Note to Nathan Elvery: when you’re in a hole, stop digging.
Elvery is Croydon Council’s deputy CEO, a man so desperate to have his work praised that he contrived to be a judge and award a prize to his own council for its “efficiency” and then even had the council’s press office send out a release to “celebrate” this worthless accolade.
Now he has gone in to print in this week’s Croydon Guardian to dissemble by defending the indefensible, the council’s – and therefore his own – abysmal record on the collection of Council Tax.
New readers, or those who would like a reminder of the facts, with links to the original reports and the government department figures which show that Croydon has at least £36 million in accumulated uncollected Council Tax, can click here, here and here.
By any normal measure, such inefficiency (note to Elvery: this is the opposite of efficiency) is appalling, and the government’s figures clearly show Croydon to be among the worst in outer London, and even the whole of England, in terms of accumulated uncollected tax.
Until now, local MP Gavin Barwell has gone in to bat on behalf of the council. After all, over the course of the 2006-2010 period, Barwell was a member of the ruling group on the council and therefore carries responsibility for the sort of mismanagement that Grant Shapps, local government minister from the same Conservative party as Barwell, has described in other councils as “displaying breathtaking incompetence when it comes to basic financial management”.
Here at Inside Croydon Towers, we suspected that Barwell was “taking one for the team”, and covering for less capable former colleagues, such as “Dangerous” Dudley Mead and Elvery.
But now Elvery, Croydon’s own £150,167.76 per year “director of resources and customer services”, has popped his head above the parapet to dissemble in the letters page of the local free paper (to read the letter, click here and scroll through to page 21).
Actually, dissembling might be too kind a description. Alongside the other untruths, deliberate attempts to mislead and the outright lies regularly coming out of Taberner House and the Town Hall, this one is right down there.
Elvery’s letter starts by offering “to provide some factual details”. But in common with Barwell and Mead, he swerves the fundamental fact of the mountain of uncollected CTax.
In his letter Elvery cannot even bring himself to mention the amount outstanding (FACT: it is at least £36 million). Interestingly the “party line” now is not to deny that it exists, but to spread the blame by stating that it “covers a nine-year period”.
So this lack of efficiency by Croydon Council has been going on for a decade, and Elvery thinks this in some way makes the situation better?
Elvery, we should remind ourselves, is a public servant (that’s our £150,000 he collects as salary each year). Therefore he is not supposed to be party political. Yet clearly what he is attempting to do here is bring in the previous Labour administration.
What Elvery omits to explain is that when the Conservatives took over the running of the Town Hall in 2006, they inherited £9 million of accumulated uncollected Council Tax. Now that’s a whole heap of cash, but it amounts to just one-quarter of the total amount accumulated after just four years (we don’t yet have the figures for 2010-2011) under Tory rule, with Elvery running his department throughout that period.
In his letter, Elvery continues to attempt to confuse, divert and mislead by talking about how the £36 million-plus is just 3 per cent of the total collectible amount. So nothing to worry about, then, eh, Nath?
What he omits to tell Croydon Guardian readers is that even this compares most unfavourably with other outer London boroughs.
AND THEN COMES THE LIE.
Elvery writes, “The council’s collection performance has improved every year…”
No it has not.
How do we know this? Because we have seen figures from Elvery’s own department within Croydon Council.
As Inside Croydon reported earlier this month, Elvery’s department has failed to achieve its own collection targets in each of the last five years.
Since 2005, collection rates have gone from 93.4 per cent and, with the help of an expensive new computer system, in 2008 reached 95.8 per cent. But it has failed to match even that modest standard in the two years since.
How can this be said to be “performance has improved every year“?
Of course, it could be an “innocent” mistake by Elvery (like forgetting to declare in a Croydon press release that he was among the judges who awarded his own borough an award for “efficiency”).
If it is just a “mistake”, he might want to review his own department’s figures:
- 2005-2006: (No targets available) Collected – 93.4%
- 2006-2007: Target – 95.5%. Collected – 94.7%
- 2007-2008: Target – 96.3%. Collected – 95.8%
- 2008-2009: Target – 96.8%. Collected – 95.4%
- 2009-2010: Target – 96.5%. Collected – 95.6%
Oh, and for comparative purposes, it is also worth noting that according to the government, the national average collection rate in England last year was 97.1 per cent. So Croydon’s well below the national standard.
And that’s a fact.