The position of the council chief executive and two other executive directors should be axed, to make Croydon Council more accountable to councillors and residents.
That’s the view of one of the borough’s longest-standing councillors, in reaction to the news that Jo Negrini, Croydon’s CEO, had managed to add five more executives on annual salaries of £100,000 to her staff in Fisher’s Folly last year.
Purley councillor Donald Speakman has recently had questions about the accountability of senior council officials and their use of public money blocked by Negrini, who has also made threats of legal action to protect the actions of executives.
Council figures show that Negrini is paid £194,145, including pension contributions, and that’s before she receives additional fees for acting as the borough’s returning officer at referendums and elections.
Speakman believes that the chief executive is too powerful and unaccountable, and that the position is untenable in a public authority.
“I’d get rid of the chief executive officer post. The council is not a business that has a CEO,” Speakman said.
“And I’d abolish the three executive director positions, too, so that we would make the council directors paid £150,000 per year actually publically responsible for something.”
Speakman, who recently resigned from the Conservative Party but is seeking re-election at the May local elections as an independent candidate, wants a return to a committee system at the Town Hall, where senior council officials are subjected to broader scrutiny by more councillors.
“The children’s services crisis would never have arisen under the committee system,” Speakman said.
That is a view shared among several senior council figures, from both political parties. But a recent proposal within Croydon’s ruling Labour group to make a measured return to the committee system was opposed by Tony Newman’s leadership group.
Speakman, and others, believe that Newman and his senior supporters, such as deputy leader Alison Butler and her husband, the planning committee chair Paul Scott, have become too close to Negrini.
“We have paid council officials who are refusing to answer questions, who resent any accountability, under the system we have now,” Speakman said. “Get them to be questioned by committees of councillors, and there’s a better opportunity to get some proper answers.”
Channeling his inner Wolfie Smith, Speakman said, “Power to the councillors!”
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