A senior figure in the Croydon Labour Party has called for the immediate dismissal of the council’s chief executive, Jo Negrini.
Adrian Dennis, who was made a Freeman of Croydon for his 25 years service as a local councillor in Thornton Heath, was reacting to Inside Croydon’s report on the absurd goings-on at the latest full meeting of the council, at which Negrini banned councillors from using a range of what she regarded as politically sensitive words and phrases, including “Barwell”, “Tory Government” and “Labour”.
The period of purdah ahead of next month’s General Election does not begin until today, but at the Town Hall meeting on April 24, the £185,000-plus CEO had council officers scurry around the chamber to deliver written warnings to all elected councillors to mind their language.
Negrini threatened the councillors that if the banned words were used, “in a worst case scenario, election results could be invalidated”.
There are a set of restrictions contained in the 1986 Local Government Act on the kind of publicity and announcements councils can make during the period immediately before elections, to try to avoid the abuse of public money to influence the outcome of elections. But Negrini has applied a pre-purdah shutdown of all council business conducted in public, even cancelling this week’s scheduled meeting of the council cabinet.
Dennis, a veteran of local politics and elections, was astonished by Negrini’s latest high-handed conduct and became the latest to question who really holds the power at the Town Hall.
“This is another clear example of Negrini exceeding her authority and attempting to control the elected members of the council,” he said.
“She is the employee of the council, yet acts as if she is the employer.
“There were several cases under the last administration where the previous chief executive exceeded his authority and threatened councillors.
“It is about time that the ruling party decide to take back control and put their officers back in their place. As someone correctly stated in your report, this demonstrates ‘the power and arrogance of officials over councillors’.
“The threat of invalidating election results is so disgraceful that Negrini should be dismissed forthwith,” Dennis said.
“There is something seriously wrong with the legal advisors feeding her this nonsense. Putting them back in their place as advisors, rather than instructors, is long overdue.”
Meanwhile, Negrini, in her first significant decision as the borough’s returning officer for a General Election, has determined that the vote count after polling day on June 8 won’t be held in any council-owned buildings, such as the £140million Fisher’s Folly head offices in the more readily accessible town centre, but instead will take place at Trinity School, the £15,000-a-year private boys’ school in Shirley Park run by the Whitgift Foundation.
A former chairman of governors at Trinity School is their old boy, Gavin Barwell, who is seeking re-election as the Conservative MP for Croydon Central.
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