Council signs up new planning director despite jobs freeze

So much for the freeze on recruitment at Croydon Council.

Heather Cheesborough: director appointment which defies council's recruitment freeze

Heather Cheesbrough: director appointment which defies council’s recruitment freeze

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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This entry was posted in "Hammersfield", Business, Colm Lacey, Croydon Council, Heather Cheesbrough, Jo Negrini, Nathan Elvery, Planning, Whitgift Centre and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Council signs up new planning director despite jobs freeze

  1. dave1152 says:

    I find this incredible.

    Her key priorities will include the delivery of Westfield and Hammerson…. Hasn’t someone been doing this already?

    I wonder how much Croydon still spend on consultants and more importantly how many consultants/contractors have been there for over 2 years – earning a fortune. When public bodies say they have reduced numbers what it normally means there are the same number of bums on seats just outsourced to another company

  2. “Cheesbrough is to be Croydon’s director of planning and strategic transport (as opposed to tactical transport, presumably), 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?” On mature reflection, one could be even more economical with the apostrophes and omit them totally. That would give you Architect Department which, with a solo occupant, is more accurate.

    The Senior Officer level in Bernard Weatherall Towers is in danger of becoming critically top heavy. With all the forthcoming redundancies the place will be all top and no bottom….and thus, of course, there will be the need, as dave1152 says, for a good deal of work will be outsourced to consultants and contractors. If Tony Soprano is as tough as he is trying to be with HM Government, showing, for once what his forefathers would call Palle, could he not use the same astonishing ( albeit hitherto invisible) forcefulness in relation to the mighty emperors of Hammersfield and get them to pay for the personnel to see through all the planning permissions, transport and so on? That might allow them to trim the top a bit, avoid a few redundancies (and the tears and sadness that they cause) and save us poor ratepayers a penny or two.

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