The council by numbers: hiding the real costs of failure

Croydon councillors are paid some of the highest allowances in the country. That does not stop them also enjoying a very long summer recess from Town Hall business, though.

Croydon Town Hall: planning for failure?

Next Monday, that summer break is finally over, marked by a meeting of Mike Fisher’s top team, the council cabinet. September is usually a bumper month for the council to announce more cuts in spending, as it tries to balance its books ahead of the new financial year the following April.

Given the importance of finance to our council, and to the country as a whole, you might think that this item would be right at the top of the Croydon Council agenda. This being Croydon, though, that is not the case.

To find the agenda and reports being put forward for this meeting, click here. To save you the trouble of hunting around the council website for the hidden gems, we’ve picked out some of the highlights from the paperwork for next Monday’s meeting, when the ruling Conservative group will be told by the council’s chief executive Jon Rouse’s officials what they will be expected to do in the coming weeks…


The number of reports on the cabinet’s busy agenda for September.


Where the critical finance report features on the cabinet meeting’s agenda – right at the bottom of our council’s priorities?

£2.126 million

The amount that our council has overspent this year.


The shortfall from the targets set for the “Business Support Review”. These targets have been missed due to not planning for consultation with unions and staff, which means the review won’t now be implemented until the new financial year.


The amount spent under “urgency powers” earlier this year to bring in consultants (what they call in Councilspeak “Implementation Partners”) to do the work on the … Business Support Review. Oops.


The unachieved savings on another of Rouse’s key organisational projects, called “Layers & Spans”. Or sacking middle-ranking officers as it is known by our insiders at Taberner House. This target looks as if it has been missed because of what looks like poor planning – with another £150,000 in savings that the council cannot now achieve.


What our council appears to have paid the outgoing Step Change Director Damian Roberts in a “pay off” last December, when his fixed term contract was terminated early.


The salary and pension of Sarah Ireland, the director who has taken over Step Change along with running the council’s contracts, performance and strategy functions. Real value for money, we’re sure.


The overspend on the translation contract. Double oops.


Overspend in employing agency staff (that is, temporary staff brought in after full-time staff have been made redundant) in “Quality Assurance” area of children’s services. Oops again.


Extra premises costs in Adult Services due to another project not being planned properly. Oops once more.


Unplanned solicitors’ costs for children’s parental project which will save… £16,000.


Unplanned costs for employing an interim head of school improvement, incurred after having made the permanent member of staff redundant in this year’s savings. Double whammy oops.


Unachieved savings on privatisation of libraries, highlighting again unrealistic savings being identified.


What the Council paid to the planning executive director Stephen McDonald, who lasted less than six months in the post,  and…


the amount in the pay-off to McDonald’s predecessor as planning executive director, Emma Peters, when she left last year.


That’s the page number in the council report which highlights the “variances” in the finance department. Many are just referred to as “Other Minor Variances”. Seriously. But then it’s only someone else’s money – our money.


Two out of the council’s four executive directors were given “excellent” performance appraisals in the last couple of years. Just who are these “excellent” performers?

£41 million

This is the hefty slippage in projects on the capital programme, including the new Headquarters offices, identified earlier this year. Or, to the rest of us, £41 million in project failures.

£1.4 million

The underspend in the housing account, which prompts the question about the decision to implement the inflation-busting rent rises.


“Variance” in planning and environment department budget which is partly due to loss of income despite raising fees. Again, it could be down to poor planning. Mega-oops.


The salary paid to Jon Rouse, the council’s chief executive whose job also includes… looking after planning. Whoops.

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