The annual round-up of greed, venality and incompetence among the country’s local authorities has seen our council out-perform many others, yet again. But did satirical fortnightly magazine Private Eye miss a trick over one former ‘award-winner’?
Perhaps the governance and finances at Croydon Council really are improving. Or maybe 2020 was the kind of year that could never be matched as far as the scandalised council’s appearances in Private Eye magazine is concerned?
The 2021 Rotten Borough Awards have been announced in the latest issue of Lord Gnome’s august organ, and while Croydon appears to have slipped from the top spot it won in 2020, this time around its chief executives have done sterling service to ensure that the borough gets no fewer than TWO accolades for their conduct over the last 12 months.
The awards are always hotly contested, with the behaviour and dodgy deeds of council staff and elected councillors across the country a cause of astonishment, disbelief and outright anger among the public that they are supposed to serve.
One stalwart of the awards, year-in-year-out, has been Jo Negreedy – as the Eye now insists on calling the self-proclaimed “regeneration practitioner” and former Croydon Council chief executive. That she has managed to drag herself into the Hall of Shame once again, 15 months after she finished working for the local authority with £440,000 of council dosh in her swag bag, is a remarkable achievement.
Negrini is named the winner of the “Revolving Door of the Year” award, following her re-emergence as a “consultant” at engineering giant Arup, which the Eye helpfully reminds us, is “a firm that had won lucrative contracts at Croydon during Negrini’s tenure”.
And Negrini’s successor as council CEO, Katherine Kerswell, also gets a mention in the Rotten Boroughs Awards, in a share of the “Quotes of the Year”, thanks to the council’s contantly blundering press office, following the confirmation of her appointment to the top job last May.
As Inside Croydon reported at the time, the council propaganda department issued an announcement that said, “The decision to offer Ms Kerswell the role was unanimous, reflecting the committee’s confidence in her ability.”
This was after the cash-strapped council spent £20,000 on executive headhunters who, as the Eye reports today, “presented interim chief exec Katherine Kerswell as the only interview for the £192,000 permanent post”.
But did the Eye miss a trick by omitting to give one, perhaps final, dishonourable mention to a Croydon repeat winner in its Rotten Boroughs Awards – Labour councillor Paul Scott?
Scott managed to go for six years as a member of the council’s planning committee, four of them as chair, without ever once having to declare an interest – including when passing the £1.5billion application for a supermall in the town centre from Westfield.
Elsewhere in London, Westfield had also just happened to have engaged TP Bennett, the architects’ firm of which Scott is a director.
Scott’s excuse for never declaring an interest was that he was given a “special dispensation” by… the council’s ethics committee. Not once, but twice: in 2014, and then again in 2018.
When Scott was planning chair, not a single planning application from the council’s hapless in-house building firm, Brick by Brick, was ever refused permission.
Scott’s shameless conduct earned him a runners-up prize in the 2017 Rotten Borough Awards, but he stayed on the planning committee regardless for another couple of years, until the council’s finances crashed in November 2020 and his best mate, Tony Newman, was forced to quit as council leader.
Scott is one of no fewer than 24 councillors who had the Labour whip in January 2020 who won’t be standing in the local elections in May 2022. Among the others is Scott’s wife, Alison Butler, the ex-lover of David Evans, the Labour Party’s General Secretary.
It was Butler, as cabinet member for housing, who presided over the scandal of the damp and mouldy flats in South Norwood while also overseeing the disastrous housing company, Brick by Brick.
The Scott-Butler husband and wife act has opted not to seek re-selection as council election candidates, probably the best decision they’ve taken in all the years that between them they were trousering £90,000-plus in Town Hall allowances. Trebles all-round, as one fortnightly satiricial magazineis wont to say.
Private Eye is available from today in all good newsagents. And some not so good ones, too.
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