Jo Negrini’s empire-building at Fisher’s Folly has seen Croydon’s unaccountable chief exec increase the number of council employees paid £100,000, while her own pay package has soared to more than £200,000.
The figures are based on research conducted by The Tax Payers Alliance, published in their annual Town Hall Rich List this week. With 20 staff members on at least £100,000 per year, there are now only nine other local authorities in the whole country with more six-figure executives than Croydon.
The TPA report (based on figures for 2016-2017) is only able to identify two other Croydon execs and their salaries.
One is Richard Simpson, the exec director of resources, who receives a salary and employer pension contributions amounting to £100,675.
The other is Barbara Peacock, the exec director “People”, who receives a total of £130,184.
It is former social worker Peacock, a Negrini appointment, who has presided over the crisis in children’s care in the borough which saw Croydon’s children’s services department rated as “Unsatisfactory” by Ofsted inspectors last year.
A press officer this week defended the high, and rising, pay packets for some council staff by saying, “It is important the right people, with the right experience and expertise, are appointed and retained.”
The TPA’s figures show that there are three other, unnamed council employees paid more than Peacock, plus Negrini, who receives £168,675 in salary, plus £25,470 in employer pension contributions, for a total of £194,145.
What the TPA has failed to list are the additional fees which Negrini will have received for acting as returning officer at the 2016 European Union referendum. These can amount to tens of thousands of pounds and would take the self-proclaimed “regeneration practitioner” well over the £200,000 mark.
One thing which Negrini is proving to be very adept at is regenerating the executive offices in Fisher’s Folly, the council offices. In the financial previous year, 2015-2016, there were only 15 members of staff at Croydon Council who earned more than £100,000.
This increase comes against a back-drop of continuing cuts to services, staff redundancies and increases in Council Tax charges. And Negrini’s Croydon defies a trend across London where other local authorities have been reducing the number of council fat cats: according to the TPA, the number of local government officers in the capital receiving at least £100,000 per year fell from 472 in 2016 to 415 in 2017.
The TPA suggests that getting these local public servants to be accountable about how much they are – effectively – paying themselves was not as straightforward as might be hoped. “Some local authorities have opted to name all their senior staff irrespective of whether their salaries are above £150,000,” they note.
Croydon clearly did not, so it is not possible to identify the exact amounts paid to the likes of Graham Cadle and Colm Lacey.
Cadle was, until he left his job recently, the council “Godfather”, who was paying a close friend £787.36 per day, without ever bothering to declare the relationship between him and the contractor’s family.
Lacey is another Negrini appointee, in charge of development in the borough, who has also been appointed managing director of Brick by Brick, the council-owned housing company which has so far managed to build zero houses…
Jan Zeber, one of the report’s authors, said, “A local authority is not a business. It does not compete for income, but has a guaranteed stream of council tax receipts, business rates as well as direct grants from the central government. It does not compete for ‘customers’, but has a monopoly on running schools, building roads, collecting bins and providing social care.”
Zeber said that there is “an accountability issue” with local councils such as Croydon, and a need to monitor properly the performance of our senior council officials. “We need some way of ensuring that public sector pay is not arbitrary and at least to some extent linked to performance.
“The reason why those figures are publically available in the first place is to replace economic pressure of the bottom line with political pressure of the public gaze.”
Council fat cat Jo Negrini was not available to respond to the TPA’s Town Hall Rich List report. She was away on holiday.
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