Negrini used council funds to cover-up record of complaints

The council’s £220,000 per year chief executive has taken to issuing tax-funded spin and lies about her organisation’s poor performance, after the Local Government Ombudsman issued its annual report that showed more complaints upheld against Croydon than any other London borough.
By STEVEN DOWNES

Lies and cover-up: Jo Negrini

Jo Negrini, Croydon Council’s increasingly desperate chief executive, has taken to sending out round-robin emails to the borough’s councillors in an attempt to cover-up her record of failure.

Yesterday, the £220,000 per year chief exec had a document circulated from her office in Fisher’s Folly which sought, somehow, to justify the council’s woeful performance over the previous year. The Local Government Ombudsman handed down more rulings against Croydon in 2018-2019 than any other borough in London.

Copies of Negrini’s self-justification document have been leaked to Inside Croydon.

Councillors have contacted iC, accusing the CEO of abusing her position and the misuse of council resources in compiling her little dossier of justification.

Added to that, it is clear that Negrini’s note is based on a big, fat lie.

Just before 9am yesterday, Negrini had a flunky in her office hit the send button on an email to the borough’s 70 councillors which had two attachments: one, a pdf of the official Ombudsman’s annual review letter, the other, a four-page word document with a set of figures about public complaints made to the Ombudsman’s office.

The email had the subject “Ombudsman Complaints information”, and came with this covering note:

“Dear Members, In July we received our annual review letter from the Local Governance Ombudsman on our complaints performance for 18/19. Our performance is also available publicly on the Ombudsman’s website. As you may be aware there has been some misinformation about our performance and ranking on local blogs.

“Please also find attached briefing responding to the Ombudsman’s review that also sets out the correct information in relation to our performance compared to other boroughs.  We have also made this information publicly available via our website here.”

The word “here” had a hyperlink attached to a page on the council’s website; we’ll come back to that later.

The email was signed off, “Regards, Jo”.

Of course, when Negrini wrote, “As you may be aware there has been some misinformation about our performance and ranking on local blogs,” she was being disingenuous. It is one local news website. This one.

And she was lying.

There has been no misinformation. Just the facts, taken directly from the Local Government Ombudsman’s annual report, and which Negrini clearly finds very hard to accept.

Three weeks ago, Inside Croydon published our news report based on the Ombudsman’s annual report, which had been put into the public domain on July 31.

Under the entirely accurate (if uncomfortable for Negrini) headline “Official figures show Croydon is capital’s worst for complaints”, we reported, also entirely accurately, that under the self-important Negrini, Croydon “had more complaints upheld against it last year than any other borough in London”.

This is a FACT.

Our report continued: “The Ombudsman upheld a total of 38 Croydon complaints raised with their office in the 12 months of 2018 to 2019. In another 78 cases, the Ombudsman referred them back to Croydon to be resolved locally.

“In total, the Ombudsman received 211 complaints about Croydon Council’s conduct over the course of the year, a total, according to the official figures in the department’s annual report published last week, exceeded in England and Wales only by the city council of Birmingham (484) and Transport for London (278).”

We also reported: “And as you should have come to expect from Croydon Council under ‘We’re Not Stupid’ Negrini, none of these figures have ever been mentioned in a council press release nor published on the council’s expensively maintained website.”

Indeed, that too was entirely accurate, until overtaken – very slowly – by events yesterday when, more than a month since Negrini received the annual review letter from Michael King, the Local Government Ombudsman, her own, heavily spun version of the statistics was finally available on the council website.

Burying bad news: how links to the CEO’s well-massaged complaints figures have been hidden at the bottom of a poorly sign-posted website page

Negrini and Croydon Council withheld the Ombudsman’s review letter from the public for a month.

It’s there, now, as a hyperlink buried at the bottom of their complaints page, but certainly not prominent or easy to find. And besides, the review letter doesn’t include the Ombudsman’s dispassionate and damning statistics on Croydon Council’s performance.

That’s to be found in the Ombudsman’s report itself.

But that report is not anywhere on the council website, and certainly hasn’t featured in our very own “Town Hall Pravda“, the Your Croydon propaganda magazine that, at huge public expense, gets distributed around the borough.

And the council’s website continues to fail to publish a register of the Ombudsman’s rulings against Croydon.

Because this is not information which Negrini, or her very well-paid execs at the council, feel in any way comfortable in sharing with the public that she and her staff are supposed to serve.

While Negrini included that little hyperlink in her email to councillors, closer examination shows that she and her closest lackeys have gone to great lengths to bury bad news. Unless you were armed with that hyperlink, you’d have to work very hard to find the document on the council website.

Ombudsman Michael King: his annual report, including Croydon’s many failures, is nowhere to be found on the council website

There’s nothing on the landing page of the council website that links to “How to make a complaint”. Funny that.

And only if you manage to find that page in the morass of the council website’s nightmare navigation might you discover, if you look very, very hard, there at the bottom of the page, a link to Negrini’s document.

The document itself is nothing more than an exercise in justification of the self-centred Negrini’s rapidly dwindling reputation.

Any concern for putting right the wrongs to Croydon residents that have been highlighted by the Ombudsman is a secondary concern to Negrini.

Instead, she has ordered at least one council official to spend the best part of a month armed with an abacus to do some number-crunching to try to make a very dire situation appear not quite so bad.

To satisfy Negrini’s hubris, some poor git has had to research the populations of each London borough, and then work out how many complaints per person had been made about each local authority, to come up with a column on a table for “Complaints raised as a percentage of the population”.

If you do that, then Croydon isn’t the most complained about borough in London – with 213 complaints in the 12 months to March 2019, remember – but is now “only” the eighth-worst, with 0.057 per cent of the population complaining about their council services, according to Negrini. Rejoice at that news, as another failed leader once said, after another Pyrrhic victory.

As we all know, that low ratio of complaints to residents in the borough is probably only because so few people can find the council’s website page for “How to make a complaint”, or they can’t get through on the council “hotline”, because Negrini has axed so many staff and reduced the switchboard’s working hours so much. And as for the council’s Crap App v3.0 that still does not work…

Thing is, when we reported the Ombudsman’s findings, we made a point of highlighting, “The Local Government Ombudsman would never dream of doing anything quite as crass as compiling a league table of the worst-performing local authorities.

“After all, there can be great differences in the size of the populations being served – Croydon… is London’s most populous borough – and the budgets available at their disposal.”

But if you take the raw figures, both in terms of the number of complaints received by the Ombudsman in 2018-2019, and those complaints which he upheld, Croydon is the worst-performing borough in London.

Here’s the table, based on the Ombudsman’s figures:

We also noted, to provide context, “Croydon is, after all, competing in a very competitive field in London. According to the Ombudsman’s report, London has the highest rate of upheld complaints, with 63 per cent of all detailed investigations being upheld. In Croydon, 58 per cent of complaints were upheld.”

This, according to Negrini, is what passes for “misinformation”.

The raw figures certainly ought to make for uncomfortable reading for Negrini and her colleagues, especially when you  consider that they have also been presiding over a failed children’s services department for more than two years, in a borough where rubbish is strewn across most streets, and where the town centre is on its knees after seven years of Westfield-inspired development blight.

Councillors who received Negrini’s well-massaged statistics yesterday are clearly unhappy at the way the chief executive is allowed to get away with brushing her organisation’s many failings under the executive carpet.

“This exercise does nothing to improve the borough’s performance, or address the complaints and concerns of our residents,” one councillor said, on condition of anonymity.

“The Ombudsman’s reports on upheld complaints used to go before every meeting of the General Purposes and Audit Committee. But they stopped that, too – the litany of failure after failure must have become a concern,” said another.

They added: “This exercise, all paid for out of people’s taxes, was all about protecting Negrini’s own reputation – but in fact, all she’s done is highlight the failings of the council.”

As we did before, and because Negrini still refuses to publish it on the council website (make your own mind up why that might be), here is the pdf of the 2018-2019 Local Government Ombudsman’s report.

And here is the Ombudsman’s new, hi-tech whizzy interactive map, which you can use to compare and contrast the performance of local authorities, and which also provides you with access to some of the damning findings about your council’s performance (something else Negrini would rather you didn’t know about).

And click here for Inside Croydon’s archive of Ombudsman rulings on Croydon Council failings.


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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to Negrini used council funds to cover-up record of complaints

  1. Remember this is the tip of the iceberg, these are the parents who kept fighting month after month, some for years. Most give up.

    And when you get to the Royal Courts you have to face Croydon’s foul and hostile lawyer who wants to win and has no interest in the child’s best interest. The whole system is brutal and toxic.

    Meanwhile we are invited to time wasting sessions where we wait for Councillor Fleming to turn up and talk at us, but there is no real engagement with more than PR and coping strategies. There is no aspiration to work on prevention or to ensure that all children in Croydon are fit to learn.

    We at Fit 2 Learn, set-up to serve the children of Croydon, find that we make more progress in China – a Country interested in a strategic plan for when AI takes many of the low-skilled jobs. Why are we not working to prevent problems and to maximise our children’s cognitive skills?

    Note in 2018 we screened over 400 Croydon children all 8 years and over. Sarah Jones watched us screen the last 60 children – over 90% had minor developmental delays that will impact on their ability to learn efficiently and restrict their lifetime choices. We could do a lot on a shoestring to ensure that all children in Croydon are efficient learners.

    Why do our Council consistently refuse to engage except at the most trite and time-wasting level?

    Like

  2. They refuse to engage because under the current leadership regime they are only interested in policies, not people.

    Like

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