EXCLUSIVE (and available in all good, and some not-so-good, newsagents): The exec who walked away with a £440,000 pay-out from the borough she helped to bankrupt has re-emerged with a juicy ‘consultancy’ from one of the firms she used to hire when running the council.
By STEVEN DOWNES
Self-acclaimed “regeneration practitioner” Jo Negrini has regenerated her own career, the failed council chief executive emerging with a juicy consultancy deal at Arup, one of the firms she favoured so lavishly when she was frittering tax-payers’ money from the executive floors at Fisher’s Folly.
The special Ho-Ho-Ho edition of Private Eye magazine, published today, reports that “… thanks to the wonder of revolving doors, ‘Negreedy’ has resurfaced as a ‘cities and development consultant’ on the books of Arup, the giant engineering and planning specialists”.
Negrini, the council’s £200,000-plus per year chief exec, quit Croydon in September 2020, but only after she had screwed a £440,000 golden handshake from the borough she had done so much to help bankrupt.
Brick by Brick, and its £200million borrowings and precious few new homes, was a Negrini brainchild, while she also oversaw the “fiasco” of the £70million Fairfield Halls refurbishment, which delivered rich profits for a handful of consultants but little in the way of the long-promised improvements to the much-loved arts centre.
Within weeks of her departure from Fisher’s Folly last year, the council had to declare itself effectively bankrupt, issuing a Section 114 notice and becoming only the second local authority to do so this century.
The 500 or so hard-working council staff who have paid for Negrini’s misrule with their jobs will undoubtedly be delighted to discover that their former boss has landed on her kitten heels with such aplomb.
Today, in the Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column in which Croydon had become a fixture thanks to the efforts of Newman, Paul Scott and Negreedy, it reports, “Back in 2015 Negrini, as Croydon’s ‘executive director Place’ (she became CEO in 2016), hired consultants at huge cost to assist with what she then boasted was a £5.25billion, five-year regeneration programme involving 169 development projects, ‘which will provide more than 8,300 new homes and 23,000 new jobs in the centre of Croydon by 2021’.
“Those consultants happened to be Arup, famed for building the Sydney Opera House, the Shard and the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics.
“In Croydon, Arup were asked to develop a ‘tailor-made, web-based Programme Delivery Dashboard’. This, blathered Negrini, would be ‘a window on the future of Croydon’ which would ‘pioneer how major urban regeneration schemes are planned and delivered in future…
“‘It shows that we are ready to turn Croydon into a modern, European city and means investors and developers can have complete confidence in the council’s ability to deliver’.
“That turned out well, then.”
Australian-born Negrini arrived in Croydon in January 2014, straight from the Olympic borough of Newham, on a mission to help Aussie shopping mall developers Westfield to build their £1.5billion temple to consumerism on the site of the Whitgift and Centrale shopping malls.
Negrini was promoted council CEO in April 2016 (succeeding another Rotten Boroughs ne’er do well, Nathan Elvery).
While wallowing in the title of “Hon FRIBA” (presumably awarded for services to architects’ bank accounts; the ex-council official has no architecture qualifications), Negrini and her hand-picked inner circle of council execs – including Shifa MustafFridaysOff and Heather Cheesbrough – would enjoy jetting off to Cannes at considerable public expense for the annual MIPIM “booze and hooker fest”, or relish being flattered by being invited to address events attended by developers and speculators.
To this day, and despite a very costly Compulsory Purchase of much of Croydon town centre organised by Negrini, not a single brick has ever been laid for the Westfield shopping centre, what was supposed to be the central part of the town’s multi-billion-pound regeneration.
But the collapse of the Croydon Westfield project, together with the other regeneration flops on her watch, saw the CEO’s hubris eventually catch up with the council. Earlier this year Croydon needed a record £120million emergency bail-out from the government.
Six years on from Negrini and Arup’s “award-winning” (yep, seriously) development dashboard, as testament to Negrini’s devastating impact on the borough, the latest list of projects in Croydon, as collated by the developer fan club Develop Croydon, has them whittled down by half, even when including the long-abandoned Westfield.
Of the 86 remaining projects from those ambitiously listed by Negrini and her mates at Arup in 2015, only 41 are listed as “completed”.
But then, anyone visiting the increasingly dismal and desolate Croydon town centre can see that for themselves, without any need for an expensively commissioned “Programme Delivery Dashboard”.
But as the fabled Lord Gnome might say, for Arup consultant Negrini, it’s a case of “Trebles all round!”
Read more: CEO Negrini’s long campaign to shut down Inside Croydon
Read more: Brick by Brick part of a perfect storm that bankrupted Croydon
Read more: The Audit Report: Council ignored five warnings on reserves
Read more: £30m Fairfield Halls project never went to competitive tender
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