Croydon’s Budget (Part 1): We’re all in this together

Work continues on the council's unnecessary new HQ building, part of a £450m scheme

Croydon Council is about to set its budget for the coming financial year. The proposals go before next Monday’s cabinet meeting, prior to the council meeting on February 27.

As work continues to build the vanity project that is to be the new council headquarters, part of Croydon’s £450 million secretive liaison with billionaire developers, even a perfunctory examination of the council’s own finance papers prompts an obvious question that cuts straight to the issue of the credibility of Croydon’s management:

Why does Croydon Council need to have nearly 30 staff on salaries of £100,000 or more when it is already spending another £20 million a year on consultants and agency staff?

For the pdf version of the council’s own document, click here.

If you scroll through to page 34 of last year’s accounts, you will see the number of Croydon Council staff in each salary band from £50,000 upwards.

There are 27 employees at Taberner House who are on annual salaries of more than £100,000.

We’re all in this together?

The next page also gives more salary details for the Council Management Team – or in council acronym-ese, the “CMT”. Thus we see a break down of salaries, the valuable pension contributions and bonuses for the chief executive, Jon Rouse, and his “top team”.

Last year, as Croydon Council cut almost 1,000 jobs in its “Step Change” programme, Rouse took no increase on his (far from) “basic” salary of £188,976. Also, although he had claimed his “chief officer allowance” of nearly £7,000 the year before, in 2010-2011 Rouse did not receive such an allowance.

Instead, he managed to trouser an extra £15,544 for being returning officer in the elections.

With a further £43,842 in pension contributions, Jon Rouse received £248,362 from Croydon in 2010-2011. That’s up from £246,810 in the previous year.

We’re all in this together.

Croydon CEO Jon Rouse: happy with his terms and conditions

The next entries on this page are for Hannah Miller and Nathan Elvery, the deputy chief execs, Miller in charge of adult services and housing, Elvery the exec director of corporate resources and customer services (and, some might suggest, some almighty balls-ups, such as handing out a school transport contract to a company that did not have licenses for its buses).

These two Croydon Council high-flyers appear to be on exactly the same “corporate package” of basic salary (£137,262 each), allowances (a total of £16,321 each for being chief officers and deputy chief executives) and pension contributions (£35,231 each).

The only salary difference was that in 2010-2011, Miller received nearly twice as much in her performance bonus, getting £13,726 compared to gaffe-prone Elvery’s £6,863.

Thus, Hannah Miller received £202,940 from Croydon last year. That equates to a pay hike of more than £7,000, or 3.5 per cent, on the previous year.

We’re all in this together.

Nathan Elvery‘s wage packet swelled to £196,077 in 2010-2011, up by more than £3,000 on the previous year.

We are all in this together.

The council’s finance sheets then list the salaries of four other executive directors, including two, Emma Peters and Dave Hill, have quit the council. Peters’ replacement, Stephen McDonald, has already left Croydon, despite his £137,000 per year salary and £30,000-plus in pension contributions and other allowances which could have taken him towards an overall package of £175,000 per year.

These high-level – and rising – salaries on the seventh floor at Taberner House need to be set in the context of what else has been going on with staff at council offices around the borough over the past two years or more.

Despite cuts and austerity everywhere around them, the people at the top of Croydon’s organisation continue to enjoy extra allowances and perks, to such an extent that many are now being paid in excess of what the Prime Minister earns.

Hannah Miller: better performance than Nathan Elvery (that can't have been difficult)

Meanwhile, the staff on the bottom rungs of Croydon Council have had their shift and overtime allowances reduced as part of an imposed “review” of their terms and conditions of employment. For some, the £14,000 Hannah Miller was handed as a “performance bonus” in 2011 amounted to a large chunk of their entire salary.

With the threat of redundancy hanging over many Croydon Council employees, some are now keeping their heads down, trying to get by when earning little more than the minimum wage. Meanwhile, the council splashes out £750 per day on “top-level” interims and consultants.

We’re all in this together.

According to figures provided by Mike Fisher, the leader of Croydon Council, at the recent full council meeting, Jon Rouse’s basic salary appears to have been reduced, by nearly £10,000, to £179,529. There did not appear to be any tokenistic “sacrificial” salary cuts from other members of Rouse’s CMT.

Most Croydon Council staff are consigned to a permanent exclusion from receiving any increments in their pay, unless they get “excellent” performance appraisals from their managers. Among council staff, there is a growing suspicion that this system is being deliberately manipulated to their disadvantage, with managers marking down their staff to avoid the necessity of any wage increases.

We’re all in this together.

Croydon Council under Jon Rouse has defended its salary structure at the top by pointing to the fact that it has only four executive directors. This conveniently overlooks the numerous director level appointments in the management tier below the execs.

According to the council’s own figures, for instance, Elvery alone has four directors working to him: Aiden McManus, Richard Simpson, Sarah Ireland and Graham Cadle. Three of these are on a basic salary of £105,000, while Simpson receives £102,000.

All of these directors will also receive pension contributions of around £25,000 each per year, bringing their own total packages to almost £130,000 each.

Paul Greenhalgh, Croydon's director of children services, one of 16 "directors" on salary packages of £120,000-plus at Croydon Council

In all, according to Fisher’s official answer, Croydon Council has 16 people receiving these sort of director-level salaries, in addition to Rouse and his “top team” of execs.

These include Pam Parkes (director of workforce and community relations) and borough solicitor Julie Belvir, who report directly to the CEO.

Below the magic six-figure salary mark, Croydon Council’s own figures reveal that there are also seven others who earn £95,000 or more; six who are on between £90,000 and £94,000; seven on £85,000-£89,000; and another 23 Croydon Council workers who are paid between £75,000 and £84,000.

For many of these, there will also be valuable additional benefits and allowances, favourable loans for cars, free or subsidised parking, and mobile phone bills all paid for.

It’s probably just as well that Taberner House also houses a £20-million army of outside consultants and interims to help the council’s executive  staff do their very well paid jobs.

We’re all in this together.

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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
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