CROYDON IN CRISIS: ‘Kerswell’s cull’ of the council’s executive directors appointed or promoted by her predecessor, Jo Negrini, is not going as smoothly as might have been hoped. And it appears that most will escape any disciplinary action. By STEVEN DOWNES
Croydon Council is facing an expensive-looking possible court case for discrimination and constructive dismissal from one of its executive directors who was suspended earlier this year in the wake of the authority’s financial collapse.
Guy Van Dichele had already given notice that he was leaving his near-£200,000 per year job as executive director for health, wellbeing and adults when he, together with three other execs, were placed on gardening leave in February by the council’s new CEO Katherine Kerswell.
Van Dichele had always been rated as one of the council’s more competent exec directors, and had spent the last year in post overseeing the borough’s response to the covid-19 pandemic. He left Croydon to take up a top job at Southampton City Council.
The Municipal Journal is reporting that Van Dichele is now bringing claims for constructive dismissal and discrimination against Croydon Council.
Van Dichele, finance director Lisa Taylor, Hazel Simmonds, the executive director of localities, and Shifa Mustafa, the executive director of place, were all suspended by Kerswell, while the exec director of resources, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, was said to be on long-term sick leave.
All but Simmonds have since left the council.
All had been appointed or promoted by Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, the previous council chief exec who walked away from the carnage she had helped to create in Croydon with a golden farewell of £440,000.
The trade magazine has confirmed that Mustafa had also resigned from Croydon Council, though without negotiating any pay-off. It is understood that had Mustafa not resigned, she could have been subject to disciplinary action.
Mustafa’s responsibilities included the disaster that is Brick by Brick, the costly bungled refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls and the massive Compulsory Purchase of a swathe of the town centre for a Westfield supermall that is never going to happen.
Mustafa was singled out for criticism by the council’s internal auditors for a blatant conflict of interest, when she accepted an appointment on the board of Brick by Brick while also holding an equivalent position with the Fairfield Halls.
It was also widely known among council staff that “Princess Shifa”, despite being on a salary of £176,000, never worked on Fridays.
In the aftermath of Negrini’s rapid exit last autumn, Mustafa was even appointed as acting chief executive by Tony Newman, then the council leader. She held the position for just a few days before the government parachuted in Kerswell as interim CEO.
Over the past four weeks, there has been a flurry of meetings of the council’s appointments committee – which includes council leader Hamida Ali and her deputy Stuart King – as well as meetings of the “investigating and disciplinary” sub-committee. Much of the business has been conducted in secret.
According to The Municipal Journal, “Last month Croydon’s appointments committee privately agreed to begin an independent investigation into the conduct of the corporate management team but it will only be able to look into Ms Simmonds, as all others members of staff in scope have left the council.”
Read more: The Kerswell cull begins: five senior council execs go ‘off-grid’
Read more: CEO Kerswell gets ready to reorganise council’s senior officials
Read more: Officials to investigate possible wrong-doing at council
- You can support Inside Croydon’s news-breaking independent local journalism. Sign up today as a subscriber. Click here
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- 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
So much for Kerswell and Ali’s assurance to staff at their ‘webinars’ that an investigation into mismanagement by directors and councilors would take place. No staff with any experience of Croydons ‘leadership’ believed that anyway. So much for accountability. Oh I forgot, accountability does not relate to tier 3 and above managers in local government and certainly not ‘elected members’. None disclosure agreements are great for those who know sh!t about their employer.
Guy was one of the few directors with an IQ, competent with his portfolio; and liked by his staff; a very rare thing at BWH. Good luck to him with is tribunal.
Kerswell is not liked by those who report to her. She leaves things to the last minute, ignores advice and executes delegated tasks herself; seemingly knowing better than her appointed experts. It has been said that Jo Negrini was a joy to work with compared to Kerswell. If this is the daily truth, which it is said to be by insiders; the Council has a rough road ahead with its current management.
Get Rid of Croydon Council.
They are useless and incompetent.
They do nothing good for the people who live in the borough.
I hope the new CEO has not left the door open to compensation claims – that would be quite appalling in terms of increased financial burden on the council’s finances.
If someone has said he is leaving why change those terms and put him on gardening leave?
If Kerswell has messed this up, residents will want answers.
This borough does not need another Jo Negreedy making bad decisions that costs the council money.
It beggars belief the standard of people who run for these council CEO roles – they act with impunity as there are no shareholders to scrutinise bad decisions. Has Kerswell ever worked in the private sector?