LGA probe has all the hallmarks of a Town Hall whitewash

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The independent investigation into the council’s financial collapse needs to examine all aspects of mismanagement, including the £440,000 pay-off to the former chief exec, according to one disgruntled councillor

The borough’s elected councillors have not been invited to take part in a LGA-funded investigation

Apart from being able to read the terms of reference on Inside Croydon, by midday on Wednesday this week, I had been sent nothing by the council about how the Local Government Association-funded initial investigation into how the council’s finances collapsed would work.

Nor have I been invited to participate, or even provided with an email address through which I, other elected representatives and whistleblowers might offer evidence.

I now learn that the LGA’s Richard Penn started his investigation 10 days ago.

It has all the hallmarks of preparing for a whitewash when it comes to establishing who is responsible for bankrupting the borough.

After all, why would council staff take the time to contact journalists and specifically instruct them not to include any reference in their reports to Jo Negrini, the council’s former chief executive for the period of time that this investigation is supposed to cover?

I’m concerned that the exodus of senior staff from the council could mean that those responsible are doing a runner, so that they can avoid taking part in this investigation.

Tony Newman: in denial

Those Labour councillors who previously held senior positions in the administration are still in denial about what has happened and their part in creating this financial catastrophe. Thank goodness that they are no longer in the cabinet.

It’s vital for Croydon’s credibility that it gets to the bottom of what exactly Negrini and Tony Newman, the council leader who promoted her into the top job, were each doing as this crisis unfolded over the summer and whether officers or senior councillors, or both, got Croydon into this financial mess

The investigation should also look explicitly at whether Negrini’s £440,000 payoff was justified in light of her performance and the part that she played in Croydon’s bankruptcy.

I bet it doesn’t.

Read more: Council forced to declare itself bankrupt
Read more: ‘One of the biggest casualties of council crisis is our trust’
Read more: Council staff ‘are angry, upset and want answers’

  • Croydon Commentary is a platform for all our readers to offer their personal views about what matters to them in and around the borough. It usually appears under a byline, but on this occasion, the councillor has requested we respect their anonymity.
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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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6 Responses to LGA probe has all the hallmarks of a Town Hall whitewash

  1. No surprise there then ALTHOUGH both Councillors and Officers need to be aware that the public will not only be suffering from the up-coming cuts, they will also be watching closely to ensure that those chiefly responsible for the financial carnage will be held to account.

  2. Dave Spart says:

    Unfortunately a number of those councillors are left, including the new leader. It is neither feasible nor excusable to claim financial illiteracy when auditors’ reports with warnings written in plain English were freely available. As for the chair of scrutiny blaming his incompetence on the information he was given, he needs to go. Can anyone have confidence in this man being able to do the job?

  3. David Simons says:

    Totally agree with you; will the investigation detail how much money Croydon Council has given to BH Live, operators of Fairfield Halls since 2017? The relevance of this is as follows:

    No lease has been signed. The operator agreement was apparently out of date once the venue opened – was a new document put in place?

    Why did the council continue paying vast sums of money, c£150k per month when they knew the bank account was bare?

    Why did the council hand over more cash to assist BH Live to reopen the halls when they knew they were just about to go bankrupt? What paperwork accompanied this recent pay out and who authorised it?

    The timing of these payments is crucial as it will show that while front line services were being cut and staff were being made redundant there was a clear cover-up in place – no one wanted BH Live to leave Fairfield (except the arts community of Croydon) as it would greatly embarrass Tony Newman, Shifa MustavaFridayoff and Paula Murray and call in to question their ability to manage council business.

    If such wastefulness can occur on one Croydon project how much has been wasted elsewhere? The truth is out there… too many great people have been thrown aside by BH Live and before them, Croydon Council (Who let us not forget closed down the previous Trust). Will the investigation open up for whistleblowers or has the final whistle already been blown? Is this report already written?

  4. Graham Bradley says:

    Negrini must be called to account and questioned rigorously by the auditors. Presumably Newman asked her to sign a non-disclosure agreement in lieu of her payoff. However this should not detract from her refusing to give evidence by doing a runner and lying low.

  5. moyagordon says:

    I don’t understand why employees who choose to leave the council are not obliged to take part in this kind of investigation. It’s an easy way of getting off the hook. A loophole that needs closing.

  6. Can the police do a Joe Anderson here, and quick?

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