One of the directors recruited at Croydon this week has a track record that saw him blamed by the trades unions in Brighton for his part in causing a damaging bins strike last year
While most of what’s left of the council’s frontline staff struggle along, trying to deliver services with much-reduced resources, Katherine Kerswell, the £192,474 per year CEO, continues her steady recruitment drive for the executive suites in Fisher’s Folly as if the Section 114 notice never happened.
It’s a wonder that Kerswell’s CV does not include the time she did a work experience placement rearranging deckchairs on an unsinkable ocean liner…
Another two appointments were announced in the past week, in part, at least, to fill posts vacated in a bit of a rush following the Kerswell cull 12 months ago.
Nick Hibberd has been given the mouthful title of the council’s “corporate director of sustainable communities, regeneration and economic recovery”. It comes with a tidy annual salary of £142,000 to £150,000.
It is a role that had been filled for the past few months by Sarah Hayward, the former Labour council leader in Camden.
It is not known whether Hayward applied for the job, and no announcement has been made as to what new six-figure salaried role this particular civic spare part will be given going forward.
The second appointment announcement is that Dean Shoesmith has been confirmed in the job of “chief people officer” (that’s head of HR to the less pompous), a role he has been working in as an interim since last November. It provides an annual salary described in official council papers as £100,000.
Hibberd could be one to watch: he joins from Brighton, where he was seen as one of the primary reasons for a bins strike last October and involved in an earlier dispute over housing repairs.
The council’s unions, including Unison and the GMB, were both critical.
A senior GMB official cited breakdowns in “mutual trust and confidence” between the workers and the council execs, with Hibberd singled out for special mention.
In a lengthy letter issued in the middle of last autumn’s bins strike, with rubbish piling up on the streets of Brighton, the union chief wrote that, “Council officers repeatedly went round in circles and failed to deal with [the] issues we identified on behalf of our members.
“In fact, Nick Hibberd (executive director for the economy, environment and culture) and Rachel Chasseaud (assistant director for city environment) on a number of occasions went into denial mode about these issues.
“Some of the effects of these issues on our members culminated in one of our members suffering a heart attack and being hospitalised but still management failed to deal with the issues.”
According to Hibberd’s new employers, Croydon, in his new job he will be “responsible for one of the council’s key portfolios, directly impacting on the lives of every Croydon resident. Services which fall under this crucial role span across regeneration, planning, transport, waste and recycling, community safety and enforcement, culture, museums and libraries.”
It is, in the main, what was previously the “executive director place” role which was once held by Jo Negrini before she was overpromoted to CEO, and then Shifa Mustafa, who made such an impression that she has been criticised by two separate sets of auditors, and last week was identified in the auditors’ Report In The Public Interest for her serial fuck-ups over the Fairfield Halls fiasco.
But it is not just Kerswell who is sailing on as if nothing in the borough has changed in the last couple of years.
According to the propaganda department at Fisher’s Folly, Hibberd’s new role, “will oversee the regeneration of Croydon as it continues to grow as an exciting borough with increasing draw”. Yes, they really wrote that and then they distributed it, publicly.
“As one of London’s largest boroughs and commercial hubs, Croydon is poised for real sustainable economic growth.”
And then they chose to remind people that Croydon, the borough of the unfinished and incomplete £67.5million Fairfield Halls, where the libraries are only open part-time and local swimming pools are being closed, is to be the London Borough of Culture 2023.
Hibberd, of course, at least indirectly, managed to cultivate lots of cultures during the Brighton bin strike.
According to the council press release, after 30 years at Brighton and Hove, Hibberd “now brings this genuine commitment to public sector excellence with him as he picks up his new role at Croydon”.
Although after 30 years at Brighton, it does prompt the question as to why Hibberd has chosen to leave now to take up a job at a bankrupt borough which is effectively being run from Whitehall by a panel of government-appointed commissioners?
Hibberd’s arrival has been welcomed by Hamida Ali, the cabinet member who for more than four years never managed to notice that there was anything going wrong with the Fairfield Halls, or Brick by Brick, or the council housing on Regina Road, close to her ward of Woodside, but who now is, nonetheless, the leader of the council.
“We’re thrilled that Nick is joining the team, bringing invaluable experience of sustainability and regeneration and the much-needed ability to drive local economic growth,” Apologetic Ali said.
“He takes on this core role at a challenging but exciting time for the council and the borough, as we recover from the pandemic and work towards financial stability.
“Nick’s track record demonstrates his strong commitment to high-quality public service as we strive to create ambitious growth for our local economy and strong and safe communities.” Did Ali run that past any of her colleagues in the local trades unions?
“As we gear up for London Borough of Culture 2023, I also look forward to working closely with Nick, the team and our community to showcase everything going on in Croydon!” Huzzah!
The other new appointee, Shoesmith, has been working for Croydon since November, after 20 years in HR at Lambeth, Sutton and Merton.
According to the council’s official announcement of his appointment, “His notable past work includes creating the first cross-borough HR department for Sutton and Merton and leading Lambeth to the Investors in People silver standard award – an accreditation in good people management.”
Apparently, “engaging staff and strengthening equality within the organisation” will be key parts of Shoesmith’s tasks. He has already been working on updating the council’s staff’s code of conduct.
“I am determined to make sure Croydon is an organisation that attracts, nurtures and retains the best people,” Shoesmith said. “We have a lot to do, but I am excited for what lies ahead.”
Kerswell called Shoesmith, “an impressive addition to our senior leadership team”.
Croydon is London’s Borough of Culture 2023.
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