Unaccountable Negrini breaks silence over £17,000 Cannes trip

No expense spared: council CEO Jo Negrini’s was back at MIPIM this month

Jo Negrini, the council chief executive who refuses to answer questions from Croydon Council Tax-payers or elected councillors about what she might have achieved for the borough by spending a week on the beach in the South of France at property developer junket MIPIM, has broken her silence.

But not for the people that pay her salary. Oh no.

Negrini penned a self-justifying little blog piece from the French Riviera for her mates at the Architects’ Journal. The self-proclaimed “regeneration practitioner” clearly knows to whom she is really accountable.

Negrini’s artless prose appeared online alongside similar gushings from the likes of Ben Derbyshire, the chair of HTA Design (who happen to have been hired by Brick by Brick for schemes in Croydon) and is the President of RIBA (who awarded Negrini that honorary fellowship thing).

Also on the blog for AJ is Steve Sanham, of HUB (who have been given planning permission to concrete over a large section of Queen’s Gardens with the Taberner House site which has lain undeveloped under the Negrini-run council for four years); and there’s Phil Coffey, from Coffey Architects (another firm which, coincidentally, has landed a contract in Croydon for Brick by Brick).

Cosy, eh?

Negrini’s sole contribution to the blog was less Jane Austen, more Bridget Jones, as she defended her excursion to the Cannes junket (© Tony Newman, supposedly her boss, the leader of Croydon Council).

There’s a chance, perhaps a remote one, that in writing it, Negrini might have just been reading – or in her words, “monitoring” – Inside Croydon.

Read it for yourself and decide:

“In Cannes. Again. For some, MIPIM is a total junket, predicated on the view that all investment is bad for the city and that people who attend it spend their days drinking wine with their mates and their evenings with Russian oligarchs or other parasites at President’s Club-style events.

“Yes, there is that side of MIPIM. But you can get that side of things in all environments where you mix men, booze and fat expense accounts. London is awash with these types of opportunities. You don’t need to go the south of France for it. Over the time I have been coming to MIPIM, there are more women involved (and the majority of men) who are coming for the same reason I am – to meet as many people and companies as possible to have a choice about who invests in their area. The alternative would be to sit in the office and wait for the next half-baked planning application from some dodgy fly-by-night investor who wants to get a consent and then flip it for the highest price. It’s about building relationships with the people you want to work with in your borough – the ones that help you deliver the type of development you want.

“Ah yes, I should have said that these views are my own, I am a woman and I don’t have an expense account.”

Poor Jo.

Paid just £188,000 a year (she’s recently had a 1.6 per cent pay rise from the London Living Wage-accredited local authority), and having to spend the best part of a champagne-soaked working week in the South of France among the Russian oligarchs, Middle East sheikhs and Hong Kong speculators, to meet people she could probably see in London, and all without an expense account to call her own.

Doesn’t she get it? As an employee of a local authority, she really ought not be buying jeroboams of champagne for billionaire developers. But we’re confident that there was never any real risk that Negrini would have been personally out of pocket for her little trip to the Mediterranean.

It’s interesting that she characterises the other 51 weeks of her chief executive’s year as sitting in the office and waiting “for the next half-baked planning application from some dodgy fly-by-night investor who wants to get a consent and then flip it for the highest price”.

Says it all, really

Does Negrini have any particular “fly-by-nights” in mind?

And further, it is also interesting that, in her defence of spending £17,000 of public money for her and three hand-picked colleagues to attend the notorious booze and hookerfest in Cannes “again”, Negrini is out-of-step even with one of the most notorious lobbyists and schmoozers for the building industry.

Peter Bingle, who has been linked to £3billion-worth of deals and contracts, including the social cleansing of council estates in south London for LendLease, was disgusted by what he witnessed at MIPIM this year.

Bingle tweeted: “In a post-President’s Club world, I was surprised and disappointed by some of the behaviour I witnessed and observed at @MIPIMWorld. These jerks need to be disciplined and told that their behaviour is totally unacceptable…”

But not as far as Jo Negrini and Croydon’s Labour-run council are concerned.

  • Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
  • Inside Croydon is the borough’s only independent news source, and still based in the heart of Croydon
  • “Monitored” by the council CEO since 2010
  • ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS 2017: Inside Croydon was source for two award-winning nominations in Private Eye magazine’s annual celebration of civic cock-ups
  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or a local event to publicise, please email us with full details at inside.croydon@btinternet.com

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, Croydon Council, Jo Negrini, Tony Newman and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Unaccountable Negrini breaks silence over £17,000 Cannes trip

  1. derekthrower says:

    So Negrini has stated her specialism. Wasn’t it “Degeneration Practitioner” ? What abject piffle.
    Lets put it in her inane words. “It is time to go Jo !”

  2. You don’t need a surfeit of Easter Eggs to feel billious at the moment. You only need to read the blog of that arch de-generation practitioner, Jo Negrini.

    She plays the ‘gender card’ to justify the Cannes junket (“there are more women involved”) yet even another Council estate asset-stripper describes what goes on there as “totally unacceptable behaviour”. We spent £17,000 on sending her delegation for 3 days and her ‘not me guv’ response sounds hollow. To say that “London is awash..with men [more gender politics], booze and fat expense accounts … you don’t need to go go the south of France for it”, is extremely fatuous. You did go and these expenses were public money!

    Ms Negrini’s need to “build a relationship” with property speculators who only want to profit from crowding our Borough with out of scale and inappropriate buildings that ordinary people can’t afford to live in is especially nauseating. She is (an albeit overpaid) public servant and the people she needs to “build a relationship” with are the people of Croydon. Doesn’t she get it?

  3. Charles Calvin says:

    Is this a matter for the Borough Solicitor?

    I am concerned about the way in which Brick x Brick, guided by Negrini, is dishing out lucrative architectural commissions to their architectural mates with no public scrutiny or no demonstration that this gives Council Tax payers best value. Given the unrest about proposed developments the latter must seriously be in question.

    Who is selecting the architects and other consultants on Brick x Brick developments? How do we know they were the most competitive tender or they are the most suitable for the commission? Negrini selecting design companies based on who bought her the last cocktail in the South of France or leafing through a 2015 copy of the Architects Journal called ‘Women in Architecture’ is not an acceptable way of procuring buildings with public money. If this is not how it’s done, can Negrini then tell us what criteria is being used? All I can see is a bunch of council projects that have stalled or are not transferring to site and abysmal social housing percentage deliveries across all council projects. Is it that that design is not up to scratch ?

    Doesn’t the Borough Solicitor have a view on this? Tendering public building contracts stipulate some form of mandatory open architectural competition, surely?

  4. Dave Scott says:

    There must be a way she can be removed – it’s a disgrace how someone so apparently incompetent can remain in post

  5. Takooba says:

    Excellent commentary by Inside Croydon, as always. It’s wonderful that Negrini committed the public-relations blunder of referring to all the criticism she has received – reminding everyone of how bad she looks and giving herself the task of rebutting it, in which she fails miserably. And then she goes on to slag off developers who don’t go to Cannes and also tells us that most development schemes for Croydon are rubbish anyway!

  6. Charles Calvin says:

    Is the value the CEO of Croydon Council brings to this borough worth £188,000, or to put it more succinctly, is it worth the council tax paid by 150 Council Tax Band C payees? For what they deliver, apart from Education and Social Services, I would suggest all senior officers in Place, Planning and Development and Brick x Brick are being paid salaries that are not justified.

    • In fact, once national insurance and pension contributions are added to Negrini’s “compensation package”, she is receiving closer to £240,000 per year from Croydon’s Council Tax-payers.

      • Charles Calvin says:

        £.25 million?

        Problem is, despite the large salaries, UK local government does not attract high flyers, unlike in other parts of Europe where serving your local communivity is a badge of honour and often the culmination of a successful professional career.

        Here, in the U.K, ‘career’ council officials bob around from one local authority to the other seeking pay-grade promotions. They all write each other’s references and they all sit on each other’s interview panels.

        It’s a conspiracy of mediocrity.

        What’s the answer?

        The answer lies with out elected councillors who sanction and accept this status quo.

        I know a Croydon Councillor who attended the job interview of one of Croydon’s top ten officials. He was flabbergasted at the candidates performance during the interview and their presentation of written answers which had clearly been heavily coached as they were unable to effectively expand on the answers in interview. Anyway, the individual’s face fitted, they knew other senior officers, they got the job. There’s a pattern here in Croydon Council.

  7. I don’t find it surprising that “Inside Croydon” continues to receive responses to their disclosures about the overt and the covert activities of Croydon Council, after all there is a long list malpractice to choose from. This especially the case in the field of ‘planning’ and ‘housing’, two misnomers if ever there were ones, in the case of Croydon.

    Ms Negrini is perhaps just the overpaid figurehead for a deeper malais; after all who selects these people in wards like Woodside and Bensham Manor? The gang of three are turning Croydon into an Un-Borough, i.e untruthful, uncaring, undemocratic, unreponsive, unaccountable, uneconomic and unproductive.

    Just exam the record of Scott-Butler and Newman: No Council homes built in 4 years, ‘Affordable housing’ that means yoiu have be getting £34 k to move in, Sequestering even the tiniest of green and public spaces to house the rich, Imposition of bulidings that are intrusive and out of scale, The formation of quangoes that answer to no person and seem to produce zilch, The silencing not only of public protest but even any dissent on ther own benches, The total inability to listen to the electorate and maybe the icing on the cake, Sending delegations off to the winter sunshine of Cannes to hob-nob with property speculators, who would naturally prefer ‘champers’- and lord knows what else- to Croydon beer and Then even having the temerity to criticise those who use private company expense accounts, while they use Council tax payers money!!

    I’ve no doubt missed a lot out from this sorry litany, there is after all so much to choose from. Perhaps I do Paul Scott a bit of a disservice. After all he did achieve second place for Croydon in last year’s Private Eye’s Rotten Borough’s award. Looks like he’s going for first place in 2018.

    If I can return to the question of who selects these local politicians, I would ask aren’t there three decent candidates in Woodside and Bensham Manor who could stand?

Leave a Reply