£800 per day council director Knight quits housing top job

CROYDON IN CRISIS: ‘Troubleshooter’ hired to fix scandalous conditions in flats in South Norwood has left cash-strapped local authority after less than six months. EXCLUSIVE By STEVEN DOWNES

Alison Knight: £800 per day housing director failed to meet Regina Road residents

Alison Knight, the £800 per day director who was hired in May in the wake of the housing scandal surrounding tower blocks in South Norwood, has left Croydon Council.

Knight did not see out the full six-month term of her £104,000 appointment at the cash-strapped council, where she had been hand-picked as a troubleshooter by chief exec Katherine Kerswell.

When she was hired by Croydon, the council issued a statement saying that Knight would “co-ordinate widespread improvements to how council residents are listened to and looked after”.

In its self-congratulatory press release, the council quoted Knight as saying, “I am passionate about delivering excellent services to local people, and this role is a great opportunity to help make sure everyone in council homes feels cared for and receives a really good, responsive experience across our teams.”

Yet in her less-than-six months working at Croydon, Knight never bothered to meet with the Regina Road Residents Support Group, whose members include many of those caught at the centre of the scandal which saw one expert describe the squalid conditions in their flats as “the worst in Britain”.

Snubbed: Regina Road residents have been demanding meetings with council chiefs, such as Knight, since March

One meeting with the residents was eventually arranged for August, but Knight failed to show. She was taking annual leave. A second meeting was arranged for September, but was cancelled by the council on the somewhat spurious grounds that it was during the purdah period before the mayoral referendum. Knight never bothered arranging any other meeting date.

Fisher’s Folly sources who worked with Knight during her brief stay suggested she was ill-suited for the role and the urgent demands facing the council. “She was nothing but a local council bureaucrat,” said one.

“Dr” Knight as she liked to be known (she has a qualification in education) is understood to have left her job with Croydon on Friday.

According to her online profile, she is now “director of place” at Broxbourne Council, a small rural borough in Hertfordshire. This appointment suggests that Knight will have spent some of her very well-paid time while at Croydon job hunting and going through the recruitment process with her new employers.

David Padfield: ‘interim’

Knight’s replacement is David Padfield, who has previously worked in senior positions at Lewisham and, most recently, in Hackney.

The council has failed to issue any press release to publicise this important change among key personnel.

Padfield’s job title carries the prefix of “interim”, something which has caused concerns among housing experts who have been monitoring the situation in Croydon.

“However good an ‘interim’ appointee might be, not having a permanent appointment for such a significant position means that the person doing it lacks real authority within the organisation to implement long-term changes and really impact the culture,” they told Inside Croydon.

“I question why Kathrine Kerswell has failed to find someone to fill the role permanently; she’s had six months in which to conduct the recruitment.

“When the independent consultants from ARK delivered their report on the Regina Road scandal, they included a series of recommendations for change and improvement, including some that required immediate action.

“Did Alison Knight deliver on any of these recommendations at all? Will her interim replacement be able to do any better?”

Read more: ‘None of the tenants in Croydon trust anybody in the council’
Read more: Residents’ group pledges to keep up the fight for decent homes
Read more: Croydon shamed over ‘dangerous squalor’ in council flats

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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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Alison Knight, Community associations, Croydon Council, David Padfield, Housing, Katherine Kerswell, Regina Road Residents' Support Group, South Norwood and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to £800 per day council director Knight quits housing top job

  1. Kerswell’s bad judgement again. Is she morphing into a facsimile of Negrini and Newman?

    Time to go, KK?

  2. moyagordon says:

    For pity’s sake. Why don’t they just give the job to anyone with some common sense. It doesn’t take some over qualified numpty to work out what needs doing.

  3. Lewis White says:

    The good doctor would have been paid £104,000 for 6 months work, probably with a nice little Pension contribution ? £800 per day . Not at all bad.

    This would have employed 2 building surveyors for a whole year, or 2 housing officers.

    They might have been able to work out why Regina Road flats were running with damp.

    What’s with all this “Interim” stuff?.

    A merry-go-round of Interim appointments, creating a shifting scene where nothing is permanent can’t create the stability needed to tackle the many needs facing the borough.

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    Clearly ”Dr” Knight no longer wanted to be a tethered goat for Ms Kerswell.
    So as reported the council issued a statement saying that Knight would “co-ordinate widespread improvements to how council residents are listened to and looked after”.
    Sounds to me like they got the advert wrong the headhunt wrong or the interviewer was misled, perhaps all three, perhaps none. But that missive was inflated up past hyperbole and dropped like a stone into dissembling.

    Whatever the reason £104,000 + costs have been miss-spent. Ms Knight certainly is worth a Doctorate for the unwritten thesis in ”managing to get a cushty job whilst being paid £100k+ for another I could not be bothered with”

    But all is not lost. for a cheap sum of costs and a small team, one could quickly (1 month) develop a short term plan that would not only co-ordinate widespread improvements on how residents are both listened to and looked after but also come up with a range of options to implement improvements. perhaps 2 months longer for costed workable solutions and a period of Consultation if and as required along with implementation of ”quick wins at low cost.

    However for any plan to work from whomever it requires also an Executive to listen communicate and act.

    And there you may have the stumbling block. However –

    As an interim solution can I suggest to Croydon Council to post a commitment (with the editors consent) to IC stating they will have a meeting with Regina Court Residents and representatives of all Neighborhood Housing associations that have social housing matters to address attended by Ms Kerswell and the responsible executives with authority to change things. Give me 5000 leaflets and posters and I will make sure it goes to those around that area (volunteers welcome) for free. give me ink an paper and I will even print them – actually I have 10 reams so just the ink for an Epson workforce wf3520. (Any Printing company feel free to offer a free service)

    At the meeting tell the truth no matter how bad – even if there is no money state that and what can be done and then work together to get solutions moving. Remember, you Ms Kerswell, did not create this problem. But if you allow it to continue, you will own it moving forward for not dealing with it.

    Then do the same with your Planning departments detrimental impacts and stop the vicarious damage and suffering to innocents and their homes and lives for developer and Council benefit.

  5. Sheryl Read says:

    Unfortunately it does appear Croydon council continue to fail to deal with issues inherited by the total, bordering on criminal, mismanagement by the previous “director” and lead Councillors. I don’t know whether they are blinded and cannot see what is obvious to others or they just want to tinker with bits and bobs to make it look as if the are doing something. . However what is happening they are failing to be proactive an example is shown in their dealings with Regina Road residents and as a council tenant their property maintenance is at best slow but really pretty nonexistent. £800 a day for inertia to be revealed. Really you couldn’t make it up

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