Newman remains silent over council’s ‘Godfather’ affair


Turning his back on the situation: council leader Tony Newman

Council leader Tony Newman remains silent on the unfolding scandal at Fisher’s Folly, where the council’s assistant chief exec has overseen payments of £787 per day to a friend without first properly declaring the relationship, as is required.

Despite a whistleblower alerting the council’s standards officer to the matter, no significant disciplinary action was taken following an internal investigation into the conduct of Graham Cadle, the assistant chief executive for “customer and transformation”.

The matter would have been covered up by the council, had the whistleblowers – and there are several council workers who are concerned by the situation – not contacted Inside Croydon.

Certainly, the situation with Cadle and IT contractor Harry Singh was unknown to senior Labour councillors until this website brought the matter to their attention. A second investigation is now underway, following a report to the Borough Solicitor by a councillor.

Cadle is the godfather to Singh’s child. The child’s mother is Karen Sullivan, a council employee in Cadle’s directorate, where she is the head of revenues and benefits. Singh has been hired as part of the council’s “digital enabling programme”, which is supposed to be developing online tools and forms, including some which might be used by the revenues and benefits section.

Whether Newman was aware that Cadle was handing out council work, and generous dollops of public money, to a family friend is not known. According to council payment records seen by Inside Croydon, Singh was paid an average of £16,534 per month between March and July this year – equivalent to almost £200,000 a year.

Despite being the senior elected representative of the people of Croydon, Newman has refused to act or even pass comment on a project which other council workers have described as “a machine built to get money out of the council without any governance”.

Council leader Tony Newman made sure he was on hand to collect the trophy from Sir Trevor McDonald when Croydon was named ‘digital council of the year’. ‘The Godfather’, Graham Cadle, is seen on main screen and far right on stage

Newman has had plenty of time to respond: a fortnight ago he was sent the questions which Inside Croydon put to “The Godfather”.

And last week, we approached the council leader directly, asking him what he intended to do about the situation, or whether he agrees with Jo Negrini, the council chief executive, who has said that, “It’s a sign of a failing council that seeks heads to roll”.

Many of Newman’s Labour councillor colleagues are angry at the leader’s handling of the children’s services crisis at the council, where senior council officials have been shown to be less than frank with the elected representatives. Croydon’s children’s services department has effectively been placed under special measures by Whitehall following an “inadequate” report from Ofsted inspectors.

The Cadle-Singh-Sullivan cash triangle appears to have been allowed to exist because of inadequate checks and balances over procurement and hiring policy. This reflects very poorly, therefore, on Cadle’s boss, Negrini.

Newman could do well to seek some honest answers from Cadle, a £150,000 per year council employee. Among the questions we have put to Cadle are:

1, It was your decision to appoint Harry Singh to develop the MyCroydon app in 2013, even before he had registered Sensemble as a limited company or had a functioning website. When and how did you and Singh first meet?

2, Which other senior Croydon Council officials, at executive level, provided authorisation for Harry Singh to be taken on by the council after the collapse of Sensemble Ltd in November 2016? Can you provide any documentary evidence for this?

3, Which other senior Croydon Council officials, at executive level, provided authorisation for Harry Singh to be paid £787.36 per day by the council?

4, Why is Harry Singh, who has few if any relevant qualifications or experience for this kind of work, paid at the highest rate of all contractors on the digital enabling project?

5, When did you become godfather to the child of Harry Singh and Karen Sullivan, the head of Revenues and Benefits in your department?

6, Can you show when you first declared to your managers at Croydon Council your personal connection with Singh and Sullivan?

7, How many active projects are there in the Digital and Enabling Programme and which of these are being handled by Harry Singh?

8, How many of those projects were completed and delivered, satisfactorily, by the deadline of June 2017?

9, How much, to date, has been spent on this work?

10, How many staff or contractors, in your department or in IT across the council, will be losing their jobs or work as a result of the decision to off-shore Harry Singh’s MyCroydon operation to India?

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10 Responses to Newman remains silent over council’s ‘Godfather’ affair

  1. Nick Mattey says:

    Question that appears to have breen omitted .
    What checks and balances are in place to prevent a contractor working on behalf of Croydon council taking a pecuniary advantage from any work outsourced to any other third party?

  2. Surely they can’t all keep silent forever. The longer it takes for all this to properly come out, the messier it will be. Roll on the next installment. Hopefully a further airing in Rotten Boroughs and the inevitable inclusion in the Daily Mail who are constantly looking for easy stories to pick up and run with, and the truth (and consequences) will out.

    • Nick Mattey says:

      I think that Croydon are envious of the London Borough of Sutton’s frequent appearance in Private Eyes Rotten Boroughs and have taken drastic action to make sure they are included.

      • How prescient

        • Nick Mattey says:

          Remember the “misunderstanding” in Sutton over the godmother of one of the children of the CEO of Viridor?

          She also happened to be MP Tom Brake’s political agent, as well as a senior civil servant (so ought to have been very well aware about the rules on declarations of interest), while her husband was an enthusiastic supporter of the Viridor incinerator and at the same time a LibDem Sutton Councillor.

          This all ended up in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs under the heading “Holy Smoke”, some time after the story had been covered in extensive detail by … Inside Croydon.

          It looks like the Croydon godfather saga is getting the same national exposure.

  3. Lewis White says:

    If only the Conservatives had not got rid of the District auditor, we would have a better UK watchdog on such matters. As it is, Croydon Council has a lot of highly paid senior officers who should know better than to appoint friends or family to do jobs for them at much-enhanced, ultra generous “mates rates”, without an open recruitment or tendering process. Unfortunately, consultancy is a happy hunting ground for such activity.

    Whilst nepotism is a force in all societies, for thousands of years, and is understandable, looking after one’s nearest and dearest, and helping them a hand up, to get on in life, it should be excluded from the public sector. There are probably rules of conduct about this in Croydon Council’s standing orders.

    Time for the council –whether officers or councillors– to enforce these.

    • Nick Davies says:

      The council’s ‘Equalities Commitment’ ( promises they will “Ensure fair and equal recruitment” and you can be sure there will be a comprehesive legally checked and HR enforced recruitment procedure. Apart from anything else they’ve got to have something to wave at an Employment Tribunal if defending a discrimination case.

      None of that applies to hiring consultants, but you’d expect there to be some sort of tendering process. I doubt they hire lawyers on the basis that someones sister’s hairdresser’s cousin does a spot of conveyancing; surely the same principle applies purchasing any other form of service.

      • Well considering they have got a “Director of Commissioning, commercialism and improvement” with a mass of highly paid supporting staff, you would hope that they would follow the rules. Sorry, forgot for a moment then, one rule for us and one rule for them!

  4. Lewis White says:

    Most councils have Standing Orders, and “Procurement Rules or Procurement Guidelines” for procurement of Goods and Services, which set out the limits to how many quotations need to be sought for different vales of purchases–eg min 3 written quotes for work £5k – £50k 3 Formal tenders for work £50k – £100k, 5 for £100-£50k etc etc. and how major tenders should be advertised.

    Consultancy is a procurement, and should have clear rules as well.

    If Croydon’s guidelines are too vague, or loose, at best this will result in sloppy practices and high prices, or at worst, they can be exploited by the partial or corrupt.

    The result is that the council gets landed with bad work, and/or excessive prices.

    If Croydon’s guidelines are insufficiently detailed, or have gaps, they probably need to be redrawn to lay down clear competitive rules on number of tenders, banding of values and rotation of tenderers to avoid the same firms quoting for every job. Someone –the Director of Finance– should be in charge of procurement.

  5. Now it is lead story in the current ‘Rotten Boroughs’ column of the Eye, the wider public shame amongst friends in other Labour authorities may result in some action? . . . or maybe not.

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