Council’s culture clash leaves truth and fairness as casualties

This week, Inside Croydon has highlighted the party political interference going on at the council headquarters during what is supposed to be a period of election purdah, apparently to benefit of the ruling Conservative group. It is symptomatic of the prevailing culture at our Town Hall, according to one reader with close links to Katharine Street

Culture club: Nathan Elvery has presided over financial decline in his near-decade at the top of Croydon Council

Culture club: Nathan Elvery has presided over financial decline in his near-decade at the top of Croydon Council

The idea that Nathan Elvery might be a significantly better CEO than Jon Rouse is probably misplaced. Neither have significant front-line experience, which is a major deficiency in a chief executive leading a public service delivery organisation.

Rouse struggled in his first year, reflected by the frequent absences to cope with the demands of the role, and he probably never achieved being the CEO he intended to be.

Neither Rouse nor Elvery are renowned for their exemplary inspirational leadership qualities, and of the two, Rouse was publicly the more credible as a leader. Elvery exudes arrogant indifference.

An effective leader in any organisation must be able to command respect at the grassroots if they are to lead effectively. If we look at Elvery’s performance to date, after roughly a decade in post as head of finance, we should see balanced budgets and reducing debt. Yet Croydon now has £1 billion of debt and has stumbled from one financial crisis to another on Elvery’s watch.

Having spent the last six years shedding staff, the London Borough of Croydon should be “leaner and meaner”, and more effective, if the right people were shed. But the service cuts seem to have been borne more heavily at the front-line, and the back-office executives appear to have been largely sheltered.

The situation in Croydon Council is rather like the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes – everyone can see what is wrong, but they are too frightened to speak out. In order to maintain the notion that the Emperor is clothed, the various “courtiers” at Croydon Council resort to ever more crude forms of intimidation. If these allegations are accurate then any incoming Labour administration faces a dual challenge to rapidly gain control over what is likely to be a resistant senior management team, and to confidently deal with the detritus left of the previous administration.

Struggled: Jon Rouse, Elvery's predecessor as CEO

Struggled: Jon Rouse, Elvery’s predecessor as CEO

There are far too many rumours circling about what is going on in the inner circle of Croydon Council, and only that inner circle can truly know what has passed. But if we consider that “Culture” informs “Strategy” informs “Policy”, then we can look at the evidence of what we see on a day-to-day basis and extrapolate from that the organisational culture within Croydon Council.

If we find repeated examples of officers and members ignoring or riding rough shod over members of the public, we may be certain that within the inner circle there is a calculated air of indifference towards large sections of the electorate. If we find the council unresponsive to public enquiries, we can be confident of a culture where the management feels no obligation to act openly. Indeed, it may even be incentivised to act covertly and duplicitously.

There are those who will dismiss the rumours out of hand. However, in the absence of truth, rumour becomes the only valid currency.

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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