Council’s planning chief leaves after less than 6 months in job

Stephen McDonald: did he not like what he saw at Croydon?

Stephen McDonald, appointed to much fanfare as Croydon’s executive director of planning and environment only last August, has quit his estimated £140,000 per year post as “a result of mutual recognition that there was a difference in expectations” over the role.

McDonald was one of Croydon CEO Jon Rouse’s “elite” team of eight executive directors in Taberner House, and was hand-picked from a major role dealing with Olympic legacy in Hackney.

“With his extensive knowledge of major capital regeneration, he’s exactly the right man to take Croydon forward at this exciting time,” Mike Fisher, the leader of the ruling Conservative group on Croydon Council, said just six months ago.

“Exactly the right man” eh Mike?

Today, McDonald was said by his erstwhile boss to have recognised “that the scope of the role was not playing to his strengths”. Bit of a difference.

At the time of the appointment, Inside Croydon did ask whether the task in hand was a “poisoned chalice” (for want of a better cliche).

For the six months before McDonald arrived, Rouse had been personally handling the key regeneration portfolio, following the resignation of another “highly rated” executive director, Emma Peters, who the council had described as “the brains” behind so many of Croydon’s regeneration plans, but was said to be disillusioned when she quit.

McDonald’s departure (he only started in the role in September) went unmentioned at Monday night’s full council meeting. It represents another hammer blow to Croydon Council’s lofty regeneration plans, coming so soon after the announcements that major employer Nestle is to quit the borough, and that Bank of America, too, is to move away.

The move must raise further serious questions about the management of the council at the highest levels, and senior officers’ relationships with major employers and developers.

McDonald left Taberner House for the final time yesterday.

This morning, Rouse sent out the following confidential internal memo:

“Stephen McDonald is to leave his position as executive director for planning and environment after just a short period with us. This is a result of mutual recognition that there was a difference in expectations between Stephen and the council over the balance of the role. Stephen’s last day with the council was 31 January 2012.

“We are grateful to Stephen for his contribution and for having the foresight to recognise that the scope of the role was not playing to his strengths in the way we both had hoped it would. We are sure that in a different role and context Stephen will excel and we wish him well for the future.

“Given this disappointing outcome, we will not be rushing into making a like-for-like appointment. Instead, we will take our time to review the scope of the role and the market. In the meantime, the three experienced divisional directors, Tony Brooks, Tony Antoniou and Mike Kiely, will report direct to the chief executive.

“Both parties mutually agree that communication regarding this matter shall be restricted to the above statement.”

Doesn’t look good, does it?

  • 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

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Croydon Council, Jon Rouse, Planning, Stephen McDonald, URV and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Council’s planning chief leaves after less than 6 months in job

  1. Arfur Towcrate says:

    “mutual recognition” could be code for what’s called a compromise agreement, where the employer makes a legally-binding secret deal with the employee to part company pronto for a large-ish sum of cash provided they say nothing nasty about each other.

    If that’s the case here, the question remains as to whether Stephen McDonald was squeezed out or whether he put the frighteners on them. We’ll never know for sure.

Leave a Reply