Staff accuse Negrini of ‘cowardice’ ahead of showdown meet

The council chief exec is presiding over mounting anger over her handling of the borough finances and management of hundreds of job cuts.
STEVEN DOWNES reports

Staff at Fisher’s Folly are becoming increasingly angry at their bosses’ leadership, or lack of it

Dozens of council staff, many of them facing the prospect of redundancy as part of swingeing cost-cutting, have been circulating protest letters in which their Town Hall bosses are accused of “cowardice” and “double standards”.

Angry staff say that they are fighting “an injustice and hypocrisy that is unfolding within our council”, and they say that the council leadership has “forsaken those who risked their lives” during the darkest days of the covid-19 pandemic.

Protest letters have been sent directly to council chief executive Jo Negrini and members of her pompously titled “Executive Leadership Team”.

The gathering unrest comes about a week before the latest showdown meeting between the £220,000 per year chief exec and the staff, and more than a month after it was announced that 15 per cent budget cuts are being made at Fisher’s Folly because of a cashflow crisis at the council which has been exacerbated by additional spending on coronavirus measures.

Hundreds of jobs are under threat in a programme of cuts that Negrini and her close colleagues started in January – months before the covid-19 lockdown. Croydon Council had accumulated £1.5billion debt by March this year, while its reserves had been reduced to just £10million.

As well as Negrini, the protest letters have been addressed to Jacqueline Harris-Baker, the soon-to-depart Robert Henderson, Shifa Mustafa, Hazel Simmonds and Guy Van Dichele.

It appears that remarks made by Negrini at a previous virtual staff conference, where she refused even to consider her or the other six-figure-salaried directors taking any pay cuts to help in the emergency, have been particularly badly received.

Council staff are turning against CEO Jo Negrini and her executive directors

The personalised emails, under the heading “Lead from the Front, Protect our Heroes and follow the values you proclaim to have”, read:

“I, along with other likeminded staff, would like to voice my outrage at the injustice that is unfolding within our council. I, and my fellow colleagues, have chosen to peacefully voice our dismay to the highest echelons of this organisation and across all allowable forms to ensure our concerns are noted and addressed through action, not just words.

“The injustice to which I refer sadly appears to lie at the very the heart of Croydon Council’s leadership, who have refused to lead from the front, operated in the shadows and have forsaken those who risked their lives. Our leaders have abandoned the very values we are expected to wear around our necks, which has not gone unnoticed. To this end I, along with my colleagues, request that Croydon Council’s leaders address the following points:

Taking Responsibility: covid-19 is a global issue placed on top of pre-existing financial issues that can be blamed on many things but one of those things is also leadership. It appears, however, that [the] leadership have chosen for only a few to carry the burden. I request that Croydon’s leaders detail exactly how they, too, are carrying this burden and how are they leading from the front?

Proud to Serve: Our leaders appear to have forsaken the heroes that risked their lives to care for the service users and residents we are here to support. These heroes of Croydon were expected to leave relative safety, were provided with inadequate protection and sent to the frontlines and they did so because they cared. This same leadership team have decided to reward these heroes with a threat to their livelihoods. We request that Croydon’s leaders detail exactly what is being done to protect Croydon’s heroes?

One Team: I request that Croydon’s leaders provide detail and surety that all other savings options were investigated and staff redundancies were the last resort. To that end, if potential savings options were not employed in favour of redundancy, what action will be afforded to us to challenge this decision? and

Honest and Open: This injustice and these double standards has left us distrustful. We request that Croydon’s leaders cease operating in the shadows and become transparent, allowing us sight of the complete impact of all redundancies in all areas of the council, including that of senior leadership.

The protestors have circulated their draft letter among colleagues, asking for as many of them as possible to forward it in their own name to the executives. In seeking a broad base of support, the protestors say, “This injustice … is the cowardice that has been shown by our leaders, who have refused to lead from the front, operated in the shadows, abandoned the values they enforce upon you and have forsaken those who risked their lives.

“We will not stand aside quietly and let these leaders ravish this council and its good people. In response we are looking to create a strong and united voice that will hold our leaders to account, protect our heroes and enforce the values that we all wear around our necks…”

Council staff passes, worn on the borough’s purple lanyards, carry some glib “values” on them, which some thrusting exec who had been sent on a management course must have thought was a good idea for employees to carry around their necks as reminders.

Now, it appears, the staff have decided it is overdue for the most senior council directors to start to display some of those required qualities themselves.


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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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9 Responses to Staff accuse Negrini of ‘cowardice’ ahead of showdown meet

  1. The arrogance and insensitivity of Negrini and the top brass in the Council is absolutely breathtaking and shameful.

    They are behaving like victims, behaving as if the current crisis in Croydon is nothing to do with their policies, actions and attitudes.

    As I wrote earlier, the merest smidgeon, the merest token of empathy would be worth its weight in gold. Just a 5% token cut in salaries and allowances would have meant a huge amount to those who are soon going to be cast out.

    Proportionate job losses at every level would have shared the pain and unhappiness.

    But, of course, there is no empathy, no sympathy, no humanity at the top. Theirs is a trickle-down management model, not a trickle up one! She once averred “I’m not stupid!” and for a very short while I almost believed her. I now believe her about as much as I believe Boris.

  2. Sebastian Tillinger says:

    There are clearly questions about the competency of the ‘executive leadership’ team and those who put them there.

    The writing was in the wall when Negrini got her friend who was previously the borough solicitor (and not a particularly effective one in my view) to be the new head of ‘staff resources’ or whatever you call it and sit beside her. They can turn proper work into an extended coffee morning….

    And let’s not forget, Jo Negrini has had zero experience running a council, let alone a large metropolitan council before Tony Newman had the daft idea to promote her from her job in the council as a planner.

    Newman should have sought interest nationally for this very important job which needs a candidate with heaps of relevant and direct experience running other councils.

    And where’s Tony Newman?

    Head down.

  3. Like all local authorities Croydon has a contributory pension scheme where employees pay about 7% of salary and the employer pays a varying amount depending on investment performance etc. I suspect that the current contribution by Croydon is about 15%. Every so often there is an actuarial review and the employers contribution is adjusted.

    Now with staff reductions of about 15% there will be a substantial reduction of money going into the pot. It is likely that many of those being made redundant will be entitled to draw their pensions early, putting pressure on the fund. That coupled with a sharp fall in investment performance, due to covid-19, is likely to lead to a sharp increase in contribution requirements from Croydon Council.

    Give it a year or two and we will be hearing of further problems with the budget due to a pension revaluation.

    You can see a rather nasty spiral here.

  4. Moya Gordon says:

    People in the council working in a bullying environment must be scared to raise their heads above the parapet through fear of losing their jobs. It’s a very sad situation to be in and I admire those with the strength of character to speak up about the injustices going on in their workplace.

  5. Norman Gooding says:

    I have just read that the CEO of the RNLI has taken a 50% pay cut to help with the financial difficulties raised by covid 19. Haven’t heard anything about the Council fat cats.

    • The boss at Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye, worked from March to June without taking any pay. Some of his director colleagues did the same.

      Holland-Kaye has £751,000 “basic” pay, so the waiving of his salary meant he did not receive more than £185,000.

      There are others at FTSE-listed companies and elsewhere who have set similar examples of sacrifice and leadership.

  6. Khalid Bashir says:

    The extortionatly high council tax is not value for money- graffiti and vandalism in most parks and children’s play areas; my 14year old son had his bike stolen from Wandle Park at knife point- where were the police? The play area in Wandle Park was set on fire several months ago and has been left unrepaired. CEO and her cohorts do not qualify the six figure salaries quoted in the article. Poor planning has damaged the skyline of Croydon, especially around the Lombard roundabout-too many high rise buildings. Their mismanagement has left the council with the billion pound debt- take it from their salaries and not from the people of Croydon through raised taxes.

    • Sebastian Tillinger says:

      And Croydon has the highest number of higher band council tax payers in the whole of LONDON – how much more of our money can this bloody council waste?

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