You might expect that Croydon’s dismal track record on complaints (121 passed to the official ombudsman in the past year, among the worst local authorities in the UK) ought to be of serious concern to Jon Rouse and Nathan Elvery and their other very well paid pals on Taberner House’s seventh floor, looking out on the building works of the £450 million Urban Regeneration Vehicle and its wonderful new council offices.
This ought to be especially the case now, since Croydon has been shortlisted for another raft of self-congratulatory gongs doled out by the Local Government Chronicle, all to be assessed this week.
Croydon has been short-listed for the Corporate Governance award, a category which surely must consider the local authorities’ track record on matters such as the running of its complaints service.
And Elvery, “Efficiency is in our DNA”, must be keen to build on last year’s success in the LGC awards.
As Inside Croydon reported last March, that category was sponsored by Mace, who coincidentally received £724,363.51 -worth of work from Croydon Council between January and November 2011, according to Croydon’s own online invoices.
This £0.72 million of valuable business for Mace does not include amounts in any invoices that were blacked out, “redacted”, by the council. There very well may have been a few of those, since one of the main projects Mace is involved with is … the council’s uber-secret £450 million URV.
Croydon has only recently attracted an order from the Information Commissioner to actually provide proper answers to Freedom of Information requests about the URV and its contracts.
Croydon’s URV is the project that just keeps on giving, certainly as far as stories about the LGC’s awards are concerned. For the sponsor of this year’s Corporate Governance award is (cue drum roll): Grant Thornton.
This will be the same Grant Thornton who provided financial advice to John Laing in 2008 on whether or not to sign on the dotted line for the £450 million URV “partnership” with Croydon.
Entirely coincidentally, that would be the same Grant Thornton which was put on Croydon’s approved list for consultancy services the year after giving Laing that valuable advice.
According to a report by Croydon’s Corporate Services committee, that list was to last for two years, so Grant Thornton would have been approved consultants in 2011, the very period on which Croydon is being judged for this LGC award for Corporate Governance.
After that initial two-year spell as an approved consultant for council work, Grant Thornton is now subject to annual reviews by the Croydon procurement team which is part of the council’s corporate governance, and which also handles poorly performing complaints, anti-fraud and audit.
The Local Government Chronicle’s website is not forthcoming about who are among the judges this year, although they do state that each category’s judging panel “typically includes chief executives of high-performing councils, specialists in their field”.
Last year, that saw the Efficiency category have three judges, including a representative from sponsors Mace (Croydon Council contractors) and Nathan Elvery (deputy chief executive of… Croydon Council). And the winner is… Croydon Council! Quelle surprise!
Can there be any other industry awards where short-listed candidates are judged by themselves, enabling them to publicly snopake over all sorts of short-comings and failings in the very departments for which they are responsible?
Of course, it is entirely possible that Elvery absented himself from the room during the deliberations last year – which prompts the question of why he was ever given this category to judge in the first place. This year, though, Croydon has not been short-listed for the Efficiency award (shame!), nor Council of the Year (boo!), or even Economic Development (shucks).
But Croydon’s name has been included on shortlists for two other awards: the Management Team award, where the Income, Exchequer and Benefits group is among the front-runners for a prize. That’s another area of responsibility for Nathan Elvery, and involves the very people who have overseen one of the worst records (“breathtaking incompetence”, according to local government minister Grant Shapps, no less) for Council Tax arrears (£35 million, since you ask) among outer London boroughs.
This category is sponsored by corporate headhunters Odgers Berndtson. Or, another company that likes doing business with Croydon.
Perhaps most surprising of all is the shortlisting for Workforce, where Croydon is listed for “Transformation”, presumably a council euphemism for things like cutting staff’s salary terms and employment conditions, and making vast numbers of people redundant while simultaneously spending huge sums on consultants.
Like those from Grant Thornton and Odgers.
- 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
- Council complaints? Croydon makes it into worst 10 (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon in 2012: the Garbage Gallery (insidecroydon.com)
- Council’s roads deal in doubt as pressure mounts on Mouchel (insidecroydon.com)
- MP Barwell: Croydon’s libraries are safe. For now (insidecroydon.com)