So much for the freeze on recruitment at Croydon Council.
Fisher’s Folly issued a press release today to announce the appointment of another official at director level, the second since the council CEO Nathan Elvery last month invited all current Croydon employees to apply for redundancy. And this latest appointment, expected to be on a salary of more than £90,000 per year, plus pension and benefits, is another in the planning and development department under the empire-building Jo Negrini.
Unusually, though, compared to recent appointments, Heather Cheesbrough joins Croydon Council after not having worked with Negrini at Newham or Lambeth councils.
Cheesbrough is to be Croydon’s director of planning and strategic transport, in Fisher’s Folly alongside relatively recent appointees Stephen Tate and Colm Lacey (a man who thinks one person can constitute a borough architects’ department. Or should that be architect’s department?).
By moving the deckchairs around a bit, changing department names and job titles, it is sometimes tricky to relate new council appointments to who they replace, but Cheesbrough appears to the replacement for the not much-missed Mike Kiely.
Today’s council statement said: “Heather Cheesbrough will join the council’s Place department management team in January, where she will be responsible for strategic planning, development management, strategic transport and building control.
“Key priorities of her role will include the delivery of the Westfield Hammerson planning application, enabling Croydon to realise its growth ambitions, ensuring Croydon has effective transport infrastructure and upholding the council’s obligations as a planning authority.” That’ll make a pleasant change.
They continued: “Heather was previously assistant director of strategic planning, regeneration and economic development at the London Borough of Hounslow, where she worked for three years.”
Cheesbrough had also worked for architecture and consultancy firms EDAW/AECOM and Urban Initiatives, and St Albans District Council, having begun her working career as a landscaping technician at Bexley Council.
According to the council press release, Cheesbrough said that she is “really excited”.
Jo Negrini, the press office tells us, said that she was “delighted”.
It has been a busy day for the press office, since they also pushed out an ungrammatical (there was an error in the first two words) load of old tosh about Croydon being an “economic powerhouse”. According to Office of National Statistics figures, Croydon has the second-fastest expanding local economy in the UK, with a 9.3 per cent growth rate – or 3.7 per cent above the London average.
The press release attributes the rapid growth rate to “the large number of property investment deals that have seen the centre of the town transformed into a reinvigorated hub for a wide range of commercial service industries”. This may not be a description of Croydon town centre which many residents or recent visitors will recognise. And the phrase that the council carefully avoids using, of course, is “property speculation”.
But there may be another explanation for the economic growth – the council’s hiring of near-six-figured salaried directors, such as Cheesbrough. Maybe she’ll be looking for a two-bedroom “luxury apartment” in a town centre poor doors development for something north of £450,000?
Because of the council’s redundancy drive, Cheesbrough is likely to have 600 fewer council colleagues by next April than she might have had if she turned up for work at Fisher’s Folly tomorrow. But the council’s staff recruitment freeze can be over-ruled with the approval of the chief executive. And what Jo, and Westfield, want, Jo and Westfield tend to get.
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