Kiely leaves council planning post with barely a mention

Last week, one Redhill-based publication devoted two complete pages to the retirement of one of its own staff. But we have been unable to find a single word in its pages about the departure from Croydon of the council’s planning chief, Mike Kiely. Something many might regard as “real news”.

Gone and quickly forgotten? Mike Kiely, now Croydon's ex-planning chief

Gone and quickly forgotten? Mike Kiely, now Croydon’s ex-planning chief

The absence of any report to record Kiely’s departure at the end of May, after six years in one of the key jobs at the local authority, may well be because his exit has also gone unreported by the council’s press office. Nor has it been “celebrated” by any of the PR companies who enjoy generous contracts from the Town Hall for massaging the borough’s reputation.

It is almost as if Kiely’s departure was not, well… planned.

Our loyal reader wrote from the sixth floor of Fisher’s Folly: “I see Mike Kiely is leaving the council.  They’ve not been lucky in this department. Is something amiss?  I think we should be told.”

When asked about Kiely, all one councillor would say as they rushed off to the hospitality bar at another council-funded event was, “I think everyone is very happy for him.”

Kiely’s decision to leave Croydon Council follows quickly after the departure of another senior official, Tony Brooks, the long-term “enforcer” (he was ex-Old Bill) in the roads and environment departments (or whatever they’ve decided to re-brand them this week). Brooks was known to have worked very closely with cabinet member Phil Thomas under the previous Tory-run council.

We have been unable to find any announcements of replacements at director level for Kiely or Brooks; given that around 150 council employees are expected to be made redundant in the next 12 months, losing a couple of the council’s top earners may help to keep more staff on front-line service duties.

Kiely, who joined Croydon Council in 2009, was one of the key figures in the administration, working with the increasingly self-regarding regeneration chief Jo Negrini on the £1 billion Hammersfield scheme and the various public transport projects planned for the benefit of the super-mall developers.

Kiely may be one of the senior figures best able to explain why the council’s new offices – sometimes referred to as Bernard Wetherill House – managed to cost around £100 million more than similar office builds in the capital.

Which all makes Kiely’s departure at this stage intriguing. And leaves it wholly unexplained.

Kiely, a 40-year veteran of local council work, told a trade magazine that he is leaving his comfy new office in the council HQ, together with its six-figure salary and handsome pension package (Kiely is understood to have been one of the secondary tier of council executives on £100,000-plus per year), to enter the private sector as a consultant…

Don’t know about you, but our bullshit detector always goes off when someone on a big pay package starts talking about “seeking new challenges”.

Kiely said in an interview last week: “I put in place major changes at Croydon and things are starting to happen.” Yes. He actually said that.

“I was looking for a new challenge and I always had in mind to do something like this towards the end of my career. I enjoy going into places and fixing problems.” The residents of Coulsdon are still waiting for someone to fix the problem of Barratt’s 700-home housing estate with a single access road…

“It could be a political issue, a service that needs sorting out, somewhere an additional skill is needed or a difficult development.” Kiely sounds like just the sort of person Croydon ought to have on the council staff. Oh…

It was Kiely who, when let off the leash and allowed to speak in public at MIPIM, the property speculators’ boozy annual bash in the South of France, declared that Croydon was not “in the Premier League” of development locations, and compared the borough’s offering to being merely a “Championship side”.

Those comments came around the time that Nestle – until then Croydon’s biggest private employers – had quit the borough after a row with the council, amid an exodus of other businesses following the 2011 riots. Kiely was hardly ever noticed being allowed out to speak in public again.

Another source at Fisher’s Folly happened to mention that Kiely had been behind the system of planning applications going before the council committee, a system which has been dropped in the past year. Developers are now required to submit more detailed pre-planning applications, resulting in many fewer cases going before the committee, and developers belly-aching that the system is slowing down the pace of their work.

Maybe they can approach Mike Kiely to advise them on how best to handle such delays?

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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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