EXCLUSIVE: Our local democracy reporter KEN LEE on a shock departure from Fisher’s Folly
Richard Simpson, effectively the second-in-command at the council to chief executive Jo “We’re Not Stupid” Negrini, is to leave Croydon.
Simpson has worked at Croydon Council since 2005, working his way up to the £170,000 per year role of executive director of resources to which he was appointed two years ago. In the past, he has described Croydon Council as “an organisation that I love”.
The council’s former finance director is widely respected throughout Fisher’s Folly, by both Labour and Conservative politicians, and by his colleagues, who credit him with steering the local authority through the troubled waters of year-after-year of swingeing austerity cuts.
“That’ll be a huge blow to the council,” was the reaction of one cabinet-level Katharine Street source.
“Richard has been key to the council managing okay with its finances,” said another.
News of Simpson’s departure was announced to council staff this morning, though by the time of publication of this report, councillors had not been informed.
Simpson, who is 44 years old, was widely seen as a steady pair of hands and reliable, and an ideal candidate to replace the self-proclaimed “regeneration practitioner” Negrini.
The council has not yet made public any details of Simpson’s move, and Simpson himself was unavailable for comment this afternoon as he was “in meetings”.
Simpson came to Croydon with an accountancy background, having previously worked at Arthur Anderson consultants before a four-year spell at Lambeth Council before joining Croydon in August 2005.
Immediately before his latest promotion, Simpson had worked as assistant chief executive for corporate resources. When Simpson was appointed exec director, Tony Newman, the council leader, described him as “a great guy, a strong leader and a trusted pair of hands”.
Newman said in 2016: “He has a proven track record of delivering for Croydon and our residents, who can have confidence that this council has a strong handle on its finances.”
Today, one of Newman’s councillor colleagues said, “It will be a tough task finding someone as reliable as Richard to replace him.”
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