Council recruitment drive offers £1.1m in wages across 8 jobs

CROYDON IN CRISIS: One year since the council declared itself bankrupt, CEO Katherine Kerswell is offering a slew of six-figure salaried executive positions for recruits to be ‘part of a new chapter’ and to ‘go on a journey’.
By Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE

New chapter: CEO Katherine Kerswell

Croydon’s cash-strapped council, after handing out P45s to around 500 frontline workers over the course of two years while making budgets cuts totalling £83million, has just placed ads for eight new appointments that together offer salaries that total more than £1million per year.

The timing may be unavoidable, the optics of arrogance and entitlement among the council’s most senior staff are appalling.

Under chief executive Katherine Kerswell (herself on a cushty £192,474), the council has supposedly undergone a reorganisation this year which seems to amount to exchanging a word in the job titles of the authority’s best-paid employees.

Instead of “executive director”,  they are now to be known as “corporate director”.

It is sure to make all the difference…

£150,547: This job ad for a ‘corporate director’ was posted on the first anniversary of the council issuing a S114 Notice, declaring itself bankrupt

And under Kerswell, there appears to be a couple more exec/corporate director positions than there were when she arrived in Croydon in September 2020 as a troubleshooter, on a mission to reduce the council’s costs and overheads.

The jobs have all been newly advertised in the last week, almost exactly one year since the council was forced to declare itself effectively bankrupt, unable to balance the books.

The jobs on offer are:

  • Corporate Director of Children, Young People & Education (DCS)
  • Corporate Director of Adult Social Care and Health (DASS)
  • Chief People Officer (whatever that’s supposed to mean)
  • Director of Legal Services (Monitoring Officer and Proper Officer)
  • Director of Commercial Investment
  • Corporate Director of Sustainable Communities, Regeneration & Economic Recovery
  • Corporate Director of Resources (S151)
  • Corporate Director of Housing

The ads all state, “This is an opportunity to be part of a new chapter for Croydon and help shape the future of the council.” Which is nice.

Before: this is how the council’s ‘executive leadership team’ looked shortly after Kerswell’s arrival in September 2020, with five exec directors plus two directors

The “corporate director” positions each offer a salary from £141,965 up to £150,547.

The other positions are advertised as offering £100,000-plus. Which is very nice…

Kerswell has appointed a slew of “interims” to senior positions in the past year or so. This is the move to fill them permanently. The task cannot have been made any easier given that Sue Moorman, the erstwhile head of personnel, quit her post a couple of months ago without having another job to go to. “A career break”, is how she described it.

The job ads are full of the by-now-familiar marketing speak so beloved by local public servants, using the kind of language you’d usually expect to read in an estate agents’ window – insincere and utterly unconvincing.

After: the transformation of the leadership team after 12 months, with two new exec positions

“Inspire Excellence”, they say.

“Croydon is a council on a journey.” Of course it is.

“By accepting and addressing the challenges of its past, the council is transforming itself into a modern, sustainable and resident-focused local authority.” Did we mention “insincere”?

“This is an opportunity to be part of a new chapter for Croydon and help shape the future of the council. A council with a passion for driving positive change and delivering excellence; a community with a rich heritage, a diverse population and a distinct identity. It’s an environment in which you can find fresh inspiration and inspire others in equal measure.

“Welcome to Croydon Council – and a role that will challenge you and fulfil you like never before…”.

And on it goes. You probably won’t want to read much more, or risk projectile vomiting over your computer screen.

Pretty vacant: CEO Katherine Kerswell had six months to organise a permanent replacement as housing chief for Alison Knight. And didn’t

This, remember, is a London borough council which has made so many frontline staff redundant, they can’t even answer the phone lines in order to take payments from residents who want to pay their Council Tax.

“You’ll deliver cultural change to our service delivery model that will give residents greater choice and control, tackle inequalities and improve service access and increase support for those with the highest level of need.” Hard to believe, innit?

This is the same council that paid £104,000 on a six-month contract to a Kerswell appointee, ostensibly to sort out the mess in “the worst flats in Britain”, where mouldy walls, leaking ceilings and dodgy electrics were exposed in television news reports that caused a national scandal. That director, Alison Knight, has already left Croydon without ever once meeting the Regina Road Residents’ Support Group.

Bowing out?: Debbie Jones has been on £800 per day since October 2020

So much for residents’ “greater choice and control”, or for improving “service access and increase support for those with the highest level of need”, eh?

And the council’s job ad copy continues, “You’ll work collaboratively as part of the new corporate team of directors and with our chief executive to deliver the Croydon Renewal Improvement Plan, our priorities and ways of working, and a financially sustainable budget by March 2024.” So that’s all sorted then.

Most of the positions are currently filled by “interims”, who are now expected to apply for the post full-time. They include Knight’s immediate replacement, David Padfield, and Richard Ennis, the council’s third finance chief in less than a year.

Others, such as veteran Debbie Jones, £800-per-day interim executive director for children, families and education, since October 2020, are expected to be replaced.

According to the job ads, the director of commercial investment, who’s to be paid a relatively “modest” £104,902 to £109,140pa, has a particularly interesting time ahead of them.

Their job description requires that the successful candidate should be capable of…

  • Taking the lead on and delivering any land or property-based commercial transactions, including housing disposals and acquisitions (the Croydon fire sale)
  • Ensuring robust governance and control around our shareholdings, asset investment funds and any other entities (that would make a pleasant change)
  • Overseeing the recruitment of non-executive directors to all council company boards, ensuring they have the right level of training, development and support (in contrast to the former board members of Brick by Brick)
  • Meeting all shareholder requirements both contractually and operationally, and upholding our governance requirements in briefing members appropriately and ensuring transparent and effective decision-making (there’s a first time for everything)
  • Acting as the client representative on all future affordable housing development, managing all asset purchases and disposals, and creating an asset management register (which suggests that the council’s existing asset register is inadequate, if it exists at all).

One position not being advertised is that of “assistant chief executive”, which was created by Kerswell last year and handed to Elaine Jackson.

It is not known how long Jackson will continue in post as an “interim”.

But there is a strong sense that the latest job ads are there for appearance’s sake, much like when Kerswell applied to make her CEO’s interim position permanent: after headhunters were employed and a “competitive” recruitment process, she ended up being the only applicant.

Trebles all-round!

Read more: Town Hall’s untrue claims about cuts to Council Tax Support
Read more: Further £38.4m to be sliced from next year’s council budget
Read more: Labour wants to cut voluntary sector funding by a ‘full Negrini’

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8 Responses to Council recruitment drive offers £1.1m in wages across 8 jobs

  1. ‘Intern’ is a ghastly Americanism that seemed to arrive with the Clinton impeachment and Monica Lewinsky. It’s a misnomer that is now shorthand for underpaid – if at all – temporary staff. Except, it seems at Croydon

    • Chris Flynn says:

      I believe the article refers to “interims”, rather than “interns”! One is paid for too little, the other…

  2. Dee says:

    ‘… the council is transforming itself into a modern, sustainable and resident-focused local authority.’ So, even the council accepts it’s not any of these basic things. That’s a start.
    Excellent work, Ken Lee on the detail and for never missing the ironies.
    I’m left wondering who the lucky recruitment agent might be; or has Croydon’s HR dept [change to latest fancy name] been charged with helping to keep the council “sustainable” by doing the application sifting themselves? Hold on, they do mean ‘financially sustainable,’ don’t they?

  3. Chris Flynn says:

    ‘part of a new chapter’ and to ‘go on a journey’ – librarian and bus driver, surely?

  4. We’ll know pretty quickly if Kerswell’s plan is working. As soon a Croydon residents get a whiff that Kerswell might be winging it, her days will be numbered as well as the people she’s brought in.

    And how the fuck can Chief People Officer be a job paying £100,000 and nobody knows what the role entails.

    Not looking good for Kerswell already.

    • Negrini winged it in various posts throughout her time in Croydon, was rumbled early on by those who had the misfortune to have to work with her arrogance and self-delusion, and yet she remained in a job, dragging down the borough, until she chose to walk away with no consequences and a £440,000 pay-off.

      And you reckon the same people who allowed that to happen, and who have then appointed Kerswell and permitted her empire-building as they axe all the organisation’s services, are somehow going to behave entirely differently this time around?

      Our money’s still on Kerswell sticking around until the new Mayor is installed, hoping for a big pay-out as she’s shown the door, just as happened for her in Kent.

      And the head of personnel job? Nah, Seb, everyone knows what it entails. It’s just the ludicrous pomposity of the needless new title which is ridiculous.

      • Does anyone know who in Government parachuted Kerswell in?

        We need to inform him or her that Kerswell is next to useless and is now likely actively angling for another public money payday when she quits. What’s the process for sacking her now and who carried out her 6-monthly review prior to her being offered a permanent position.

        I really think Katherine Kerswell is out for herself and has no interest in the London Borough of Croydon.

  5. As for the ‘New, Forward thinking, Diverse, Cultured and Dynamic Croydon’, that all but 5he residents seem to see, here is where you start (and I’m giving this to you for FREE).

    Instead of lamenting over the amazing shopping centre we were supposed to have that is no more, I never thought it a great idea anyway. We would never be able to compete with Blue Waters free parking and Croydon wouldn’t be able to afford to keep such a place updated and fresh. After the initial thrill, it would soon be apparent that Croydon was no different than Blue Water or Lakeside, all full of the same old shops all selling the same stuff.

    People shop quite often for something to do, they have no real agenda as far as what they intent to buy if anything. The idea then is to give them a nice time with lots of diverse shops to indices them, the kind of shops that aren’t found anywhere else. Bring back or encourage new business but only those that don’t have places elsewhere, the boutiques, unusual and odd shops. These are the places that will thrive in tomorrow’s world.

    Cheap rates will encourage bespoke and one of a kind places, those who have been hoisted out by greedy councils paying homage to the bigger money. The likes of Next, Zara, H&M and River Island all selling variations of the same things. As consumers we want to find that which no one else will have or at least not most everyone we know.

    It may not have the big impact initial rush of a new shopping centre but will grow over time to something far more sustainable. Take Richmond for instance, lots of interesting and diverse shops there and business is always good.

    People will come because we like to look and be inspired, not bombarded with the same old stuff.

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