Housing director: We need a culture change at the council

“We are not very good at responding to complaints and queries.”

That’s the frank judgement of the council’s new director of housing after just a few weeks in his new job.

Quick learner: Croydon’s new housing director, David Padfield

As was exclusively revealed by Inside Croydon more than a month ago, Alison Knight, the director who was hired on £800 per day in May to fix the many problems over damp and mouldy flats in Regina Road, left her job without ever bothering to meet the badly let-down council tenants in South Norwood.

Knight’s replacement, David Padfield, has been much quicker to engage residents, and has voiced further concerns about the cash-strapped council’s approach to and handling of its tenants and housing stock.

The council’s housing improvement board, chaired by Martin Wheatley – again, as first reported by this website – met for the first time this week, at Stanley Halls in South Norwood, where Padmore made it clear he would be expecting a “culture change” in his department.

“Staff are dealing with significant problems with responses to repairs that is generating a lot of complaints from residents and unhappiness,” Padfield said.

Fed up with excuses: Regina Road residents have yet to notice significant change

“We are not very good at responding to complaints and queries, a lot of things that come through is about how defensive staff are when responding to complaints and queries.

“That leads to a very low level of resident satisfaction.”

“This is about a culture change…my experience is that staff are defensive.

“If I was a resident getting these emails listing excuses, I wouldn’t be very happy.

“There is quite a deep set change that needs to happen, empowering the staff to solve the problems that are in front of them.”

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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
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4 Responses to Housing director: We need a culture change at the council

  1. Who was on Alison Knight’s interview panel when she joined Croydon Council?

    Please can someone reveal names?

    I’d like to know who they are – they are squandering our money!

  2. Lewis White says:

    Look like Mr Padfield has made a good start. I really hope that he gets the support from the Chief Exec, from The Leader and Senior Councillors and Officers to turn around the Housing department, and bring in a new culture of public service , respect, financial stewardship, and responsibilty-taking by officers at all levels.

    • I’m encouraged too, but my heart sank when Mr Padfield lurched into ‘management speak’ – ‘culture change’!!! Croydon has been boasting about ‘culture change’ for 20 years and all we’ve got is a merry-go-round of managers who walk the walk and talk the talk … but fail and keep on failing.

  3. Ian Kierans says:

    From experience with departments at Croydon it is not defensive responses that are an issue. I personally have received more honesty from lower managers and staff than from the senior team.

    Mr Padfield can state the obvious however he should be more aware of how juniors become defensive after so many have been ”scapegoated” and ”blamed” for situations created by executive and senior Managers.

    However as he and everyone sane person knows that level of honesty is career limiting and not helpful in providing a resolve or delivering solutions.

    But what is also not helpful is slating and slurring junior staff in a generalist manner, especially when they are the resource that will deliver the solutions.

    Frankly some staff come across as dismissive, rude, unhelpful but not because of nature.
    Some residents can come across as argumentative, rude, and perhaps lose it when nothing happens. This can lead to a difficult relationship between both.

    The key in front facing roles is to remember is not to let a persons (one off) behavior to influence your dealings with everyone. and for residents to not take out the frustration on the person who in effect is helpless.

    The key task for Mr Padfield to do is to enable those staff to provide solutions and progress chase issues for those residents and rebuild relationships. Lets get real about this – the complaints would not exist without the wrongdoing. The anger would not exist if successive people from Ms Ali and Ms Knight back to Ms Negroni and perhaps further had done their job properly and effectively and were supported in doing so by Kerswell back to Rouse. (Remember Jon £248,000pa Rouse? Anyone think Ms Kerswell is being short changed ?)

    He should be concerned with protecting the staff from the vagaries of the executive and those ”hard” decisions.

    I am sure as a good Manager he perhaps already knows this and more.

    But fundamentally he needs to get to grips with the Axis contract and make sure repairs and faults are dealt with in a timely manner. Strangely despite Axis failures being at the heart of the issue – not a lot of talk on that matter. Any investigation on this forthcoming?
    He should appreciate that this is Housing stock belonging to the Borough and an asset to be maintained as well as a home for residents and taxpayers who deserve clean and healthy living spaces. Perhaps looking at reclaiming some money for work poorly and badly done would no go amiss?

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