Maybe openness, transparency and accountability to public scrutiny does work.
Since Inside Croydon was launched nearly two years ago, we have often returned to the council’s spending on its annual jolly to the South of France for £248,000 per year chief exec Jon Rouse and his associated chums.
And today, The Sun has joined the clamour, expressing its disgust that Croydon Council should spend £4,000 of Council Tax-payers’ cash on a beano to Cannes for a couple of over-paid officials to attend an international property exhibition.
They are right, of course. Yet compare this year’s spend on sending a delegation to the MIPIM conference to the previous two years.
- In 2010, when Inside Croydon first reported on the extravagance, Croydon Council – then working through the CEDC – spent £165,000 on the four-day trip. “It’s a junket on the taxpayers and people dont want to see highly-paid council officials swanning around the French Riviera,” Tony Newman, leader of the Labour opposition group on Croydon Council, said at that time. And what was Croydon’s eye-catching Big Idea at Cannes in 2010? Making sandcastles on the beach…
- In 2011, shamed after by the previous year’s coverage, and now with a council axing staff and services, Rouse and one other official were sent to Cannes on a budget of a “mere” £12,500. That included a £200-a-night hotel and a £50 per person “per diem” – pocket money for two six-figure salary executives. “It was a 7.00am Easyjet flight and a camp bed next to a railway line. By the time I arrived back in the early hours of Friday morning I was completely exhausted,” Rouse told council staff in an internal email. Poor dear.
So, this year Croydon Council has demonstrated that the entire junket can be achieved for less than 1/40th of the amount spent in 2010.
We wonder if the spendthrifts who approved the previous £165,000 and £12,500 spends (which includes Conservative council leader Mike Fisher and senior councillor Simon Hoar) might in some way be forced to re-pay to the people of Croydon the money squandered needlessly in 2010 and 2011?
Why has The Sun taken a belated interest in Croydon Council’s latest extravagance, when they have previously paid no attention to a council that squandered thousands on the ego-trip that was the misguided city bid? Or managed to spend £20 million last year on consultants and interim execs? Or which has put the people of Croydon in hock to the speculators over the £450million urban regeneration, or URV scheme?
Well, since Rupert Murdoch started to get a kicking over the conduct of his newspapers, he has taken against “Call Me Dave” Cameron, and his papers now are less constrained when it comes to criticising Tory antics. And the Tuesday after a four-day Bank Holiday weekend is notorious as a slow news day. So lifting a story from a tame local newspaper is an easy space-filler.
The Sadvertiser had run the £4,000 story last week, though not before they had slavishly copied out a couple of Develop Croydon press releases about the great success that Jon Rouse had at what they described as the “prestigious” Cannes conference.
“Croydon Council’s chief executive Jon Rouse spoke at the prestigious international real estate show MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier) in Cannes, France, at a session held by Develop Croydon, which promotes development and economic renewal in the borough,” the Redhill Sadvertiser dutifully parotted last month.
Without questioning, they also reported Rouse’s sales spiel to the gathered international property speculators: “Our invitation to you is to come on board and get a piece of the action now, at the beginning of the cycle, and realise real dividends down the line as Croydon takes off,” Rouse said in Cannes, pimping Croydon to the world.
But at least this time Rouse did it on the cheap.
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- Croydon Council paid £20m for interim staff in 2011 (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon’s Budget (Part 1): We’re all in this together (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon wasted tens of thousands on failed city bid (insidecroydon.com)