- 20% budget cuts expected to be announced
- Jo Negrini’s pay-off figure confirmed as £440,000
- Redundancy process for 400 council workers enters final two weeks
- Katherine Kerswell begins work as interim chief exec
Tony Newman and Simon Hall will be presenting an “emergency budget” at the council cabinet meeting next Monday, but they don’t want anyone to know about it.
In the time-honoured fashion of this “open and transparent” council, no details of the emergency measures for the cash-strapped council have been revealed, even to the majority of Newman’s Labour councillor colleagues. And because the emergency budget is being set before the council cabinet, there will be very limited opportunity for public discussion.
Croydon is £1.5billion in debt, and in the first few weeks of the covid-19 lockdown the council spent £62million that it has not got. The council chief executive, Jo Negrini, has left her job – not before she was handed a record-breaking pay-off, now confirmed as being £440,000 – and the council has made a plea to Whitehall for help as they fear they will run out of money altogether by the end of this month.
Sources inside Fisher’s Folly are predicting that the situation is so dire that the emergency budget will see 20 per cent cuts to the council budget which was agreed as recently as March this year.
As recently as July, councillors were being advised that 15 per cent cuts were required, involving the loss of more than 400 jobs in order to make savings of more than £17million. This may no longer be enough.
The formal redundancy consultancy process enters a new phase today, with representative panels taking place for those council workers set to lose their jobs. Notices of redundancy are due to go out on September 28.
The incoming interim CEO, Katherine Kerswell, takes up her job this morning, and inherits a rapidly worsening financial situation.
Certainly, the majority of the borough’s elected representatives, Labour as well as Conservative councillors, are being frozen out of the process altogether as Newman sinks ever deeper into a bunker mentality and tries desperately to cling on to power.
In the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic and the Town Hall’s cashflow crisis, Croydon has staged just one meeting of the full council since March, as Newman and his clique has sought to avoid broader scrutiny of their handling of the council’s business.
As Inside Croydon reported last week, the increasingly secretive Newman failed to inform Labour colleagues that Negrini was leaving, and has refused to discuss the “sickening” £440,000 pay-out she received, and which he had authorised.
Next Monday’s cabinet meeting will provide only a very limited opportunity for scrutiny of the proposals. The meeting will be held “virtually”, and while any elected councillors can, in theory, log-on to attend, discussion is likely to be carefully and strictly restricted to cheerleaders in Newman’s cabinet and their Tory opposition shadows. It is, in effect, a vainglorious rubber-stamping exercise.
The agenda notice for the cabinet meeting on September 21 was slipped out on Friday evening, just within the 10 days’ notice period required by law.
The agenda included the emergency budget item. None of the reports and documents that would usually accompany a cabinet meeting agenda item were available for the emergency budget, though.
A brief look at the cabinet meeting agenda would suggest that the emergency budget is not actually all that urgent: it is only item 7 on the agenda.
Not like it’s an emergency at all, then, really.
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