WALTER CRONXITE on another set of awards, but ones which you won’t be reading about on the council’s website
Private Eye, the country’s best-selling satirical magazine, today publishes its eagerly awaited annual Rotten Borough Awards for 2018.
Well-paid council executives and their staff up and down the country, plus elected councillors throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, will be rushing to their newsagents this morning before work, eager to get their hands on Lord Gnome’s esteemed organ and check whether they have escaped getting what could be a career-limiting blot on their CV.
And this year, Croydon has won greater “acclaim” than any other local authority in the country.
With two outright awards, Croydon has managed to “win” more of the Rotten Borough awards than any other council.
Indeed, if you include the dishonourable mention for Nathan Elvery, Croydon’s previous chief executive, who these days is raking in the expenses at West Sussex, our council has a claim on a third award in 2018.
“Nathan learnt all he knows while working here,” one cynic on Katharine Street muttered as they scurried out of the Town Hall.
The Rotten Boroughs Awards, now in their 28th year, have a full run down of some of the nation’s Town Hall excesses.
Amid tales of council chief execs ordering their press officers to refuse to talk to hyperlocal publications (something Inside Croydon has dealt with since 2010), multiple police investigations into the activities of the council and its staff (pah! ask Niall Bolger, who used to head up Sutton Council, how many visits he got from plod over council fraudsters and breaches of planning law), and various other reports of local authority incompetence, self-interest and hypocrisy, Croydon has been picked for two prizes.
Croydon’s first well-deserved gong is the “Football Fever Award”.
The Eye relates: “Councillors in Labour Croydon were supposed to meet on 3 July to discuss a crisis in social care, because the outsourced company responsible for providing respite for thousands of carers had collapsed. But the committee meeting was scheduled for the same time as England’s first World Cup match in Moscow – so it was cancelled. A meeting the following week to approve a pay increase for councillors went ahead with no problems.”
Croydon councillors’ fascination with football, over their public duty, runs deep. Senior councillors were caught in the Town Hall chamber watching a Crystal Palace match, and received barely a reproach from council leader Tony Newman.
More recently, in the hope of winning a bit of cheap public support, Fulham-supporting Newman decided to award Palace manager Roy Hodgson with the freedom of the Croydon. Even that stunt failed to work properly, though. When Hodgson got on his hind legs to speak to the chamber, some erk in the technical department managed to turn off his microphone…
In Private Eye, the accolades continue to mount up for Croydon, though, with the prize for “Services to the arse” coming our way, too.
“Labour Croydon council contributed £10,000, and provided the venue, for an arts festival which featured performers inserting ‘butt plugs’ intended ‘to demystify the anus’, while others consumed laxatives and diuretics until they ‘lost control of their sphincters’. Strategically placed microphones amplified the results.”
Inside Croydon’s loyal reader might well be familiar with aspects of both of Croydon’s award-winning efforts.
We asked Newman and the council chief exec, Jo “We’re Not Stupid” Negrini, if they would like to comment on these splendid acknowledgements of the authority’s achievements under their leadership.
After all, when some aspect of Croydon Council’s activities is recognised by other publications, Newman and Negrini can barely contain their excitement in accepting the credit and kudos that goes with such awards – even if they have had one of their staff included on the judging panel, or paid the publishers behind the awards thousands of pounds for an advertising feature that is published to coincide with the awards ceremony.
Oddly, for some reason, neither Negrini nor Newman had managed to get back to Inside Croydon before publication of this report.
The Rotten Boroughs Awards rightly acknowledge Northamptonshire as “Britain’s official most-badly-run council”, after the county council went bust in 2018.
However, we asked whether winning two and a half Rotten Borough awards (thanks to “Expenses King of the Year” Elvery), means that, officially, by any reasonable reckoning, Croydon is Britain’s rottenest borough.
One of Lord Gnome’s minions did get back to us. “There’d be stiff competition for that one,” they said, while accepting that, on sheer weight of numbers alone, for 2018, Croydon was the winner.
So at last it is clear what Newman used to mean when he kept spouting on about being “Ambitious for Croydon”.
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