Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on some startling pay rises among the council’s elite executives
While presiding over continuing austerity cuts to Town Hall budgets, staff redundancies and service reductions, all amid maximum Council Tax increases, Jo Negrini, the borough’s chief executive, managed to score herself a whopping £18,790 increase in her own pay and pensions last year.
The figures, for 2017-2018, come from The Tax-Payers’ Alliance in their annual survey of Town Hall fat cat pay.
According to figures provided by Croydon Council to the TPA, Negrini, the self-proclaimed “regeneration practitioner”, is now being paid £185,000 salary, plus £27,935 in pension contributions, bringing her annual council pay packet to £212,935.
That represents an inflation-busting 9.6 per cent increase last year for “We’re Not Stupid” Negrini.
Negrini’s generous pension payment alone comes to more than many council employees earn in a year.
The TPA’s figures do not include the additional £10,000 Negrini is paid, by the government, for acting as the borough’s returning officer, overseeing elections staged in Croydon, an appointment that goes with the CEO role. In a year, such as 2018, when Croydon staged just one borough-wide polling day, that means with pensions, returning officer fees and salary, Negrini managed to trouser at least
Croydon, you may have forgotten, is a Labour-controlled council, though it may not be entirely coincidence that Negrini and other council officials got large pay hikes last year, just as council leader Tony Newman was pushing through increases in allowances for himself and his inner circle of councillors.
Negrini’s empire-building in Fisher’s Folly has seen the number of Croydon executives on salaries of £100,000 or more soar from 15 in 2015 – shortly after the fair dinkum Aussie landed the top job – to 20 by 2017.
According to the latest TPA figures, this had settled down to 19 Croydon Council employees on £100,000-plus by 2018.
And the TPA report reveals that Negrini was not the only one of them to enjoy a pay rise bonanza in 2017-2018.
Barbara Peacock, the “executive director People”, who was appointed by Negrini, saw her salary rise from £130,184 in 2017 to £193,456 in 2018 – a stonking 48per cent increase in her remuneration package.
That Peacock was enjoying such a generous pay rise at a time when, on her watch, the borough’s children’s services department was being rated by Ofsted inspectors as “inadequate” will be something that will not escape many of the borough’s “demoralised” and under-resourced social workers and the hard-pressed parents, carers, foster parents, adoptive parents and many children in care in Croydon who have had to endure with little or no support from their under-performing local authority.
But even Peacock’s pay hike was not the biggest, in percentage terms, among those named in the TPA’s research. Richard Simpson, the borough’s well-regarded director in charge of the borough’s finances, saw his pay packet go up by 76 per cent in one year, to £176,188.
Yet even that was not enough to persuade Simpson to tough things out and continue working for Negrini in Fisher’s Folly: he announced his resignation late last year, without immediately having another job to go to.
Jacqueline Harris-Baker, who has now twice been promoted by Negrini and is known to work very closely with the chief executive in her role as Borough Solicitor and monitoring officer, looks likely to benefit most from Simpson’s departure. The trained lawyer, with no previous accountancy experience, has been chosen by Negrini to be the council’s new corporate resources officer, which should see her £119,897 salary increase this year.
The TPA’s figures show Croydon in sixth place among London boroughs for the number of £100,000-plus execs on the books, with Hackney topping that table with 28 six-figured salaried council workers.
Compared with neighbouring local authorities, Negrini’s £212,935 CEO package salary is outstripped only by Lambeth’s Sean Harriss (£246,850), though he probably had to work a touch harder than his Croydon counterpart, as he managed to surround himself with only 14 other £100,000-plus execs. Harriss left his job in late 2017.
The CEOs of Sutton, Bromley and Southwark are all paid less than Negrini.
Three of our four neighbouring boroughs also have fewer £100,000-plus executives than Croydon (Southwark has 22). Fellow outer Londoners Bromley and Sutton manage to get by with 13 and 12 respectively.
Negrini has some way to go, though, before matching the top pay packet of a London borough chief exec.
That stands at £294,805 per year paid to Paul Martin. Martin, though, works across two south London boroughs, Wandsworth and Richmond.
That might sound a bit too much like hard work for Croydon’s Negrini.
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