WHO REALLY IS RUNNING CROYDON (Part 94): Another email has flooded into our inbox from the plush executive offices in Fisher’s Folly.
According to Nathan Elvery, the council’s chief executive, it was all his fault that political propaganda was plastered on posters around the borough in the sensitive period before the Selhurst by-election staged on Thursday, and which was won by a landslide vote in favour of Labour.
The admission suggests that Elvery, who supplements his £180,000 per year council salary with another chunky five-figure fee as the borough’s election returning officer, really doesn’t know what he is doing. Because as returning officer, Elvery is supposed to ensure that elections are run properly and fairly, free of political influence from the tax-payer-funded council.
But following our last report on how Elvery and Tony Newman, who is supposed to be the leader of the council, were forced into the latest embarrassing U-turn by removing the controversial posters, the council’s best-paid employee has confirmed to Inside Croydon that the text and message of the posters were undertaken by “my Communications Team”.
Note the use by Elvery of the possessive pronoun “my”.
“My Communications Team”.
Not “the communciations team”. Certainly not “Tony Newman’s communications team”. Not even “our communications team”. But “my communciations team”, conveying an ownership, as if they are there to do Elvery’s personal bidding. Which they probably are.
Most Council Tax-payers might have thought that the council communications department – annual budget of approximately £500,000 of public money – was supposed to be working for the residents of Croydon, rather than a single individual official.
So was this a slip of arrogance on Elvery’s part, or yet another sign that our borough’s £2billion-a-year council’s spending lies in the hands of an unelected local government worker who was appointed to a job that was never publicly advertised and which broke the organisation’s own policies on equalities?
Underlining the immense amount of influence wielded by Inside Croydon, Elvery wrote that he’d “read this article, along with your other featured articles, with interest”.
We have already established, from Elvery himself, that the poster copy was factually inaccurate and misleading. There were widespread complaints, led by a local MP, that the release of the posters was also an inappropriate use of public money, politicising what is supposed to be an apolitical council operation. And – through the posters’ unseemly rapid withdrawal – it seems clear that they were almost certainly in breach of strict laws governing the conduct of local authorities during elections.
And now, Elvery – through “his” communications team – has taken the responsibility for this latest litany of maladministration. At least someone at the council – maybe even Elvery himself – had the good sense not to allow the annual Council Tax statements to go out to every household in the borough before Thursday’s Selhurst by-election. If, as has been suggested by Town Hall sources, the mailshot from the council includes a similar line of propaganda to that which appeared on the posters, then returning officer Elvery might have been in deep shit indeed had it prejudiced the election process.
In his latest email to Inside Croydon Towers, Elvery refused to answer our further question about the cost of his and his office’s time in responding to the emailed enquiries from constituents in Croydon Central, as encouraged by their Tory MP, Gavin Barwell, to complain about the waste of public money on the posters.
“I am not going to spend my time calculating this for you,” Elvery wrote, “so that you can run another piece on the CE [chief executive] having to spend time calculating this for you.”
Further, Elvery wrote, “I hope this is helpful. Looking forward to your next piece”.
And here it is…
Allowing for Elvery’s contracted working hours being 35 a week (he claims to us that he works 12-hour days: but hey, who’s there to check?), it works out that Croydon is paying him £98 per hour.
That’s more than 10 times the rate being paid to those council employees on the minimum, London Living Wage rate. Many of those staff will soon have Elvery signing off their P45s as he and the council’s other six-figure-salaried directors hand down hundreds more redundancy notices.
In the meantime, let’s take a look at what Nathan Elvery gets in his paypacket for each hour of his time…
Let’s just imagine that an email from Gavin Barwell, or one of his constituents, comes in and Elvery resists the temptation to fire off an immediate, two-word response which begins and ends with the letter “F”. Instead, the CEO whizzes the enquiry by email to his personal assistant (or “my personal assistant”, as he would doubtless describe them). This is certainly what happened with our first enquiry.
Let’s hypothesise that Elvery’s PA is on a decent, but not outrageous, salary. Let’s suppose that they take around a half an hour to cut and paste the standard response details for a formal reply. That’ll cost us £7. Maybe they phone a colleague to ask for some help with a factual detail. That staffer’s time might add another tenner to the cost.
Once spell-checked and proofed, the PA sends the carefully crafted response back to her boss. Judging by the delays in receiving replies from the CEO, this can take all of a week or more, during which time the reply might have also been reviewed by at least one other council department – let’s suppose on this occasion it is Borough Solicitor Julie Belvir’s office. That’ll be another £20.
Once all that’s done, the draft reply finds its way back to Elvery, who reads and re-reads what he’s about to have sent with his signature on. A brusque five minutes of the CEO’s time comes in at another £8. It all adds up.
Now Croydon Central has more than 77,000 constituents. Let’s imagine that just one-tenth of 1per cent of Gavin Barwell’s constituents took their MP’s advice and wrote to the borough’s CEO, as we did, to complain in outrage about wasting public money on issuing those inaccurate and misleading posters. Each of those letters ought to have generated a reply from Elvery’s office.
That could all mean that Gavin Barwell, in another spectacular own-goal, has just cost Croydon Council Tax-payers more than
with his latest piece of political point-scoring.
Well done, Gav! The Tax-Payers’ Alliance will be proud of you. And we’re sure you’ll be including an update on your progress with this matter in your next campaigning email, which is sent out from your publicly funded office by members of your six-strong publicly funded staff…
- To read Croydon CEO Nathan Elvery’s original reply to Inside Croydon, click here: Elvery letter Feb 2015
- Negrini signs off on £8,000 council junket to the south of France
- Town Hall’s propaganda posters may re-appear as leaflets
- Poster propaganda prompts MP Barwell into another costly error
- Inside Croydon Events: for dates and links to what’s happening in and around Croydon, updated daily, click here
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