Nathan Elvery, the £180,000 per year Croydon Council chief executive who never had to apply for his job, has caused a row down in sleepy Sussex by the Sea – and he has not yet even been confirmed in the role for the county council based in Chichester.
The Tories running West Sussex council have been accused of “muddled thinking” over the appointment, which comes two years after they scrapped the costly CEO’s role.
Local trades union leaders, meanwhile, have described Elvery’s “stellar” salary as “highly offensive” at a time of local authority austerity job cuts.
Elvery announced after Easter that he was quitting Fisher’s Folly, the £140 million Croydon Council offices and an edifice to local authority incompetence which he had helped to get built, and that he would be taking up an equivalent role at West Sussex County Council. The local paper on the coast is reporting that once installed in the new job, Elvery will increase his salary to £190,000 – 10 grand more than the basic package he receives from Croydon.
Elvery’s appointment is due to be confirmed at a West Sussex county council meeting being held tonight.
West Sussex has managed to go without a chief executive for two years. Most local Council Tax-payers have not noticed any appreciable adverse impact on the services they receive.
Opposition politicians at the seaside local authority have questioned the spending of tens of thousands of pounds on “headhunters” to recruit the local government worker.
“Part of the rational of the administration for doing away with the post of chief executive was to save on costs but now it seems we are prepared to go back, it strikes me as muddled thinking and muddled logic along the way,” Dr James Walsh, the leader of the LibDems on West Sussex council, told the local newspaper.
“I’m not sure that it’s strictly necessary to pay for headhunters when there are chief executives looking to move all over the place.”
It seems that that latter sentiment is what Croydon’s council leadership is depending upon when it comes to finding a replacement for Elvery.
For Croydon council leader Tony Newman this represents an unexpected and undeserved second chance to appoint someone who properly understands that it should be the elected councillors who determine the direction and policy the borough should take, and not the unaccountable local government workers.
It was Labour leader Newman who decided in 2014, barely a month after he had won the Town Hall elections, to confirm the key appointment, after Elvery had been interim CEO for a year. Newman said at the time that he made the appointment in the interests of “continuity”. And there has been continuity by the bucket-load since – of poor judgements, ill-considered and poorly executed CCURV deals, secrecy and cover-up, and poor delivery from Tory-backed outsourcing arrangements, all of which have marked out Newman’s administration so far.
Early indications are that Croydon’s all-powerful and exceptionally ambitious planning chief Jo Negrini (the executive director of “Place”, as they insist on calling her at the council), the woman who handed a £3 million loan to Boxpark without checking the conditions, and who is supervising the slow-motion CPO process for the Hammersfield development, is the favourite for Croydon’s top job.
At least on this occasion, the in-house shoo-in appointee will have to go through the motions of applying for the job, as Croydon is expected to be advertising the vacancy shortly.
It is interesting to note that when Elvery was interviewed for the Chichester-based job, the panel was made up of three councillors from the Tory group which controls the council, plus the leader of the LibDems and a UKIP councillor.
Might Newman be as enlightened to seek the opinions from other political groups when it comes to interviewing the contenders to replace Elvery?
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