The real reasons for the abrupt resignation of a leader of a London council were part of a local authority ‘cover-up’. KEN LEE reports on serious reservations expressed by Labour councillors and Camden staff over the past conduct of the Blairite politician who was recently handed a £100,000 per year job by Croydon
Sarah Hayward, who was announced last month by Croydon Council as the borough’s first director of violence reduction network, has been accused of having bullied Town Hall staff when a council leader at Camden, which saw her advised to take an anger management course and had her conduct subjected to an inquiry led by a senior lawyer.
That’s according to former Camden colleagues and council employees, who have contacted Inside Croydon since Hayward’s appointment to her new, £100,000 per year job.
According to sources close to Croydon’s recruitment panel, Hayward was chosen for the job by Croydon’s Labour leadership, while other applicants for the important position were overlooked despite being more experienced and better qualified for the role.
Hayward was the Labour leader of Camden Council from 2012 until 2017, when she stood down, somewhat abruptly. A year later, Hayward did not seek re-election as a councillor.
It is alleged that during her time as council leader, other Labour councillors became concerned by Hayward’s tendency to shout at council staff.
“On one occasion, I recall that a council director left the room in tears,” a source told Inside Croydon. Hayward “was foul to people. It was a destructive environment”.
It is suggested that some of the council’s most senior staff left their jobs in Camden because of the treatment that they were subjected to. Town Hall meetings often included pointed questions about the unusually high turnover of staff.
“Some people have been very seriously damaged,” said one source.
By 2016, Hayward faced a leadership challenge at the council from Sally Gimson, another Labour councillor. “I just couldn’t tolerate the bullying any longer,” Gimson told colleagues at the time.
Hayward won the ballot of her Labour colleagues by 24 votes to 15. As the respected local paper, the Hampstead and Highgate Express, reported at the time, somewhat euphemistically, “The leadership contest was seen as one of personality and management style rather than a battle of ideological differences.”
Hayward and Gimson, the paper said, “are both regarded as being from the Blairite wing of the Labour group”.
After she retained her position as leader, it was suggested that Hayward should take anger management sessions. During the months that followed, and with no significant change in her conduct, a Queen’s Counsel was called in by Camden to carry out an investigation into Hayward’s conduct.
“There was even a possibility that there may have been a case of ‘misconduct in public office’,” the colleague recalls. “In the end, Hayward’s position was untenable, and she stood down as leader.”
That was 2017. A year later, by June 2018, and Hayward was no longer a councillor.
A member of council staff in Camden has told Inside Croydon that the circumstances surrounding Hayward’s decision to stand down as leader were “covered up”.
They said, “Staff who worked for her had to take pills for anxiety and depression. Some had to take therapy for months after they stopped working for her.”
With council staff reluctant to work directly with Hayward, senior executives had to hire-in temporary staff, often at enormous additional expense.
Inside Croydon put the allegations about her time at Camden to Hayward, but has received no response.
It is feared that Hayward may not have had to answer questions on the matter, either, when Croydon Council’s appointments panel interviewed her for the new job.
“I’d be very concerned about the job prospects for the head of HR or even the chief executive if they have not conducted due diligence over this appointment,” said another with experience of Hayward’s time at Camden.
“They have a duty of care for the mental and physical well-being of all their staff, and there should be some very serious questions asked about the due diligence in a process that appoints Sarah Hayward to any role at Croydon Council.”
No direct policing experience
The director of the borough’s violence reduction network is widely acknowledged as a key appointment in the on-going battle against gangs, knife crime and other attacks around the borough. The network is based on a model borrowed from Glasgow, where gang-related stabbings and slashings were treated as a public health issue.
From its establishment in 2005, until last year, murders in Scotland fell from 137 (with 40 in Glasgow alone, twice the national rate), to 59 by last year – the lowest number of recorded homicide cases in Scotland since 1976.
The first head of the Glasgow violence reduction unit was John Carnochan, a former senior police detective.
In London, there have recently been two appointments made to similarly focused violence reduction units. One has been made by Mayor Sadiq Khan, who appointed Lib Peck, the former leader of Lambeth Council, to the £116,000 job heading up his city-wide organisation, the other in Croydon, with Hayward.
Neither Peck nor Hayward are known for their extensive or direct experience of policing. Both are regarded as being from the Blairite wing of the Labour Party, though they now occupy very well-paid, politically restricted public roles.
According to a source close to Croydon’s appointments panel, “There were two other shortlisted candidates, one of whom had a much more relevant CV. The candidate who was turned down was an ex-policeman.
“The appointed candidate has little or no relevant experience and performed less well at interview – albeit that’s subjective. The third candidate had only limited experience and did not perform well, apparently. Interestingly, there were a number of promising looking candidates with highly relevant CVs who were culled between the long and the shortlist, for no discernible reason.”
Inside Croydon put the concerns about Hayward, as expressed by Camden Labour councillors and staff, and the reservations about the recruitment process to Tony Newman, Croydon’s council leader.
Newman, the local politician who before taking charge of the Town Hall in 2014 had promised “the most open and transparent council” in the borough’s history, has failed to respond.
A date for Hayward to start her lucrative new job in Croydon has yet to be announced.
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