An “interim” at Croydon Council was invoicing up to £1,650 a time during the period he was working on Croydon’s “independent” report into last August’s riots, Inside Croydon has discovered.
An invoice paid by Croydon Council, uncovered by Inside Croydon earlier this week, shows that His Honour William Barnett was paid £35,000 for chairing the council-commissioned inquiry.
Croydon Council provided a team of four officers to assist Barnett and his panel in their work. One of the quartet, Stephen Rowan, was not on the pay-roll at Taberner House, but was one of the army of “interims” who populate the borough’s corridors of power, usually at considerable additional expense to the Council Tax-payers of the borough.
The council’s records show that Rowan was invoicing the Chief Executive’s office regularly at a rate of up to £1,650.
Inside Croydon research has found six invoices issued to the council by Rowan, between August 25 2011 and March 1 this year. Numbered in sequence, two of those invoices (No 45 dated August 25, and No 46 dated September 9, for £1,485 and £1,039.50 respectively) appear to have been presented twice, and paid twice.
The Rowan invoices appear to have been issued every other Wednesday from September to March.
As first revealed by Inside Croydon, in 2011, Croydon Council spent a total of £20 million on assorted interim staff and outside contractors, some of whom will have been hired to undertake the work previously done by less well-paid salaried staff who had been made redundant.
Working alongside Rowan assisting Barnett and the panel were three council staff colleagues, Solomon Agutu, Maxine Cooper and Daniel Higgins. All three are understood to be council staff members, receiving local authority salaries.
Earlier this week, Councillor Tony Newman, leader of the minority Labour group on Croydon Council, described the cash paid to Barnett as “excessive”, especially since many residents and business owners along London Road have yet to receive adequate, if any, financial compensation after being made homeless or losing their livelihoods on the infamous night of August 8.
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Sources in Taberner House indicate that Rowan had managed to impress Dudley Mead, the deputy leader of the Conservative group which controls Croydon Council. Mead is a member of the Court of Governors of the Whitgift Foundation, as is “Willy” Barnett.
Local MP Malcolm Wicks has described the Barnett Report as “an extraordinarily brief document and a somewhat shallow one”.
In Barnett’s introductory notes (two pages from the total of just 48 devoted to the panel’s findings), the judge singled out Rowan for special praise. He wrote:
“It is only right and proper that I should single out Stephen Rowan for special mention, as it is he who has been the conduit for our many requests for information and has been in day to day charge of gathering information for us and ensuring the attendance of witnesses and with success ensuring that everything ran smoothly. He is to be congratulated on his great industry and skill, and his patience and good humour at all times.”
At £1,650 per invoice, he could afford to be good humoured.
Inside Croydon asked Jon Rouse, Croydon Council’s £248,000 a year chief executive, and the council’s press office to confirm details of the payments made to Stephen Rowan. They refused to answer, instead shunting the enquiry off to be treated as a Freedom of Information request, at a further cost to Croydon Council Tax-payers (according to recent estimates, nationally each FoI request costs an average of £121; according to Croydon Council, when they handle an FoI request, it costs £250… #thatissocroydon), and deliberately delaying answering our questions for at least a month.
- 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)
- Jon Rouse, Croydon riots, and the crucial missing hours (insidecroydon.com)
- Compromised riots report covers up policing problems (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon Council paid £20m for interim staff in 2011 (insidecroydon.com)
Given you’ve no idea how much time was being charged for on each invoice, I don’t see how you can draw many of the conclusions you’ve reached above. Especially: “At £1,650 per invoice, he could afford to be good humoured.”
If the invoices represent two weeks’ worth of full-time labour that doesn’t seem an unreasonable fee for anyone to charge (£137 per day if that figure includes VAT, £165 if it doesn’t)
Of course, if it’s for 3 hours work, that’s a different story, but until you know the details, there is no story.
We don’t disagree, Neil.
The question of term and totals are exactly what we put to the Croydon Council CEO and press office, but which they have refused to answer.
Once they referred our questions to FoI (a deliberate delaying technique), we felt we had no alternative but to put the information that we do have to a wider audience.
After all, if the circumstances are as you suggest, then what does the council have to hide – beyond the fact that they appear to have paid at least two of his invoices twice?
Well, I estimate His Honour William Barnett’s time cost £750 a page, or approximately £1.50 a word.