£300,000 – the price of failure for one former council chief exec

Nathan Elvery, the controversial Croydon Council chief executive who decided to pop down to the south coast for an easier life, was handed a juicy


265,000 reasons to smile: Nathan Elvery

pay-off by his erstwhile employers, West Sussex County Council, it has been reported this morning.

The pay-off, no doubt entwined in various non-disclosure agreements, amounts to 16 months’ salary for the £190,000 per year chief exec.

On top of that, the Council Tax-payers of West Sussex were also saddled with legal costs of £35,000 by the county’s burghers, as they sought to smooth Elvery’s passage out of the council offices in Chichester.

Elvery was suspended from his duties – on full pay, naturally – at the end of September last year.

Elvery was paid £30,000 over the course of the 60 days he spent on “gardening leave”, which presumably was mostly spent in the garden of his family home in Epsom, where he continued to live despite having also received a £47,500 “Golden Hello” in 2016, supposedly as “relocation expenses”.

None of these figures of the use – or misuse? – of large amounts of public money were provided by West Sussex County Council willingly, and all had to be dragged from the local authority through a Freedom of Information request by BBC Sussex, which this morning reported the generous payments.

As they report, Elvery left West Sussex County Council in November, with the council saying with masterful understatement that there was “a need for a fresh start to address the challenges the council faced”. West Sussex now shares a chief executive with East Sussex.

Chichester: recovering from the costly experience of having Elvery in charge

Elvery was a controversial figure in Sussex almost from the moment he arrived in 2016 from Croydon.

There had been long-held reservations about Elvery’s conduct at Croydon, where he had been the council’s financial executive director and deputy CEO.

During that time he was investigated at least twice over procurement issues, and he was somehow allowed to operate his own private company offering consultancy services to other local authorities. With his own catchphrase of “Efficiency is in our DNA”, Elvery was renowned for “management by PowerPoint”, and as he presided over wide-ranging cuts to staff, he acquired a reputation for an intimidating and sometimes bullying attitude to employees.

Tony Newman: promoted Elvery

Despite all this, in 2014, and without the job ever being advertised or subjected to a recruitment process, Elvery was confirmed in the job of council chief executive by Tony Newman, the leader of the then newly elected Labour council. After eight years of Tory rule at Croydon Town Hall, Newman said that Elvery’s appointment would provide “continuity”.

At West Sussex, Elvery’s time was dogged by the controversy of that £47,500 “relocation expenses” payment, which the Tory-run local authority tried to disguise and keep a secret. As well as never relocating, Elvery’s conduct caused further accounting complications because tax breaks claimed had to be repaid by the council to HMRC.

Elvery’s suspension by West Sussex at the end of September 2019 was soon followed by the resignation of the county council’s Conservative leader, Louise Goldsmith. Both are seen as closely connected to a seriously critical report by children’s services commissioner John Coughlan, who has warned of “a bullying culture that starts at the top of the organisation and infects the rest of the corporate centre at least” in West Sussex.

Following the CEO out of the Chichester council offices exit last autumn were three other senior officials, all of them Elvery appointees, and two of whom had also worked with Elvery when at Croydon.

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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3 Responses to £300,000 – the price of failure for one former council chief exec

  1. Lewis White says:

    Local Government Ethical StandardsCommittee on Standards in Public LifeChair: Lord Evans of Weardale KCB DL January 2019

    The Seven Principles of Public Life
    The Principles of Public Life apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder. This includes all those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally, and all people appointed to work in the Civil Service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), and in the health, education, social and care services. All public office-holders are both servants of the public and stewards of public resources. The principles also have application to all those in other sectors delivering public services.
    Selflessness Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
    Integrity Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
    Objectivity Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
    Accountability Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
    Openness Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
    Honesty Holders of public office should be truthful.
    Leadership Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

    ‘Nuff said?

  2. Charlotte Davies says:

    Ah plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!
    When are we going to get a grip on recruiting and holding to account senior council staff?

  3. sebastiantillinger7694 says:

    “Newman said that Elvery’s appointment would provide continuity”

    Is there anything Tony Newman cannot mess up on? It’s 2020 – this borough do needs rid of Tony Newman and his holiday buddy, Paul Scott.

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