Council survey on cuts tries to pass the buck to residents

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The people running the borough, whether executive staff on sky-high salaries or elected councillors, have a well-earned reputation for failing to listen to the people they are supposed to serve. So why should residents expect any difference with the latest ‘consultation’?
By WALTER CONXITE, political editor

Extraordinarily, the council is still issuing letters with this vacuous slogan

In possibly the most tin-eared announcement yet from the most tin-eared of councils (slogan: “Delivering Misery for Croydon”), the propaganda department this lunchtime issued its latest missive from the bunker in Fisher’s Folly, announcing the launch of a public consultation on the cuts that need to be made to try to balance its mismanaged budget.

If the old-new council leader Hamida Ali thought that the findings of the auditors’ Report In The Public Interest were “shocking”, or that the PwC consultants’ report into the multi-million-pound bungling at house-builders Brick by Brick was troubling, then she had better prepare herself for a cascade of shit to be poured over her head when residents unleash their growing anger at the way she and her colleagues have run the Town Hall.

With a £66million hole in this year’s council budget, what Ali and the £192,474 per year interim chief exec, Katherine Kerswell, will be hoping is that residents’ responses to their latest consultation will in some manner give them permission to make swingeing cuts to services, including to adult social care packages, reduced social worker staffing looking after vulnerable children, axing school buses for kids with SEND, or closing libraries and leisure centres.

Katherine Kerswell: cuts are already well underway

Thing is, together with the “erasing” of more than 400 council posts and another 130 job cuts to come in the New Year, many of those cuts are already being implemented. The cuts are going to happen, whether residents like it or not.

“Croydon Council wants to hear from residents, staff and partners on plans to get its finances back on track and focus on providing the best essential services we can, while living within our means,” was the trite intro to today’s press office release.

It is a version the agreed mantra, the party line, which Ali has been at pains to repeat at every opportunity in the six weeks since she took over as leader of the Labour group which controls the Town Hall. Trouble is, even with repetition, the phrasing always lacks even a chimaera of sincerity.

The release drones on: “From today, the council is asking people for feedback on initial savings proposals it has set out for 2021-2024, to understand the impact they have on our communities and hear ideas about how it could do things differently. You can read an overview and give your views via this page on the council website.

Even the council phone line, offered for those without access to the internet, provides an illustration of the kind of staffing cuts which have been underway for years at Fisher’s Folly, while exec directors have never been subject to any cut-backs or reductions.

The phones (number: 020 8604 7114, it is not even a freephone) are staffed for just six hours a day, on weekdays.

More trite euphemisms from a council that is in a hole

The web page and press release are both overflowing with trite euphemisms and avoidance. “The savings proposals are part of Croydon’s renewal plans, which outline how Croydon plans to tackle its financial challenges with a three year-improvement journey to become financially sustainable for the future…”.

Collaborate”, “Connect”, Community”, “Communicate”, “Challenges” and “Journeys“. They can’t actually bring themselves to state that the council is broke, and that many of them are responsible for causing the mess.

The next sentence of the press release makes the mistake of admitting that the whole public consultation is utterly bogus. “Cabinet approved the renewal plans…”. It’s all already been agreed, with Whitehall mandarins watching to ensure that the cuts go deep enough, the pain is spread wide and far. It really doesn’t matter what the public think. As usual.

But to disguise their own powerlessness in the matter, councillors in Ali’s old-new cabinet “… gave the go-ahead to ask the public for feedback on the savings proposals on November 25. The cabinet reports are published here, including the savings proposals for 2021-2024 which are set out in full here.

“The survey closes on January 24, in time for feedback to inform the council’s budget proposals for 2021-2022. Some of the proposals are ready, some of them need more work and others, such as changes to libraries, require full public consultations early next year.”

The press release then carried more than 200 words of quotes attributed to Ali (now on annual allowances of £55,000), containing more of the mantra and more euphemistic language, including, “There will be some difficult decisions ahead.” No shit, Sherlock.

But since Councillor Ali has failed to respond to Inside Croydon’s repeated requests to be interviewed, we will not pass her propaganda’s quotes on to our large and ever-growing readership.

Instead, here’s another chance to listen to Ali being interviewed on the Vanessa Feltz radio show…

Read more: Council forced to declare itself bankrupt
Read more: Officials to investigate possible wrong-doing at council


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
This entry was posted in Adult Social Care, Brick by Brick, Children's Services, Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, Katherine Kerswell, Libraries, Report in the Public Interest, Section 114 notice, SEND and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Council survey on cuts tries to pass the buck to residents

  1. Dave Tomlinson says:

    Could someone please confirm for me please, how much money do Councillors get paid and is it still based upon how many committees they sit on? I which case, how much do they get paid per committee? Just wondering if they’d be up for sustaining a pay cut in order to help out? Just a thought.

    • There hasn’t been a committee system in Croydon, Dave, for around 20 years…

      All elected councillors get a basic allowance of £11,463 per year.

      Then, there’s a set of “Special Responsibility Allowances”, doled out by the leader and opposition leader, depending on how doggedly loyal, unquestioning and faithful you might have been.

      So as council leader, Hamida Ali receives an additional £44,083, on top of her 11 grand.
      As opposition leader, the Tories’ Jason Perry receives a grand total of basic + SRA amounting to £33,468 for basically doing not a great deal, apart from sounding off in futility at every council meeting.
      The chair of scrutiny, as another example, gets a total of almost £42,000.
      Other committee chairs also receive a SRA.

      It appears that, by abandoning one of the two deputy leaders that Tony Newman had, the council might be saving itself the balance of £36,000 this financial year.

      The full details are available on the council website, with only a little digging: https://democracy.croydon.gov.uk/documents/s9354/Scheme%20of%20Allowances%20201819.pdf

      • Colin Cooper says:

        Which confirms my opinion that the lazy b****rds can do their jobs themselves instead of expecting the Council Tax payers to do it for them! Nobody ever did my job for me, get on with it!

  2. CentralCroydon says:

    It is a shame they can’t be a bit more honest when asking for residents views. Here are a few examples with the real meaning in brackets:

    Increase social work case loads £1.065 (undo the good work done previously and get rid of more social workers making sure that the remaining staff can’t cope)

    ANPR Camera enforcement £5.025m (use CCTV cameras to screw the motorist at every opportunity)

    Parking Charges Increases £3.014m (let’s fuck the motorist over even more)

    Baseline Savings – Disabilities Operational Budget £3.015m (leave people with disabilities to their own devices and stop providing support to the most vulnerable)

    Perhaps they should ask the question: “Do you agree that we have completely fucked things up, that we don’t want to take any real responsibility for the mess we have made, and we want to blame our residents for which cuts we are making?”

    I am sure they would get a 100% response to that one.

    • Joe Clark says:

      Agree entirely, who is the Council Director in charge of Parking please?

      • Council worker says:

        Steve Iles

        • Don’t you mean “the remarkably under-qualified and over-promoted” Steve Iles?

        • Joe Clark says:

          Well that says it all, Negreedy’s little puppet, the same dimwit who has ruined the borough with his idiotic three large bins per household, blocking most of the footpaths in the borough for wheelchair users and prams in the process! Is he the one responsible for renegotiating the waste contract with Veolia in September to the tune of an extra £21 million, supposedly to safeguard our three recycling/waste centres, and now one or two of those are going to be closed to cut costs?? A very expensive mistake, you just couldn’t make it up could you!!!!!!!

  3. chris Myers says:

    Yet another ‘consultation’!

    We had one in Kenley that was being run on behalf of the council by a firm of architects – it was all about what we valued and so on. It closely followed the ‘green spaces’ consultation, which IC noted was an attempt to cover up the failure to consult on the Local Plan. And now this!

    They ask could we do anything else? My suggestion was that the cabinet resign and some kind of apolitical caretaker administration be brought it. I also suggested that they actually show some humility – apologise and compensate us.

    And the CEO who led the whole fiasco be made to answer for her arrogance and incompetence.

  4. Zenia Jamison says:

    A consultation is passing the buck but also highlighting that they are still incompetent and don’t know how to make savings themselves.

    The two Labour MPs are noticeably silent on the financial disaster their mates have left us in.

    Sarah Jones thinks she can save the libraries by us all volunteering, but she doesn’t seem to realise that volunteering doesn’t pay the bills. Perhaps she and the councillors could volunteer their posts, as they are working for the public?!

  5. Billy James says:

    Further to your article, Kerswell stated in one of them online staff meetings that directors would not be taking pay cuts as they need the salaries to attract the best candidates. It’s certainly not worked to date has it?
    At least Hamida “Challenges” Ali has put her equalities and diversity training to use in that pointless consultation.

    • Maverick says:

      Totally agree Bill, if that’s what they call the “ best candidates “ I would ask for a rebate because they are sure not a good example ! … not forgetting Croydon Council’s Directors Motto “ Do what I say, not what I do “

    • Lewis White says:

      From Local Government Chronicle 25 August 2020 …………………..

      Chief execs and chief officers win 2.75% pay rise

      Council chief executives and chief officers have been awarded the same pay rise as other local government staff.

      The Association of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers welcomed the 2.75% pay increase from April 2020, which met its demand for parity with other council workers.

      The pay award applies to staff covered by the Joint Negotiating Committee for Chief Executives of Local Authorities, and the Joint Negotiating Committee for Chief Officers of Local Authorities……………………………………….

      …………………………………………….. The Joint Negotiating Committee for Chief Officers of Local Authorities will also carry out a survey of all local authorities to establish the extent of the gender pay gap among chief officers.

      According to a letter from the joint secretaries of the JNC, councils and the committee will then “agree a joint approach on how to remove any such gender pay gap”.

      The letter added that the committee has also “agreed to enter into discussions to agree a new package to improve chief officers’ work-life balance”.

      I WONDER IF ……………….
      Croydon CeO and Chief Officers will be forgoing this useful 2.75 % rise, for a symbolic 1 year period period from the announcement of Croydon’s bankruptcy for a year ?
      On a salary of £100,000 per annum, 2.5% is £2500

      In symbolic solidarity with the bulk of Croydon staff who are paid under £30,000 per year (on a salary of £30,000, 2.5% is £ 750)… 300 (or 450 ?) of whom will be losing their jobs .

      • Quite the contrary. On of the reasons suggested for the delay in Negreedy’s departure was that they were waiting for the 2.75% pay rise to factor it into the settlement she finally walked away with.

        More coming on this story later.

  6. N says:

    When will Brick by Brick be paying us back – I missed 1 council tax payment for £120 3 years ago and had to pay £400 fine back with aggression from both council (nothing we can do – in bailiffs hands now) and bailiffs – where are these bailiffs now? They did an excellent job putting the fear of God into me for £120 + outrageous charges (with council consent) – looking forward to seeing what they’re planning for the £40mill.

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