Croydon Council appears to have found the perfect replacement for Jo Negrini for the six-figure salaried job of executive director of planning and regeneration: someone who left their previous permanent role on a London council with a hefty pay-off just a few months after controversy over unchecked transfers of public money to a failing private business project.
The announcement came out of Fisher’s Folly yesterday that Shifa Mustafa is to be Croydon’s executive director of a department pompously entitled “Place”.
It puts Mustafa in direct control of the council’s £30 million Fairfield Halls redevelopment and with an overview of the planning process for the stalled £1.4 billion Hammersfield regeneration scheme, as well as the council’s private house builders, Brick by Brick.
The vacancy arose after Negrini was promoted to chief executive in July.
“Shifa’s appointment completes a strong, new senior leadership team at the council and I’m confident they are the right people to deliver our ambitious plans for Croydon and its residents,” said Tony Newman, the Labour council leader.
The choice of Mustafa is unusual in respect that she has not worked alongside Negrini in the past at other local authorities. Colm Lacey, Negrini’s hand-picked deputy in the Place department, had been expected to make the step up.
Instead, he has a new line manager, with Mustafa getting her first permanent job for more than two years, where she is expected to be on a salary of £150,000.
Most recently, Mustafa has been working at Kingston as an interim manager on environmental services, including some shared work with neighbouring Sutton. For six years until September 2014, Mustafa worked at Waltham Forest in east London. Mustafa was the most senior casualty in a round of what was supposed to be cost-cutting redundancies, although that did not prevent her picking up a £140,000 pay-off on her way out of the organisation.
The departure from her role as deputy chief executive in charge of regeneration was coincidentally just six months after Waltham Forest council published a highly critical report on the E11 BID, a business improvement scheme, which was on the brink of collapse with serious accounting issues, unpaid VAT and tens of thousands of pounds of debt.
This happened on Mustafa’s watch, and after she had maintained that council payments to E11 “were monitored to ensure that the services agreed to were delivered”, although Waltham Forest council was subsequently unable to produce a single document or other piece of written material which substantiated that claim.
Other regeneration projects in Waltham Forest, with costs running into tens of millions of pounds for local Council Tax-payers, also failed to be completed on time, if at all.
“I am thrilled to be able to welcome Shifa to Croydon council; she has extensive experience leading on a variety of environment and regeneration services and a proven track record of successfully delivering the services that matter most to residents,” was Negrini’s version of reality yesterday.
“Shifa brings with her a wealth of knowledge and skills that will be instrumental to the delivery of our exciting plans for Croydon. She is an outstanding candidate who will keep the borough’s residents at the heart of her decisions and I’m sure she will be a real asset to Croydon,” according to self-proclaimed “regeneration practitioner” Negrini.
We shall see.
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