We here at Inside Croydon Towers have become great fans of nearby neighbours Wandsworth’s “open council” webpage, which records the Conservative-run borough’s performance with comparative data on a range of indicators from other councils across London.
In the past, data published by Wandsworth has shown that in many cases Croydon is among the worst performing boroughs for many things, including elements of its planning and adult social care services.
Strangely many of these indicators do not feature in Croydon’s own reporting – when the council does bother to report it, that is. “Out of sight, out of mind” appears to be our council’s new slogan, where the policy is not so much to “bury bad news”, but just to do its best to make sure no one can dig it up.
But keeping data on a range of council activities unreported, Croydon Council has been operating a cover-up of its own failing performance levels in its services.
For example, Croydon does not report annual figures for “street litter” and “street detritus” on the open council website. Croydon does not report on any street scene indicators in its own “Your Croydon Counts” (we are assured that that is not a typographical error), the back-slapping and congratulatory performance reports that goes to cabinet on a rather erratic basis.
In “Your Croydon Counts” the council provides just two indicators on the cleanliness of our streets – its recycling rates and the amount of graffiti that’s been cleaned (100 per cent! What a success!). According to Croydon, unlike other boroughs, there’s nothing else to report. Fly tipping’s not an issue with Croydon Council, apparently. Nor is the state of our streets.
By comparison, Tory-run Barnet Council reports on no fewer than 14 environmental indicators, including tracking the relevant budget and the risks. Brent, a Labour-controlled local authority which has a poor reputation in some quarters, reports on nine environmental indicators. Richmond reports on seven environmental indicators and, like Barnet, also reports on complaints it receives.
Croydon – who the local ombudsman says is 40 per cent more complained about than average for a London borough – does not publish any figures for the number of complaints received about the performance of its environmental services contractors. Why might that be?
There is a culture within Croydon Council of non-accountability. Its own internal audit function fails to hit 50 per cent of its half-yearly targets. There is a crop of schools and key corporate functions which get poor audit reports year after year.
Steve O’Connell, the country’s most over-paid local councillor, in his introduction to “Your Croydon Counts” as the cabinet member for finance and performance management, usually talks about things that aren’t actually being reported, because Croydon now tracks so few indicators of its performance. The report, he says, is “just one of the ways we are making is easier for our residents and customers to hold us to account”. Except in those performance areas where Croydon Council would rather no one held it to account.
This is all despite having a team at least six “data analysts” beavering away under the supervision of interim chief executive and part-time entrepreneur Nathan Elvery.
It could be that these analysts are all fully employed collecting the data on the two environmental indicators that Croydon Council now includes in its own “now you see it, now you don’t” performance reports, where indicators are included or dropped apparently on a whim, or more probably on the basis of whether the results present Elvery and his team of six-figure salaried executive director in a favourable light.
The decision on what is to be reported on in 2013-2014 was included in the Part B agenda of the July council meeting – that is, the secret bit, not to be seen or discussed by mere members of the public.
And so we arrive at a fantasy situation, according to Croydon’s data collectors, in which our borough’s streets are spotlessly clean, without any rubbish on them. Croydon has managed to collect no data to show the levels of street detritus or street litter.
And we all know that Croydon Council is performing really well in that respect, don’t we?
Coming to Croydon
- The Lives of Stanley Halls community entertainment: Dec 4
- Riot from Wrong screening: Dec 5
- CP Mums’ Winter Wonderland: Dec 6
- Cinema Ruskin: Dec 21
- Steve Knightly at Stanley Halls: Feb 5
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough – 262,183 page views (Jan-Jun 2013)
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