Croydon Council has been handed the ultimate accolade: the most rotten of boroughs in the 2020 Rotten Borough Awards, revealed today in the latest edition of Private Eye magazine.
The awards are always hotly contested, with the greed, venality and incompetence of many council staff and elected councillors across the country a regular cause of astonishment and disbelief among the public that they are supposed to serve.
But Croydon this year had a not-so secret weapon in Brick by Brick, the loss-making house-builders, and saw off all-comers.
After three years of knocking on the door with runners-up gongs in various categories in Lord Gnome’s annual round-up of the not-so-great and not-very-good in local government, Croydon went above and beyond in 2020, crashing into bankruptcy in November in order to secure top spot.
What’s more, Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, the vain and vindictive council chief exec who ran up debts of £1.5billion while in charge, also got a mention in dispatches, giving Croydon claim to two prizes in one year at the Rotten Borough Awards.
Croydon missed out only in one possible category, the “Farewell And Good Riddance” award, where former leader Tony Newman and his clique of mates who had helped to run the council into the ground inexplicably didn’t rate a mention.
Maybe that’s because, despite their spectacular failure, Newman, Paul Scott, Alison Butler and Simon Hall still continue to collect allowances as councillors, having failed to do the decent thing and resign.
But that should not detract from delight from grasping the main award, which Newman & Co did so much to help secure.
Under the category “Going For Broke”, the Eye notes, “As councils found themselves increasingly starved of funds by central government, many looked for ways to make money on the side.
“Trouble is, local authorities are not full of people with experience running office rentals, house building, shopping centres, solar farms or – very fashionable this one – ‘social energy’ companies, so commercial successes were thin on the ground.
“Labour Croydon council… is the only authority actually to go bust in 2020, and therefore gets the gong.”
Brick by Brick, the award citation stated, “proved very good at losing money (it owes the council at least £110million in unpaid capital and interest on loans) but not so great at building stuff.”
Astonishingly, even with her £440,000 reward for failure handed to her by Croydon councillors in September, Negreedy – as the Eye now insists on calling the self-proclaimed “regeneration practitioner” – did not get the biggest local authority golden handshake of 2020. So she managed only to finish runner-up in the “Payoffs of the Year” category.
Better luck next time, eh, Jo? If there ever is a next time.
Private Eye is available from today in all good newsagents. And some not so good ones, too.
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