CROYDON IN CRISIS: While the average salary of council employees is a modest £23,000, those at the top of the organisation, even when it was heading for financial collapse, still made sure they awarded themselves cushty pay hikes.
By STEVEN DOWNES
In her last full year in charge of the council, with the authority already spiralling towards bankruptcy, Jo Negrini enjoyed yet another pay rise as her wage and pension package hit an eye-watering £218,358.
Figures for 2019-2020 obtained under the Freedom of Information Act also appear to confirm suspicions aired a year ago that Colm Lacey, the former Croydon staffer who was put in charge of Brick by Brick, could have been paid more than £200,000 in his last year as an employee of the council.
Negrini scarpered from Fisher’s Folly last August, with the council in meltdown and on the brink of financial collapse, though not before she negotiated a £440,000 pay-off from the crisis-hit council – a figure which appears to be very close to the equivalent of two years’ salary and pensions.
According to the latest figures, by March 2020, Negrini was receiving £189,165 in salary, plus £29,195 in pension contributions. There would have been additional payments, of at least £10,000, for her default role as returning officer at elections held in the borough, although these amounts of public money are never disclosed on the spurious grounds that they are “private”.
The figures show that in the financial year to the end of March 2020, Croydon Council had 19 members of staff on salaries of £100,000 per year. This, in an organisation where the average pay packet is around £23,000.
These latest figures show only two council staff with packages in excess of £200,000 per year, down from the three of the previous year – Negreedy, Guy van Dichele and the mysteriously unidentified individual.
There is no record of a senior council executive who might have been on £200,000 pa leaving Fisher’s Folly between April 2019 and 2020, but it is known that Lacey transferred from the council’s payroll to Brick by Brick in September 2019.
Such a transfer probably involved a hefty payment into Lacey’s gold-plated public pension pot, which could have put him up to the £202,000 shown in the 2018-2019 figures.
Lacey’s salary at Brick by Brick has since been kept a closely guarded secret.
Croydon’s 19 directors and execs on six-figure salaries is down from the previous year’s 23, but is still significantly more than the 15 who were on that salary scale in 2015, the year when empire-builder Negrini was first promoted to the chief executive’s job.
The figures were compiled by those paragons of non-transparency at The Tax-Payers’ Alliance, part of their annual Town Hall Rich List exercise.
The TPA says that the average number of employees who received more than £100,000 in total remuneration per local authority is a mere seven.
Of the 19 Croydon execs listed as being paid £100,000 or more in 2019-2020, only seven were named by the council when it responded to the FoI request.
At least five of those, including Negrini and van Dichele, have left the council in the past year, while the status of Hazel Simmonds (who was one of four execs suspended this March) and Jacqueline Harris-Baker (the borough solicitor who Negrini promoted beyond her capabilities to take charge of the council’s resources) remains shrouded in uncertainty.
There’s a dishonourable mention in this year’s Town Hall Rich List, too, for a Fisher’s Folly old boy, Nathan Elvery.
The TPA confirms Elvery received £427,653 (therefore, only nine-tenths of a full “Negrini”) when he was shown the door from the top job at West Sussex County Council. Seemingly undaunted by such a set-back, Elvery is now heading up two local authorities oop north. Lucky people…
Back in Croydon, and Fisher’s Folly is assuredly under new management, with local authority troubleshooter Katherine Kerswell having recently been confirmed in the role of chief executive at the Labour-controlled council (she ended up as the sole candidate interviewed) on a salary of £192,474 – or £3,000 more than Negreedy was paying herself by April 2020. Trebles all-round!
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