Jon Rouse, Croydon Council’s £248,000 per year chief executive, was out of his office for a crucial four hours in the late afternoon and early evening of Monday, August 8 last year, just at the time that parts of the borough were descending into public disorder, rioting and arson, all verging on anarchy.
Despite police intelligence gathered over the preceding weekend of the likelihood of rioting in the borough, Rouse left his office at Taberner House around 4.30pm on 8/8, to attend an official meeting at Mayday Hospital.
Rouse did not return to the council headquarters to oversee anti-riots measures until 8.30pm – at least two hours after rioting in central Croydon had begun, when an under-manned police unit at West Croydon station came under violent attack from gangs hurling bricks and other missiles, forcing the railway station to be closed, with hundreds of commuters, returning home from work, locked inside for their own safety.
The chief executive’s delayed arrival at his office was confirmed tonight to Inside Croydon by Danny Brierley, Croydon Council’s spindoctor-in-chief.
Yesterday, although he gave an undertaking to respond to our questions regarding the £35,000 paid to William Barnett for chairing Croydon Council’s own riots report panel, Brierley failed to get back to us with any answer on the amount of time that Barnett, the retired judge, spent working on the 48-page report, which has been described as a “whitewash” over Croydon Council’s failure to act effectively.
Rouse’s evidence to the Barnett panel was seen as barely disguised criticism of the police response to the outbreak of civil disturbances on 8/8, when hundreds of people lost their homes and businesses, there was damage to property running into tens of millions of pounds, and one man was murdered.
Rouse told the Barnett panel that he spent some of the night of 8/8 in the council’s CCTV control room where he watched the unfolding chaos. “The council had a very limited enforcement role through the CCTV room,” Rouse said.
With just a single police liaison officer in the borough control room, Rouse said it was impossible to react to the images they were viewing on CCTV. “He was getting no response at all, not even a response from the police saying ‘we have got no resources’. There were periods when he was talking into the ether,” Rouse said in evidence to the Barnett panel.
Today, Brierley, presumably at the bidding of his CEO, took exception to our previous report, in which we said “… sources at Taberner House suggest that Rouse chose to leave his office at 4.30pm on 8/8. Rouse is understood to have attended a meeting at Mayday Hospital at 5.30pm, before apparently making his way home.
“‘At least when the Titanic went down, the captain was on the bridge,’ our source said.”
Today, Brierley wrote: “Jon’s whereabouts on the night of 8 August last year are a matter of public record…
“He spoke at length at the public hearing about his journey back to Croydon, what he did when he arrived, what action he took etc. There has never been any suggestion he was absent on the night of the riots, which is borne out by easily accessed, previously reported accounts,” Brierley said.
We asked Brierley to clarify the times when Rouse returned to Taberner House and attended the control room.
Brierley did not contradict our report that Rouse had left his office on council business at 4.30pm on the day of the Croydon riots, but he provided this clarification: “Jon was at Taberner House during the night of the riots and there are many witnesses (including me) who will attest to that. He arrived at 8.30pm, left at 2am, spent the rest of the night in a Croydon hotel and returned at 7am on Tuesday the 9th.”
This fails to explain why if, as Rouse admits, there was ample intelligence of possible rioting that day, the CEO did not cancel his meeting at Mayday due to more pressing matters, or at least return to Taberner House directly after that meeting.
What it does offer is official confirmation from Croydon Council that their CEO was not in his office in a four-hour period on the day of Croydon’s riots, at a crucial time when top-level calls to Scotland Yard and the Home Office may have helped deliver police reinforcements to the borough. By the time Rouse was back at the control centre, the gangs roaming Croydon’s streets that night were already out of control.
This could be the final time that Inside Croydon benefits from the help of Danny Brierley. Despite only having been promoted to the estimated £70,000 per year role of Head of Media Relations on Taberner House’s seventh floor barely four months ago, Burnley-supporting Brierley is about to leave Croydon Council.
For those who enjoy irony, Brierley is taking a job with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
- 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
- Retired judge handed £35,000 for chairing riots panel (insidecroydon.com)
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