Public’s questions censored on CEO appointment and equality

Labour leader Ed Miliband speaking at Fisher's Folly on Thursday

Labour leader Ed Miliband speaking at Fisher’s Folly on Thursday

When Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour party, stood up in Fisher’s Folly in Croydon on Thursday and made his pledge about a “strategy for delivering racial equality” in Whitehall and other public sector employers, he had no idea that the most senior job in those very offices had been determined without ever being advertised or without following the Labour-run council’s own equalities policies.

And Croydon’s Labour group – elected on a manifesto which promised more openness and transparency – has allowed the censorship of a resident’s question about how the council’s equalities policy was ignored for the confirmation this summer of Nathan Elvery as the borough’s £180,000 per year chief executive.

Miliband was speaking in what is sometimes known as Bernard Weatherill House, as part of the Croydon Black and Minority Ethnic Forum’s Black History Month celebrations.

Yet when it came to the appointment of the borough CEO, Croydon failed to consider any external applicants for the job who were black, Asian, Jewish or female. Tony Newman, the council leader since Labour won the local elections in May, decided to appoint the controversial Elvery to the post without ever placing a recruitment advertisement for the plum job.

Inside Croydon has been contacted by a local resident who wanted to question how Elvery’s appointment complied with the council’s own equalities policy. And with the law.

On September 18, ahead of the meeting of the full council on October 6, the resident submitted the following question, addressed to the council leader:

Can Cllr Newman please explain, having appointed the chief executive officer without the post ever being advertised, how the council has fulfilled its legal duties under equalities legislation?

Council leader Tony Newman and his choice of CEO, Nathan Elvery, share a joke at a recent council meeting

Council leader Tony Newman and his choice of CEO, Nathan Elvery, right, share a joke at a recent council meeting

But that question was never tabled to the council meeting.

On October 1, long after the deadline for public questions had closed, the resident received a reply. It came from a senior manager working in Elvery’s own office.

It said:

“Thank you for your question recently submitted for consideration at the next Council meeting. After consultation with the Mayor this question has been disallowed as it breaches the procedure criteria for Council Questions. These are listed on the Council Question webpage as follows:

“The Mayor retains the discretion to disallow any question which is considered inappropriate, such questions include:

“those relating to named members of staff or issues covered by council personnel procedures;

 “topics that are the subject of litigation or relate to a current planning or licensing matter, or a referral to the Standards Committee; and/or

“those matters which are subject to current consultation.”

We leave it to our loyal reader to make up their own mind whether these exclusions were applied properly to this reasonable question.

“It seems clear to me that this is a question that Tony Newman doesn’t want to have to answer,” the resident told Inside Croydon. “There was no equality of opportunity for the most prestigious job at Croydon Council, because someone decided not to advertise or recruit. Is Nathan Elvery the best person for the job? Nobody can know.

“In Lambeth and Greenwich, both Labour councils, they are recruiting CEOs, both offering exactly the same salary, £180,000. Why could Croydon not do that? Why was the Croydon appointment made as an inside job? And why are they so secretive about it?

“The rejection of my question came so late that I was denied any opportunity to re-draft in a way which might have complied with the council’s reservations. Although I don’t think that asking a question about how council policy was applied in the appointment of the chief executive can truly be said to break the criteria as they claim.”

Ed Miliband in Croydon this week: he won't find the Croydon CEO job advertised in that paper, or any other

Ed Miliband in Croydon this week: he won’t find the Croydon CEO job advertised in that paper, or any other

It is understood that the decision to confirm Elvery as Croydon’s CEO, announced in July, was taken without reference to all members of Newman’s new cabinet of front-bench spokespeople.

Elvery has worked at Croydon Council since 2004, first as finance director, then as deputy to the CEO Jon Rouse. Last week, Elvery accompanied Newman and his Labour councillor colleagues to a party political “awayday” to Brighton.

Elvery has had a key part in many of the controversies that have swirled around the council over the past decade. Under Rouse and Elvery, Croydon introduced the disastrous CCURV urban regeneration joint venture with John Laing, which included spending £220million on building and financing the council offices.

Since May, under Newman and Elvery, the conduct of council business appears to be just as secretive as the previous Tory regime. In less than six months, key decisions including the appointment of Elvery, councillors’ own allowances and the sale of Addington Palace golf course have all been undertaken without any debate in public, with what some Town Hall insiders regard as a worrying concentration of powers in the hands of a few individuals.

The resident who had their question refused is determined to seek proper answers.

“Clearly, this is an important matter of public interest. But questions about how the council is being run by the CEO are being censored by the CEO,” they said.

“Why would they want to gag me from asking questions about this? That is, of itself, a worthwhile question. Openness and transparency seems only to be applied at Croydon Council when it suits Tony Newman. Or Nathan Elvery.”

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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
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2 Responses to Public’s questions censored on CEO appointment and equality

  1. davidcallam says:

    Tony Newman needs to explain publicly why Nathan Elvery, a known Tory sympathiser, was nodded into the senior job in the council. Was there some sort of undertaking given before the local authority elections, which still remains secret?

  2. east1956 says:

    Dear RiffRaff,
    Let’s be realistic, Croydon has existed under a regime of secrecy for decades and frankly demanding that the people of Croydon should and could enter into an informed debate about these tremendously important matters is incredible. Cllr Newman has wisely drawn upon the lessons of post-Soviet Russia and recognised that Croydon in its current weakened state could not withstand the chaos of the Glasnost period.
    The rational decision was to simply move from Commissar to Oligarch in one simple step with the change in political hue in the Town Hall, KGB to FSB if you will – same operatives, same bosses, new name on the front door, all very cheap and doable.
    I am sure over time the people of Croydon will be weaned off the need to have decisions made for them, and will develop the knowledge and skills to be able to enter into public debate that produces balanced and informed proposals.
    However the well-being of Croydon simply cannot be left to the vagaries of opinions based on ignorance and naivete. We should all be grateful that Cllr Newman and his cronies / comrades have our best interests in mind and generously alleviate us of all decision making.
    If decision making was left in the hands of Croydon Riff Raff, there would economic and social chaos within days, and soon the hoipolloi would be demanding dictatorship.
    If people wanted responsive democracy they would be demanding proportional representation, reform of both houses of parliament, devolution, reform of the EU to eliminate the unelected commissioners. But they aren;t doing any of these things.

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