“I vas only obeying orders” is CEO Elvery’s latest excuse

In the best traditions of a Gestapo movie villain when finally caught out, Nathan Elvery, who was recently appointed as the borough’s chief executive – a £180,000 post which was never advertised – has claimed that, “I vas only obeying orders”.

Croydon CEO Nathan Elvery: signs any letters if he is told to do so

Croydon CEO Nathan Elvery: signs any letters if he is told to do so

As Inside Croydon reported last week, Elvery, in his capacity as Croydon’s “Electoral Registration Officer”, signed his name to tens of thousands of letters sent out in the past month, at great cost to the public purse, to advise of changes in the voting registration system, without actually bothering to explain what those registration changes might be.

Despite being Croydon’s most powerful public servant, with a staff of thousands and an expensive communications team and legal department to advise him and guide his every move, Elvery is now claiming that he was utterly powerless when it came to sending out the vacuous and meaningless letter to the borough’s electorate.

Elvery – Croydon Council’s David Brent-like top official – now claims he was ordered to send out the letter by the all-powerful, they-must-be-obeyed Electoral Commission.

Given that Croydon Council has tried to claim that Elvery’s position in charge of elections in the borough is in a “private” capacity and therefore not subject to any public scrutiny, Elvery’s positioning on this matter may be of some interest to those who monitor and oversee the veracity and truthfulness of the council’s responses to public information requests.

In a reply to one resident who questioned the vacuity of Elvery’s letter, and seen by Inside Croydon, the borough’s chief executive agrees that the wording in the letter he signed is “unclear”.

Which sort of prompts the question, then, that if he thought that, why did he still sign it and send it?

Elvery’s excuse is pretty feeble.

“I agree that the wording on the letter can be considered to be unclear,” Elvery wrote, “however it is a template letter that we were advised to use by the Electoral Commission. It is a legal requirement to include the prescribed text describing the electoral and open registers.

“The fourth, fifth and sixth paragraphs are the prescribed wording which describes the registers generically and are not specific to the elector. The Electoral Commission have now advised, on review, to move the third paragraph of the template confirmation letter (confirming whether the elector is on the open register or not, and how to be added or removed) to below the descriptions of the registers. Hopefully this will assist in the way the letter is interpreted.”

Such backbone, such fortitude, such initiative, Mr Elvery.

So he thought the letter was unclear, but he had it signed and sent out anyway.

One of the key issues regarding the clarity, or lack of it, regarding electoral registration is whether or not individuals grant permission to be on what is called the “open register”, a valuable local listing which local authorities are allowed to sell to third-party businesses.

Senior sources within other local authorities in London have confirmed that the Electoral Commission was behind the drafting of the letter.

But other boroughs, such as neighbouring Bromley, where senior officials appear still to have the use of their own brains, have helped their residents by also publishing additional information about voter registration which explains and clarifies the changes in a manner which the Electorial Commission’s opaque piece of gobbledegook – to which Elvery is a signatory – does not.

Nathan Elvery receives around £20,000 a year in additional payments on top of his council salary in his capacity as the borough’s election returning officer. In May next year, Elvery will be in charge of the venue, organisation and management of the voting in three Croydon constituencies at the General Election.


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Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 407,847 page views (Jan-Jun 2014) If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at inside.croydon@btinternet.com

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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