Cash-strapped Croydon Council is ploughing on with plans to recruit a full-time “culture czar” on a salary of around £80,000 a year, despite having had a recruitment freeze on more mundane council jobs for the past six months.
Oddly, no one can find any record of the senior council position being publicly advertised. Not for the first time, it is almost as if the bureaucrats running Croydon Council didn’t want anyone, apart from the incumbent, to find out about this prestigious new post.
Paula Murray is Brighton council’s assistant chief executive, at least for now. In April, she began a six-month secondment to Croydon as culture director, a new role that was created just before the Fairfield Halls, the borough’s cultural hub, closes for two years.
The possibility of a new job in Croydon may come as something of a relief to Murray, as meanwhile her role on the south coast is under threat of being downgraded to mere “assistant director” level. The Brighton Argus reported that Murray was “being consulted” about the change of role, which suggests she has been told to like it, or lump it.
Of course, if a better offer came along from Croydon in the meantime…
A Town Hall figure in Croydon have confirmed to Inside Croydon that the recruitment process for the full-time culture director is well underway. “Interviews did take place as we had very good quality applications and some very serious people wanting to come here,” the source said. They were unable, or unwilling, to say how many candidates had been interviewed, or who they were.
The local government recruitment advertising department at the Grauniad newspaper, a first port of call for many local authority employees, has no record of any such position being advertised in the past two months by Croydon Council. We also asked the recruitment ads department at the specialist magazine, the Local Government Chronicle, and they had no record of any such ad being placed by Croydon Council nor anything resembling it being placed by an agency.
Inside Croydon asked Timothy Godfrey, Croydon’s Labour council’s cabinet member for arts, to provide a link to the culture director recruitment advertisement. He has not responded on that point.
He did confirm that a recruitment advertisement had been prepared, however: “I worked on the job description,” he said. “I don’t do adverts,” he added, suggesting that our elected councillors have little hands-on oversight of the recruitment process even for the most senior of appointments.
Murray is being paid £39,000 over the course of her six-month secondment to Croydon.
According to the Brighton local paper, Murray and four other senior council officials – on salaries from £45,000 to £118,000 – could face having their posts re-defined or made redundant from January next year.
“We are reducing top-level management, not increasing it, and we are saving almost £2million over the next three years in management costs overall,” the leader of Brighton council has said, suggesting a different approach to that being adopted in Fisher’s Folly, Croydon Council’s offices.
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What Jo Negrini wants, Jo gets. Even easier now in her new acting role.
It would be a great appointment, and thank goodness the Council is taking culture seriously.