Negrini reshuffles executive pack to cope with Henderson exit

Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on the latest changes in the executive suites at Fisher’s Folly

The council could be looking to shave £150,000 or more per year from its on-going costs by not replacing Robert Henderson as the exec director of its children, families and education division.

Doubling up: Croydon’s adult care exec director Guy Van Dichele now has more work to do

As exclusively revealed by Inside Croydon last week, Henderson has stunned his colleagues at the council by announcing he is leaving, just weeks after having managed to drag the children’s services department out of special measures with its first “Good” rating from Ofsted in three years.

With a job lined up at another local authority, Henderson is leaving Croydon in September, suggesting he is serving less than a three-month notice period.

Despite the large scale of Henderson’s job, his boss, council chief exec Jo Negrini, is not planning immediately to recruit a replacement or even promote from within.

With the council facing 15 per cent cuts across the board, and more than 400 jobs being axed from the Fisher’s Folly roster to deal with the council’s covid-19 overspend, Negrini announced yesterday that she wants to split Henderson’s work between two existing senior managers: Guy Van Dichele and Nick Pendry.

Van Dichele in his role as “executive director, health, wellbeing and adults” is one of three council employees who, according to the most recent figures available, are paid more than £200,000 per year.

According to an internal email from Negrini last night, and seen by Inside Croydon, Van Dichele, “will broaden his role to cover children, families and education for an interim period”.

Pendry is the “director of early help and children’s social care” who joined Croydon around the same time in late 2018 as Henderson, and who has been credited with doing much to turnaround the failing children’s services department.

Nick Pendry: reporting to Negrini

According to the internal email, Pendry is to now have his work monitored by Negrini.

In her councilspeak and cliché-laden email, sent to the borough’s elected councillors, Negrini wrote, “I want to share an update on transition arrangements and how we plan to manage leadership of the department moving forward…”.

After explaining how she clearly thinks that – in the midst of an on-going pandemic – Van Dichele does not already have enough work to do overseeing the health and well-being of the borough’s residents, Negrini wrote, “I have also asked Nick Pendry… to take on additional responsibilities and act as our statutory director of children’s services (DCS). We will work closely with Nick to make sure he has the support needed to do this vital role, and he will report directly to me on all strategic DCS matters…

“I’ve no doubt that Guy and Nick will continue this important improvement journey, building on the great work that’s been done to date, as we confirm long-term arrangements.”

With a council-wide recruitment freeze in place, it could be some time before those “long-term arrangements” include a like-for-like replacement for Henderson.

At present in Henderson’s 16-strong team of directors and heads of department, three are interims while a fourth, Alison Farmer, the head of SEND, left last month with no replacement yet announced.

While Pendry might have been expected to step up to take Henderson’s job, delaying confirming any such promotion will see him take on important statutory responsibilities, though probably without a salary hike to go with it.

Negrini, who has overseen a 50 per cent increase in the council’s debts in her four years in charge, but who faces no immediate change in her own responsibilities, continues to bank more than £220,000 in salary and pension per year.

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
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