Council in attempt to cover-up £440,000 pay-off to Negrini

Our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, reports on how Tony Newman’s ‘most open and transparent council in Croydon’s history’ is now trying to block details of the ‘reward for failure’ that he authorised to be paid to the departing chief executive

Jo Negrini: walked away from the council with almost twice her annual pay and pension packet

Croydon Council is attempting to cover-up the amount paid in a settlement to Jo Negrini to persuade the local authority’s chief executive to give up her job.

Apparently, “the council has decided it would be unfair” if the £440,000 paid to Jo “Negreedy” Negrini was made public.

Even though the payment used public money, to someone who was employed by the public, and even though the full figures are likely to be put into the public domain once the council publishes its annual accounts, as it is required to do so by law.

Reliable sources within the council have confirmed to Inside Croydon that the total amount paid was £440,000, the bulk of which was made up of eight years’ worth of contributions into the gold-plated pension pot of the self-professed “regeneration practitioner”.

The total is almost double Negrini’s annual salary and pension package – far more generous than any of the redundancy payments being made to the hundreds of council staff who are losing their jobs at least in part as a consequence of Negrini’s disastrous time in charge of London’s most populous borough.

Tony Newman: broken promises, blocked petitions and now covering up Negrini’s ‘reward for failure’

The figures have also been published in the latest edition of Private Eye magazine.

Tony Newman, the leader of the Labour-run council who very likely authorised the payment, refused to share the detail of the CEO’s “reward for failure” with most of his own party’s elected councillors. He never even bothered discussing the matter with the Town Hall Labour group until after Negrini’s exit payment stirred up a “sickening” row.

In 2014, when seeking to win control of the Town Hall at the local elections, Newman railed against the previous Tory administration and promised “the most open and transparent council in Croydon’s history”.

Yet now Newman’s council is officially blocking requests made under the Freedom of Information Act for the details of the Negrini pay-off last month – even though the figures should become apparent as soon as the council publishes its 2020-2021 annual accounts next spring.

Newman and his finance chief, councillor Simon Hall, tonight face a no-confidence motion from the borough’s Conservative opposition over the state of the cash-strapped council’s finances. Despite the council’s parlous financial position under Negrini, Newman and Hall, none of the sidelined and bypassed Labour councillors are expected to break ranks and vote against their leader, or even abstain on the motion.

“That’s it,” one Katharine Street source said today. “Tony’s safe until 2022.”

If that proves to be the case, it is very likely that the next 18 months will see Newman behaving in an increasingly short-tempered, erratic and autocratic manner. He has already moved to block a petition from more than 17,000 residents who want a referendum to decide how the council is led. Now he is presiding over an authority which is refusing to advise the public how the council is spending their money.

In an FoI submitted shortly after Negrini exited Fisher’s Folly for the final time, the council was asked, “On August 27, 2020, it was announced by Croydon Council that Jo Negrini was to leave her job as the borough’s chief executive.

How Private Eye reported the £440,000 pay-off to Negrini last week

“Please provide full and itemised details of the amounts paid to Ms Negrini as a settlement on her departure from her post, whether they be in the form of ex-gracia payments, money in lieu of notice or untaken leave, and payments into her pension fund.

“Also, please provide details of the amount spent on legal advice in drawing up Ms Negrini’s settlement.

“These amounts have been paid from public money, to someone who had been employed as a public servant, and are a matter of considerable public interest.”

But the council has dead-batted the question.

In an unsigned response (oh, how open), an unnamed council official (how transparent) has written as if Negrini was still the council’s senior employee – and claimed that this vast expenditure of public money is, somehow, a private matter.

“The Chief Executive has a reasonable expectation in respect of that information and the council has decided that it would be unfair for that information to be disclosed into the public domain. As such that disclosure would contravene the first data protection principle and the information you have requested will not be disclosed to you in reliance on the exemption contained in Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.”

As well as being secretive, the decision – which is being referred to the Information Commissioner – will achieve nothing but defer the inevitable, with the amounts having to be disclosed when the council publishes its annual accounts, usually next May.

That, though, will require Croydon Council to obey the law and make its accounts public: because of coronavirus, making local authorities’ unaudited accounts available was this year postponed until the first 10 days of September. Croydon has broken the law and so far failed to make its 2019-2020 accounts publicly available.


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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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4 Responses to Council in attempt to cover-up £440,000 pay-off to Negrini

  1. Behaving in this cowardly and dishonest way has totally blown even the slim chance that Tony may have had in the forthcoming Mayoral election. Good thing too, for lots of reasons, Who wants as Mayor someone who won’t face the outcome of his own choices and behaviour. Negrini was his personal choice, he supported her wholeheartedly throughout her mercifully short reign of failure, he was complicit in her dismissal and will not admit how much this has cost us historically and in relation to this one action.
    I scoffed when she said “I’m not stupid”. I am scoffing no longer: a payoff substantially larger than required by law and the backing of Don Tony… who could want more?

  2. Sebastian Tillinger says:

    With Tony Newman we have overload of failure. He has this perpetual flunking-a-school-test sort of failure that reveals a terrible ignorance, or a basic misunderstanding of one’s brief.

    If Tony Newman thinks Croydon residents have recently become more tolerant of slip-ups because they are now overshadowed by bigger society battles—COVID, Brexit etc he is mistaken. It’s the reverse.

    The problem with Newman is not just the wrong decisions he makes, his inability to see the risk of fucking up and the resultant financial burden to the borough. The problem with Newman is that he is completely inept. It’s an ineptitude that’s grown a hard, protective shell. Perhaps it has something to do with the precarious two parties in Croydon balanced perfectly in their weakness, and their wobbly leaders who feel the need to reward loyalty over competence.

    But I don’t think the answer is in a change of political party in Croydon- the solutions are on Labour’s back benches already – these young councillors and a mayoral election could turn this council around.

  3. dracardweig says:

    Absolutely! Bring it on!

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