Mike Fisher, the leader of the Croydon’s ruling Tory group, and henchman Simon Hoar are expected to push through plans for a junket to the south of France next year, with a pair of council officials to stay in a £200 per night hotel, the total cost to the rate-payer of the jolly a cool £12,500.
The Council came in for fierce criticism this year when it sent a delegation to MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier), an international planning and development conference, to promote the Croydon Masterplans. Their biggest initiative there this year, apparently, was to play sandcastles on the beach.
Undeterred, they now want approval to go off and do it again.
The recommendation going before the meeting suggests that they are sending off the “high-powered” delegation to Cannes at “reduced” cost, mentioning the hardship of taking Easy Jet flights to Nice – nonetheless booked at a total cost of £700, including £200 for “transfers” (will that be a Mercedes Benz taxi ride from airport to the swanky hotel, then?).
The two men who are leading the way by slashing jobs at Croydon Council will be expected to get by on £50 a day “subsistence”. Each.
That’ll amount to “pocket money” for the two Croydon bigwigs, who may also be able to charge to expenses any meals that they might buy while “entertaining” on the Cote d’Azur, in between the official dinners and cocktail parties that they will undoubtedly attend in order to “network” on our behalf.
The proposal makes it clear that, actually, neither of the two Croydon representatives, headed by chief executive Jon Rouse, will be expected to conduct anything like real work: “In order to minimise cost whilst maximising benefit … It is proposed that two chief officers, the Chief Executive and Executive Director of Planning, Regeneration and Conservation, attend the conference without a physical stand or display. Instead, they will focus on a programme of meetings, speaking opportunities and media engagements – most of which will be arranged in advance”.
Yeah, we believe you.
Attending this conference is such a great deal, according to Councillor Simon Hoar, who has put forward the proposal, that through attendance at this year’s event, “Croydon achieved more than 20 items of positive media in local, regional and national printed press”.
20? Just 20?!
Based on last year’s spend, that means that each mention in the press cost Croydon more than £8,000 – that’s almost half the annual salary of some of the lower-paid Council employees that Hoar and his buddy Councillor Mike Fisher want to lay off in order to balance the books.
Nothing is mentioned in the proposal about whether any real “inward investment” (has anyone ever heard of “outward investment”?) in Croydon resulted from attending the previous conference.
But attending the conference represented such magnificent value, Hoar goes on, that “Members of the Croydon team (including colleagues from the Council, Stanhope/ Schroders) participated in more than five media interviews and panels”.
Five. Five? Busy, busy, busy… All five could be done, from their Croydon office, in a day, by phone. But that would lack the glamour of a quick mini-break to the South of France at rate payers’ expense.
Fisher and Hoar clearly have little sense of irony. Or pity.
Because this freeloading proposal by the Tories who have also voted themselves increased allowances will go before the Corporate Services Committee against a background of at least £7 million-worth of cuts, with massive job cuts among Council staff – the 53 staff employed by the youth service are expected to be made redundant with the closure of local centres.