Jenrick ministry defends choice of all-white improvement panel

Unrepresentative: the improvement panel  appointed by the government to oversee Croydon is all-white

The government has been forced to defend its decision to appoint an all-white “improvement and assurance panel” to oversee Croydon Council’s efforts to recover from its financial collapse last year.

In January, Robert Jenrick’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government appointed experienced local authority official Tony McArdle to chair Croydon’s improvement panel, alongside Margaret Lee (from Essex County Council, the finance lead), Phil Brookes (overseeing the council’s property portfolio) and Jon Wilson (from Leicestershire County Council, a specialist in adult social care who was added to the group in July).

The panel was put in place as the MHCLG agreed to provide Croydon with a £120million bail-out, the largest ever provided to a failed local authority in Britain.

McArdle and the panel are expected to be in place for at least three years, reporting directly to the Secretary of State, Jenrick.

The panel’s lack of direct experience of working in London or other city boroughs was raised at the time of their appointment.

Tony McArdle: the MHCLG-appointed panel chair

But a report published today by the Municipal Journal says that Croydon Council staff have questioned why the government has appointed an all-white panel for a diverse area where 50.7 per cent of the population is BAME – black, Asian or minority ethnic.

An MHCLG statement in response to a question about the make-up of the panel defended the appointments: “This panel has a wealth of experience in local government finance and is working hard to ensure the residents of Croydon receive value for money from their council.

“These people have the necessary experience needed – based on both the findings of the independent review and Croydon’s own improvement plan – and their appointment had the full support of the council.”

In truth, Croydon Council was hardly in any position to negotiate over the choice of the members of the improvement panel. And this powerlessness was confirmed in a comment made by council leader Hamida Ali to the Municipal Journal.

The panel, Ali said, was “appointed by government and that’s perhaps for government to consider”.

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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
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3 Responses to Jenrick ministry defends choice of all-white improvement panel

  1. Ian Ross says:

    Competence is key. Let’s hope they’re up to the task.

  2. How many are LBTGQI+? Just as relevant as members of the BAME community, which I believe, is a lumping together categories that’s no longer considered helpful. I suspect this panel are all middle-class and middle aged. How are they supposed to understand the needs of a completely different demographic?

  3. Dan Maertens says:

    Let’s hope that by the time the panel actually completes its report, ‘bent’ Bobby Jenrick will have moved on somewhere at Her Majesty’s pleasure, but this government’s love of installing placemen without scrutiny continues unabated. Nice to see that some things never change in these uncertain times.

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