Cabinet. We have been unable to identify any evidence of the escalating risks being reported to Cabinet formally”

“It is a serious financial control and legal failing that payments in excess of £60 million were made to a third party without sufficient clarity as to the powers relied upon or any properly executed written contracts”

“It is a serious financial control and legal failing that payments in excess of £60 million were made to a third party without sufficient clarity as to the powers relied upon or any properly executed written contracts. Both the then Monitoring Officer and the then section 151 officer had a responsibility to ensure that the legal loan agreements were properly executed prior to making payments. In our view, officers treated Brick by Brick as an extended department of the Council in terms of the financial payments made, and did not ensure the level of rigour we would have expected”

A full timeline is set out in the report.  Highlighted below is how according to the council reporting in a period of 14 months, £25million was added to cost of the refurbishment. 

The full report can be found at: https://www.croydon.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2022-01/London%20Borough%20of%20Croydon%20Public%20Interest%20Report%20Fairfield%20Halls%20260122.pdf?fbclid=IwAR356w8pnGHUH10crscxCLrKqMHENsR267cTtKfuJuPLrhUNM84HubVqoQM

Photo Source: Jim Linwood https://www.flickr.com/photos/brighton/6354011431/

Council Tax increases, the one thing Croydon Council excels at!

Our friends at the Taxpayers’ Alliance have compiled figures for London boroughs’ council tax increases in the last 10 years. This is now being reported in the media and shows a rarity of something that Croydon Council excels at, sadly for the taxpayers of Croydon they excel at taking more of our money.

In the past decade council tax has risen across London from as little as 6.6% in Hammersmith and Fulham, to a whopping 31.1% in Harrow. Where does Croydon fit in all this?  Croydon takes up the bronze medal position with a massive 29.3% council tax increase during a decade of low inflation. Most worrying for the people of Croydon the worst could yet be to come.  Following de facto bankruptcy we all know council tax is only going one way to pay for the astonishing levels of debt.  What does this mean in real terms?  The average London Band D council tax is £1.633, Croydon comes in at 5th place across London at £1,888 pounds, some of both the biggest increases and highest payments are the result of years of mismanagement of the borough.

Since the Croydon Constitutionalist started we have reported on the councils wasting of public funds, bumper town hall salaries, councillors feathering their allowance nests, on it’s poor commercial investments and we’ve all seen their ‘grand plans’ lead to the collapse of the town centre as a shopping precinct. Important community amenities such as Purley swimming pool have permanently closed and we see threats to the towns dumps which will only increase fly tipping, already a scourge across the borough.

With elections due again in May and with the knowledge that many of the councils budgets that led up to the imposition of the Section 114 notice were voted for by both Labour and Conservative councillors, Croydonians may look for an alternative as either Mayor or as elected councillors. A good place to start would be the Croydon Constitutionalists hustings on February the 24th.  Let’s hope the next decade is better for the people of Croydon, although we already fear council tax is only going one way.

The tragic tale of the Croydon Park Hotel

Image by Peter Trimming

Author Michael Swadling

Most Croydon residents will have a memory of the Croydon Park Hotel, for me some its of work dos, a venue for giving blood and some slightly clandestine visits to the hotel bar conveniently situated in central Croydon but somewhere you’d be unlikely to bump into anyone you didn’t want to see.  Pictures of the hotel still adorn travel sites, a reminder of what a great asset to the town the hotel was.  Of course that was before lockdown and the benevolent hand of Croydon Council.

“sold at a loss of some £5 million. Ironically a loss of this magnitude is pretty small fry compared to the disaster that Croydon Council has been in recent years.”

News came this week that the hotel purchased by the council in 2018 has been sold at a loss of some £5 million. Ironically a loss of this magnitude is pretty small fry compared to the disaster that Croydon Council has been in recent years.  The purchase was of course hailed as a great success at the time, the council was borrowing cheap money to make a strategic investment and return revenue to its overall budget.  Of course things didn’t workout quite as planned, to quote Croydon council’s internal auditors:

“The investments in The Colonnades and Croydon Park Hotel were not grounded in a sufficient understanding of the retail and leisure market and have again illustrated that the Council’s strategy to invest its way out of financial challenge rather than pay attention to controlling expenditure on core services was inherently flawed.”

It is easy to be clever after the event, who could have known at the time the things would go so badly wrong?  Well whilst no one likes a ‘told you so’, we, err, ‘told you so’.  Writing about the hotel purchase together with the purchase of the Colonnade shopping centre in March 2019 we were able to point out the council has no expertise in running commercial property, we calculated the investments only needed a 3% downturn in revenue for taxpayers to be burdened with the costs of servicing the debts funding these projects.  Indeed the council has now confirmed the hotel itself had a running cost of £610,000 a year without even being used as a hotel.

Who knows what would have happened without the pandemic but this was foreseeable.  The council had already undertaken an upgrade to the famous Surrey Street Market at a cost of 1.1 million resulting in a lost of both casual and permanent traders, costing over £91,000 per trader lost.

I’m reminded, as is often the case with our local authority of Ronald Regan’s famous line that “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help”.

“it removes the conflict of interest, where the council gives planning permission for, and permits licensing of businesses it’s in competition with”

If any good comes from this aside from removing the ongoing running costs from the council, is that it removes the conflict of interest, where the council gives planning permission for, and permits licensing of businesses it’s in competition with.  Let’s hope Croydon Council will now stay out of commerce, and instead focus on just doing its basic job right.

Missing: Croydon’s Bus Shelters

By: Zachary Stiling

Croydon residents will have noticed the disappearance of bus shelters across the borough. The old ones were cheap-looking and nasty, but never so awful as their so-called ‘Smart City’ replacements.

Since early 2020, Croydon Council has been working with VALO Smart City towards the ‘Replacement of existing Croydon bus shelters… with new bus shelters and advertising panels, providing an opportunity to embed ‘Smart City’ technology and to upgrade the existing paper advertising with digital advertising screens.’ The programme concerns all 158 shelters which are the council’s responsibility, but not those operated by Transport for London.

“VALO Smart City is a New York-based company which conceals its purpose behind unintelligible jargon”

VALO Smart City is a New York-based company which conceals its purpose behind unintelligible jargon. According to its website, ‘VALO’s Smart City platform makes cities more efficient by collecting real-time data for city services and infrastructure, such as transportation, utilities, security, and pollution. VALO is a smart city integrator that aims to better people’s lives around the world through the Internet of Things technology.’ Croydon Council tells us the shelters will monitor air quality, noise, footfall and traffic flow.

The scheme is spearheaded by Opama Khan, whose changeable but permanently nonsensical job title is currently ‘Head of Digital Services, Access & Reach’; she is ‘Leading delivery of an ambitious strategy to enhance the borough of Croydon through digital innovation and technology.’ Nobody voted for her, but she wields power over Croydon and won’t be underpaid (the council’s outgoing Chief Digital Officer, Neil Williams, was on over £100,000 a year).

“What are we to make of this, apart from that it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money when the old shelters worked perfectly well, and that a council which has just received a £120 million bailout after bankruptcy ought to be more careful?”

What are we to make of this, apart from that it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money when the old shelters worked perfectly well, and that a council which has just received a £120 million bailout after bankruptcy ought to be more careful? Suffice it to say, the council hasn’t revealed the cost but it claims it will generate £6.75 million in advertising revenue over 10 years. One fails to see how it should generate more than the old bus stops which also displayed advertising, but £6.75 million doesn’t seem much considering the council spent £5.4 million on a 2017 revamp of East Croydon bus station, which amounted to smothering the shelters in crass primary colours best appreciated by small children.

It’s pure hypocrisy for a council which subscribes to climate alarmism to outsource its bus shelters to an American company. Like all tech products, they are surely to be made in undeveloped countries, with raw materials, constituent parts and the finished shelters having to be transported thousands of miles before they arrive in Croydon. There may even be a bit of child labour somewhere along the line. And because they are to be online constantly, they are going to require a constant supply of power.

“They may not look misplaced on central Croydon’s streets, besieged as they are by glass-and-steel Babels, but they have no place in the suburbs”

The aesthetic of the shelters may be described as ‘industrial neo-modern’. At night, they will be tackily lit by LEDs. They may not look misplaced on central Croydon’s streets, besieged as they are by glass-and-steel Babels, but they have no place in the suburbs. Croydon’s suburbs were built in accordance with the Arts & Crafts philosophy intended to combine the beauty and healthy qualities of the countryside with the convenience of the town. To introduce the ugliness of stark utilitarianism to such a landscape would be to the detriment of all residents. Far better would be to supply semi-rural and suburban areas with traditional wooden shelters which could be made by local craftspeople for minimal cost.

Most of all, the great evil of the Smart City which affects us all is the spread of Big Brother. One may wonder how a bus shelter monitors footfall and traffic flow. That’s easy – it has cameras which, with its internet connection, might be viewed at any time from some central H.Q. With our government demonstrating increasingly authoritarian tendencies, surveillance bus shelters are not our friend.

Sources

Image source:

Croydon Council: the pain for taxpayers’ continues

The Local Government Chronicle reports that “Croydon may need higher 2020-21 bailout amid ongoing turmoil”.  Ever since Croydon went into de facto bankruptcy in November last year, we have seen a succession of bad stories for the council, including bumper councillor allowances, accusations of bullying, bumper executive pay, and the disgraceful condition of flats in Regina Road.

Now we hear “Significant sums” are still being queried by auditors in Croydon LBC’s 2019-20 accounts – with the auditor having sought advice from a QC over one outstanding issue – while a number of “significant risks” remain over the current year’s budget”

The Chronicle reports: “concerns around the approval of a £30m refurbishment budget for the council’s Fairfield Halls arts centre, to be paid for through the transfer of land to Brick by Brick to be developed and sold” and that “there are “a number of significant risks, amounting to £26.6m, which could negatively impact on the outturn position” – even before any accounting adjustments needed for the Fairfield Halls development are taken into account” compared to reserves of just £7.4 million.

It has now been almost 10 months since we first spoke of the imminent de facto bankruptcy of the council.  We now have to ask, what has changed in that time?  How have the finances of local taxpayers’, and the needs of service users been protected?  Why has it taken 10 months for these issues to come to light?  We want to know why weren’t the fully extent of the problems made clear when the councils finances were first recapitalised, and how can we fell confident we will ever see an end to this ongoing failure of governance?

Full Local Government Chronicle article – https://www.lgcplus.com/finance/croydon-may-need-higher-2020-21-capitalisation-direction-amid-ongoing-turmoil-18-06-2021/

TaxPayers’ Alliance, Town Hall Rich List 2021 – Croydon Press Release

Croydon leading the list of local boroughs with executives paid over £100K, according to report.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance have issued their 2021 Town Hall Rich List of council employees in the UK in receipt of over £100,000 in total remuneration.  The list covers the financial year 2019-20, and since then we have seen Croydon Council issue a Section 114 notice, declaring de facto bankruptcy.  It’s not hard to see why the council ended up in this position when despite years of complaining about a lack of funding, and years of maximum council tax increases, Croydon Council still had 19 people earning over £100,000 a year, with six people whose remuneration exceeded the salary of the Prime Minister.

To put this in context, neighbouring Bromley had just 9 staff whose remuneration exceeded £100,000.  Sutton had 10 staff, Merton 9, Tandridge 2, and Reigate & Banstead 6.  Whilst our inner London neighbours Lambeth had 18 and Lewisham 15 (both fewer than Croydon), Barnet a similar sized borough made do with just 9 staff on over £100K.

Private sector organisations often benchmark salaries against other similar organisations.  Indeed, within the council, schools are required to benchmark themselves on a range of financial measures against others similar schools.  We wonder if it has ever benchmarked their own executive salaries, and if it has, what conclusions they drew?  We can see why Croydon Council’s external auditors Grant Thornton described the situation at the council as follows:  “There has been collective corporate blindness to both the seriousness of the financial position and the urgency with which actions needed to be taken”.

The current council leader, and others in the cabinet were in the cabinet at the time these bumper salaries were being paid out.  What were they doing to control council expenses?  Of course we now know those councillors were in receipt of the highest average allowance in London.

Many things have changed at Croydon Council but the latest figures still show 16 people being paid over £100,000 and two on more than the nation’s Prime Minister.  Deep cuts are being made to front line jobs and services, can we say that is being reflected in the salaries of those at the top?

As council tax bills are landing in people homes, the people of Croydon who will pay for the mismanagement of the council budget have the right to ask, why we are being expected to once again pay more, when the those at the top of the council seem to be so well rewarded.

Croydon Council Pay over £100,000, 2019-20:

CouncilNameJob titleSalarySub totalPensionTotal
CroydonJo NegriniChief executive £189,165 £189,165 £29,193 £218,358
CroydonGuy Van DicheleExecutive director (interim) of health, wellbeing & adults £197,171 £197,171 £11,983 £209,154
CroydonShifa MustafaExecutive director, place £156,060 £156,060 £24,085 £180,145
CroydonJacqueline Harris-BakerExecutive director of resources and monitoring officer £153,936 £153,936 £23,795 £177,731
CroydonRobert HendersonExecutive director of children, families & education £148,886 £148,886 £22,986 £171,872
CroydonHazel SimmondsExecutive director of gateway, strategy & engagement £137,700 £137,700 £21,252 £158,952
Croydon Undisclosed  £157,500  £157,500
CroydonLisa TaylorDirector of finance, investment and risk and interim S151 officer £124,393 £124,393 £19,216 £143,609
Croydon Undisclosed  £137,500  £137,500
Croydon Undisclosed  £137,500  £137,500
Croydon Undisclosed  £137,500  £137,500
Croydon Undisclosed  £132,500  £132,500
Croydon Undisclosed  £117,500  £117,500
Croydon Undisclosed  £117,500  £117,500
Croydon Undisclosed  £117,500  £117,500
Croydon Undisclosed  £117,500  £117,500
Croydon Undisclosed  £117,500  £117,500
Croydon Undisclosed  £102,500  £102,500
Croydon Undisclosed  £102,500  £102,500

Full Report: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/taxpayersalliance/pages/17258/attachments/original/1617382775/Town_Hall_Rich_List_2021_Doc.pdf?1617382775

Council-by-council breakdown of data: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/taxpayersalliance/pages/17258/attachments/original/1617382651/Town_Hall_Rich_List_2021_Dataset.xlsx?1617382651