Croydon councillors, including the leader of the Conservative opposition, have agreed to appoint as the council’s finance director someone who previously worked amid a “bullying culture” at another failing local authority.
Richard Ennis’s appointment, to one of the most critical positions at the cash-strapped council, was announced at last night’s cabinet meeting. He replaces Chris Buss, the former consultant hired to look into Brick by Brick and other council properties, who has been filling in on the role since Lisa Taylor’s resignation earlier this year.
It would be a reasonable guess that when applying for the £150,000-plus per year job with Croydon, Ennis did not suggest Nathan Elvery as one of his references.
Elvery, as a former council finance director, deputy CEO and latterly Croydon’s chief executive from 2013 to 2016, probably did more damage to the borough’s reputation than even his appointee and successor in the top job, Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, managed in her disastrous four years at Fisher’s Folly.
It was Elvery (“Efficiency is in our DNA”) who was twice investigated when at Croydon for dodgy deals in council procurement and then, after his move to West Sussex County Council, scandalised the residents of sleepy Chichester and its surrounds, leading to the downfall of the long-standing Tory leader of the council. Elvery was eventually suspended from his job, though he later left WSCC with a massive pay-off.
Elvery’s suspension followed the release of a seriously critical report by children’s services commissioner John Coughlan, who warned of “a bullying culture that starts at the top of the organisation and infects the rest of the corporate centre at least” in West Sussex.
Elvery became notorious at West Sussex for being paid nearly £50,000 in “relocation expenses”, and then never actually moving from his home in Epsom.
When Elvery was stood down, three of his hand-picked appointees quickly scuttled out the exit door from the Chichester council offices: Heather Daley and Ravi Dhindsa, who had both worked closely with Elvery in Croydon, and Ennis.
Ennis had only been appointed as director of resources in July 2019, and lasted less than three months at West Sussex.
Sources in Sussex-by-the-Sea suggest that Ennis received £86,000 from WSCC for his few weeks there (including two months’ pay in lieu of notice). That council’s draft annual accounts for 2020-2021 are now subject to a resident’s challenge in respect of “two pay-offs to former chief officers and two huge total payments to agencies for interim directors”.
Since his time working for Elvery, Ennis has held a couple of interim roles (including “programme director – place shaping”) at Warwickshire CC.
His CV shows that before his perhaps unfortunate encounter with Elvery, Ennis had worked briefly at Sutton Housing Partnership after a 10-year spell in a senior finance role at government agency Homes England.
He has also previously worked at Lambeth Council as the finance executive director.
Following Buss, Taylor and Richard Simpson, who resigned in December 2018, Ennis will be Croydon’s fourth finance director in less than three years.
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Being appointed Finance Director in Croydon sounds a bit like being paid to jump out of an aircraft without a parachute. I don’t suppose he can’t be held accountable for the character of his former boss and we should wish him good luck with the task he has on his hands.
Perhaps we should do a Residents challenge here also!
We did – a people’s audit. We submitted a series of questions to the council auditors, including a request to discover how £22million of landlord licence fees had been used. That was before the end of December 2020. We’re still awaiting a response.