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?
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.
“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.”
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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- Elvery’s ex-business partner guilty of financial misconduct
- Labour and the hidden agenda as Elvery is handed top job
- Did CEO Elvery break council code over his private company?
Coming to Croydon
- SNATH free film festival, Pawson’s Arms, Oct 26
- David Lean Cinema: Ilo Ilo, Oct 28
- SNATH free film festival, Scratchley Hall, Oct 28
- CODA’s Wind In The Willows, Charles Cryer, Carshalton, Oct 29-Nov 1
- SNATH free film festival, Lord Napier, Oct 29
- David Lean Cinema: Belle, Oct 30
- SNATH free film festival, Norbury Park tennis club, Oct 30
- NHS free health fair, Central Parade, New Addington, Oct 31
- SNATH free film festival Halloween event, Stanley Halls, Oct 31
- World War I centenary concert, Ruskin House, Nov 2
- MOPAC policing meeting, Surrey Street, Nov 4
- Personal safety training for volunteers, Nov 4
- St Giles School opening morning, Nov 5
- Grange Park bulb-planting event, Nov 8
- Brook recording studio open day and party, Nov 9
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Nov 14
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Personal safety training for volunteers, Nov 17
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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 firstname.lastname@example.org