EXCLUSIVE: Croydon’s political leadership to come under increasing pressure as the full extent of the deal they cut with chief executive is revealed.
By STEVEN DOWNES
Jo Negrini will receive more than £400,000 under the terms of the deal that secured her immediate exit from cash-strapped Croydon Council.
Sources inside Fisher’s Folly have obtained the top-secret financial details of the agreement, which is thought to be one of the biggest pay-offs ever by a local authority in England.
Included in the pay-off is nearly a quarter of a million pounds in pension contributions, paid to take 59-year-old Negrini to her statutory retirement age.
In a recent poll of Inside Croydon readers, 96 per cent said that Negrini should not receive any kind of pay-off at all.
Union officials told Inside Croydon that the size of Negrini’s pay-off will be “like a kick in the teeth” for the hundreds of council workers, many of them low-paid and who are currently waiting to see whether they will still have a job in a few weeks’ time.
In Negrini’s four years as Croydon CEO, the council built up record debts of £1.5billion, while its cash reserve had been allowed to run-down to just £10million, prompting pre-coronavirus warnings from the council’s own auditors, as well as from CIPFA, the body of local government finance directors.
The £1.4billion Westfield shopping centre, with which Negrini was closely associated, was abandoned last year, while other flagship projects – such as the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls or the Brick by Brick housing company – proved to be badly managed, costing the council millions in extra spending. Commercial property purchases, such as the £30million spent on the Croydon Park Hotel, also flopped.
The Local Government Ombudsman regularly found Negrini’s council to have committed maladministration. Also during Negrini’s time in charge, the council’s children’s services department was judged by Ofsted inspectors to be a danger to some of the vulnerable younngsters in its care. It took nearly three years, and £25million extra spending, to restore the department’s “Good” rating.
Yet Negrini was not sacked by her political bosses. Nor did she resign.
When the deal was finally agreed, council leader Tony Newman praised Negrini for what he described as her “dedicated service to Croydon”.
Inside Croydon has discovered that in July, as the extent of the council’s coronavirus cashflow crisis was becoming clear, Negrini was approached by senior Labour councillors – thought to be Newman and his finance chief Simon Hall – to discover if there was a deal that could persuade her to leave the role that they had promoted her into in 2016.
After some haggling over the precise terms, Negrini finally agreed two weeks ago, but not until, as our Fisher’s Folly source said, “Her lawyers took the council to the cleaners.”
Negrini’s “reward for failure” has come in three parts, with by far the largest portion in pension contributions. It is common practice in many public organisations, and some commercial concerns, when someone is taking early retirement or being made redundant, for their pension pot to be topped up to the amount that it would have reached had they worked through to 67.
Negrini is eight years off statutory retirement age, and according to the most recent figures available from Croydon (for the 2018-2019 financial year), the council was paying £28,494 per year into her gold-plated, inflation-proof pension fund. That figure may well have increased in the past 18 months (it certainly would not have been reduced), which puts the pension-related part of Negrini’s pay-off at…
Negrini has also been able to pocket six months’ money in lieu of notice. Again, based on the official council figures for her “basic” salary of £188,700 that she was being paid in 2018-2019, Negrini will have received another…
And, just to round everything off and see Negrini on her way, there was also an amount paid for… you might find this hard to believe… “compensation for loss of office”.
These amounts to local government workers are subject to a government-imposed cap, so for this Negrini will have received no more than…
The total, therefore, spent to persuade Negrini to leave and maintain her silence about the council comes in at somewhere close to…
“She should be able to buy a decent-sized sheep ranch in New South Wales,” an underwhelmed council official said on hearing the total being paid to the Australian-born, self-proclaimed “regeneration practitioner”.
The full and final figure should be made publicly available when the council’s accounts for 2020-2021 are published – which may not be until June next year. But the political row this largesse with public money is likely to cause will put immediate pressure on Newman and Hall – local Tories were already baying for their resignations before the full extent of this payment was known.
Council leader Newman was on local radio this morning, outlining how Croydon has been hard-done-by in payments from the government under Tory austerity policies of the past decade. It might be difficult for him to maintain that script when the full extent of the money he has agreed to lavish on Negrini becomes known.
Negrini’s payment is considerably more than previous estimates had suggested, and according to one human resources executive with extensive experience of negotiating similar settlements, the amount being paid by Croydon is unnecessary and “excessive”.
They suggested that had Newman and Hall sacked Negrini and she had then pursued the council in a case of unfair dismissal, and won, even then the council might have faced a settlement of less than half what she is now receiving.
“It sounds a bit excessive,” they said.
“It all suggests poor negotiation on the part of the council leadership, or a very weak position,” they added.
Read more: An ‘indolent charlatan’ who ‘wallowed in her own importance’
- 2010 to 2020: Inside Croydon has been delivering local community service and local community news for 10 years. To support independent local journalism in Croydon, please sign up today as a supporter. Click here for more details
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and BBC London News
- Inside Croydon named Journalist of the Year at 2018 Anna Kennedy Online Autism Heroes Awards
- ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: For three consecutive years, 2017, 2018 and 2019, Inside Croydon has been the source for award-winning nominations in Private Eye magazine’s annual celebration of civic cock-ups
- Inside Croydon had 1.6million pages viewed by 721,000 unique visitors in 2019
Would that be £1050 for every sacked employee?
Wow! That seems unfair when people are being made redundant and when you consider some of the recent failures of the council.
Hang on a minute… She’s leaving Croydon’s employment, not being booted out or seeking early retirement on medical grounds, so why the golden handshake and ‘uplift’ to future pension contributions that she might have been entitled to if she hadn’t decided to go?
Call me naive, but having moved jobs a few times, no employer has bunged me bucket loads of cash to see me through until my retirement date when the decision to ‘up sticks’ was mine! But then again, like Ms Negrini, I was probably in the wrong job.
She isn’t leaving to go to another job; she is being “booted out”. But they’ve messed it all up, which is why they’re paying a fortune to buy her silence and to remove any threat of her taking legal action against them.
Yes, Tony Newman was responsible for engaging her and monitoring her performance – he screwed both things up and is now buying her silence with Council money.
It’s not “Council money”. It’s our money.
Under the regulations, if someone over the age of 55 is made redundant they get their current level of pension paid without any reduction for taking it early. Croydon has no choice on this as it is a legal requirement. They could however have taken action regarding her performance and if warranted sacked her, where no pension strain costs would have been payable.
That is absolutly disgraceful, more than just a kick in the teeth for all thse poor people, heads need to roll!!, This is a kick in the teeth for Croydon residents who have been blighted by brick by brick, I suggest all croydon tax payers hold back their payments until tis decision is turned around, i’d like to see if they have the audasity to take 100,000’s of residents to Court!!
Just goes to show you what a weak leader Tony Newman really is! And how can he refuse to accept no responsibility for the work and actions of the person he personally appointed and was responsible for supervising? Irresponsible as well as weak!!
Tony Newman fucks up every important decision he has to make.
He stupidly appointed Nathan Elvery in 2014 to the role of Croydon CEO for “continuity”.
Newman then stupidly took Jo Negrini out of the planning department where she should have been sorting out the Westfield development and made her an interim Croydon CEO.
Newman then stupidly failed to find a permanent Croydon CEO and lazily gave the job to Jo Negrini instead. (Jo Negrini had zero experience running a council).
Everyone knew Jo Negrini wasn’t up to the job pretty quickly. What does Tony Newman do?
Newman stupidly gives her a £49,000 pay increase and stupidly fails to officially monitor her progress, despite many concerns being raised over her abilities from within and outside the Council.
Roll the clock forward and Jo Negrini leaves the council (code for being sacked). This happened because the public demanded it. The public could see what Tony Newman stupidly could not see.
Next, it transpires Tony Newman stupidly to pay her a massive £420,000.
At every twist and turn in this sorry saga we see Tony Newman making one stupid decision after another.
WHY do the people of Croydon put up with him?
Turns out that she did have a plan B after all…
That is over 150 residents’ annual Council Tax payments! Think what that payment could do to help residents in need? But instead it is going to an underperforming Council ‘leader’ .who has achieved nothing. (I was going to use another word)
On the back of Sebastian’s comments (well said), Shifa Mustafa was paid £140k by Waltham Forest after public money she was given to spend on a project went missing.
She was not held accountable.
Instead she was given a golden handshake and walked into a Executive Director job at Croydon managed by the Jo Negrini. Now she is appointed the interim Chief Executive at Croydon. Well done Tony Newman.
This is disgraceful! As a Council tax paying resident, I would much rather she was demoted and stayed in the Council, to answer to an independent enquiry. Which moron in HR and legal department negotiated on behalf of the Council? They should all be fired.
THIS IS A DISGRACE!!!
While all the attention is reserved for JN, accountability should be exercised for Tony Newman, Paul Scott and Simon Hall. To play havoc with our hard-earned money in their disastrous conduct – how on earth is this tolerated in any civilised society? Even Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was allowed less severance package when he was forced into Saudi exile!!!!
Simon the great financial wizard is allowed to keep his cabinet position? This is the same man who is allowed to gamble away millions, what has he ever acheived to deserve his position? Has he ever even run finances for a corner shop? I guess not and yet he is in charge of the council’s kitty.
The Newman-Scott-Hall group is a ‘you scratch my back and I will carry on screwing everything I touch’ clique. Totally incompetent, inept muppets running the show.
Labour London needs to pay attention. Empower local wards to trigger ballot so we can finally get rid of these imbeciles who have given my (ex)party nothing but bad fodder.
Tony Newman – if you are reading this. Have some fucking SHAME and resign. Naturally the same goes for Simon and Paul the planning supremo.
On a personal note, the racism that I have suffered in the hands of these 3 FAT Balding Men (I am bald, too) over the last decade, no wonder not a single “competent” BAME is in the cabinet. Unless you are a YES man (or woman), the BAME community with Croydon Labour will always be relegated to adding up numbers or cosmetic quota compliance. No wonder (based on visuals), so few BAME members are associated with the current CLP.
Croydon Lives Matter (CLM). Get these fuckers out.
And in the meantime, the £44,000 per year chair of scrutiny, appointed by Newman, is attacking this website on social media for not having diverse contributors from across the borough.
Absolute disgrace. Think of all the employees being forced out of their jobs by her mismanagement. That payoff would keep about 8 or more in work. No wonder Croydon council is in mega debt and the town itself falling apart .
Shame on you, pull the other one Newman! Covid-19 Pandemic spending was not the cause of Croydon Council mega debt. Croydon town centre and surrounding area is in a disgraceful state of decline in all areas. As a tax payer and resident in Croydon I have seen croydons decline over decades. Nothing being done to bring regeneration to Croydon, unless it is building huge high rise block of flats, heaven forbid they ever sell or rent them, who would really want to live in Croydon now. We have no town shopping centre to talk of and nothing to bring people to Croydon. What planet is Tony Newman on? What are the leaders of Croydon council actually doing for their huge salaries we are paying, apart from having a Jolley at the tax payer’s expense? The decline and debt has been built up over years not just months of Covid restrictions. Furious and Disgusted that this is being allowed to continue with even further money wasted paying off Negrini at an immense rate of £420,000, wow she must know an awful lot if her silence is worth that much of tax payers money. Newman obviously wants to get rid of Negrini as soon as possible so he can blame her for everything comming his way to save his own skin. Shameful !?
I suspect the reason Heather Cheesborough is holding on is to get a similarly massive payout for incompetence.