This is what happens when you strip front-line services

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The appalling conditions endured by council tenants in South Norwood, says ROD DAVIES, is symptomatic of a decline in local government, where the front-line services are stripped of resources

The damp and mould in a Croydon Council flat in South Norwood in 2021

While the cases of the neglected tenants in damp and mouldy flats in South Norwood is appalling, it is symptomatic of a decline in local government, where the front-line services are stripped of resources while senior management and back-office functions are protected and sometimes elevated, at considerable cost.

It reflects also the tendency to appoint chief executives with no front-line operational management experience. None of the last three CEOs in Croydon had ever held a significant front-line operational management role.

In the glitzy council offices up and down the country, there is a tendency to lose sight of the fact that all the jobs exist solely to deliver local services to local people.

Croydon contracts out repair and maintenance to private sector contractors and presumably there are council officials assigned to manage these contracts. Provided these officers have the skills, knowledge and resources to manage the contracts effectively, then they should be held to account for this failure.

If, on the other hand, they are now so denuded of resources and support that managing the contracts and the volume of transactions is unachievable, then senior management should be held to account for why this situation has arisen.

Hamida Ali: council leader under pressure

While it may be enjoyable to excoriate elected councillors, it is unlikely that they would have been aware of this failure if the senior management does not report to them effectively. By effectively, I mean communicating the issues explicitly so they can act, and not burying the bad news in some lengthy tome largely filled with irrelevance.

We may wonder why service managers did not take action, if they were being impeded, by using the whistleblowing complaint system. However, this route would only be used if it functioned and that councillors were made aware of the complaints when they were made and subsequent investigations were made known to them at each stage.

If the whistleblowing complaints system was wholly controlled by senior officers, complaints may not have been progressed and, in the worse case, the complainant may have become victim of bullying and other action.

Of course all of the above is supposition, but it does suggest that a root and branch overhaul of Croydon Council supported by all parties is much needed.

Croydon Commentary is a platform for all our readers to offer their personal views about what matters to them in and around the borough. To submit an article for publication, just email us at, or post your comment to an Inside Croydon article that has caught your attention

  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at
  • Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
  • Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and BBC London News
  • ROTTEN BOROUGH AWARDS: Croydon was named the country’s rottenest borough in 2020 in the annual round-up of civic cock-ups in Private Eye magazine – the fourth successive year that Inside Croydon has been the source for such award-winning nominations
  • Inside Croydon: 3million page views in 2020. Seen by 1.4million unique visitors
  • Content on this site is also licensed via Ping! News. To access content for copying in full or in part,  please visit

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
This entry was posted in Croydon Council, Hamida Ali, South Norwood and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to This is what happens when you strip front-line services

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    I would agree with everything Rod states – except one part – When Councillors are made aware of the issues and the impacts and still take the decisions with respects to the cuts to resource then ignore residents complaints and matters raised to them they own the fault also as part of the problem. Ms Ali was made aware of the issues with those flats and other issues as were other Councillors yet they have been stunningly silent. Why? Is it guilty consciences?

    • I am making no excuses but, it’s worth asking, have you never had the experience of being told ”there’s not enough money in the budget for that”, even as close as your own home finances? Local government has been squeezed and cut and underfunded by successive governements, especially by tory austerity, for many years. Would you, if a councillor, be happy making life-affecting choices between repairs to council homes and desperately needed childrens services, or ”social care” for the elderly? So often in such matters the urgent need displaces the important need that can wait a little longer… Easy to blame, not nearly so easy to bear the responsibility for the consequences of implementing those strategic budget decisions.

  2. Graham Bradley says:

    A classic case of front line workers having the daily experience of responding to customer calls
    and knowledge of council services but little power, yet those at the top having all the power but no up to date customer knowledge and just relying on what they are being told in committee meetings.

  3. Lewis White says:

    Any large organisation is a pyramid, with large numbers of “do-ers” at the bottom, managers in the middle and at the top, senior managers and then at the apoex, maybe a Chief Executive, or as they are currently called, CeO’s. Chief Excecutive Officers. It sounds so much more important than the former shorter form, and probably attracts more pay on the basis of the title being longer. Welcomed by few other than the recipient, and sellers of printing ink.

    A bit like a big ship, designed to float, laden with a balanced cargo that ensures stability in calm and stormy seas.

    Problems arise with the ship when the weight in the bottom is reduced, but the weight on top stays the same or increases. Then it falls over sideways, and then turns upside down before sinking.

    And when the Capatin and senior Officers have no actual experience of steering and managing a big ship, or experience of sailing in iceberg infested waters.

    Rod Davies’s article above may well reflect the truth of HMS Croydon. Fewer do-ers, more people on the bridge.

    It would be good to see a chart showing all the employees in 1970, their roles, and remuneration, for every subsequent decade until 2020.

  4. Maverick says:

    Well as a former employee of over 28 years service at Croydon Council..when I was offered early retirement I was out the door like a bullet, you could not see me for dust ! When I joined the council in the 70’s you had to have the qualifications for the position you were in or have a professional review .
    Sadly those days are long gone and has now gone to “ jobs for the boys” in other words it’s not what you know but who you know. This can clearly now been seen by what state the council is in. Unfortunately when you have managers and directors who only tell members what they want to hear or it will highlight their incompetence this will never improve. I’m sorry to say that there will never be any light at the end of the tunnel until there is a complete review of senior managers and directors by an external body.As for bullying ….believe me it goes on within the council !

  5. moyagordon says:

    It sounds like passing the buck. Everyone delivering public services are responsible for quality control. Unlike private businesses where poor service will be the ruin of it, the public sector can happily continue operating even if it delivers poor service. Maybe there should be representation from council taxpayers on the council to have oversight, a bit like jury service.

Leave a Reply