Suspended director sues Kerswell for ‘race discrimination’

CROYDON IN CRISIS: The council running one of the country’s most ethnically diverse boroughs could be dragged through the courts, with one of its rare BAME directors accusing it, and its chief executive, of racism.
By STEVEN DOWNES

Legal case: Hazel Simmonds

Hazel Simmonds, Croydon’s executive director of localities who has spent the past 12 months on “gardening leave”, is suing the council for race discrimination, victimisation and unlawful reduction in wages.

Simmonds is also pursuing a complaint for racial discrimination against Katherine Kerswell, the council chief executive.

Simmonds was one of five directors, all on hefty six-figure salaries, who in February 2021 were either suspended by Kerswell or went on long-term sick leave, just weeks after the council’s financial collapse and the issuing of a Section 114 notice to declare itself effectively bankrupt.

The suspensions occurred shortly after Kerswell received a report from Local Government Association official, Richard Penn, that was supposed to examine the circumstances and conduct that lead to the collapse of the council’s finances and governance. More than a year later, the Penn Report has never been made public.

At the time of the suspensions, the Local Government Chronicle reported a senior source saying that they could not recall so many council officials being suspended simultaneously.

Legal threat: Katherine Kerswell

The three other suspended directors – director of finance Lisa Taylor, executive director of place Shifa Mustafa and executive director of health, wellbeing and adults Guy van Dichele – have all since resigned, while Jacqueline Harris-Baker, the former monitoring officer and sometime director of resources, has also exited Fisher’s Folly after a period of sick leave.

All five directors were either appointed or promoted by Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, the chief exec who scarpered in August 2020 with a £440,000 pay-off.

According to a report published today by The Municipal Journal, Simmonds is being represented by local government lawyer Mark Greenburgh. She remains an employee of the council, but must now have one of the best-tended gardens in south London.

The MJ quoted a Croydon Council spokesperson as trying to pretend that there was nothing serious in a racial discrimination complaint, saying, “It is not the council’s policy to comment on individual staffing matters.”

Kerswell had not responded to Inside Croydon’s request for a comment by the time of publication.

Read more: Former health director suing council for constructive dismissal
Read more: Two executive directors in shock resignations from council
Read more: The Kerswell cull: ‘This is a really difficult situation’ says CEO
Read more: Officials to investigate possible wrong-doing at council

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About insidecroydon

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
This entry was posted in Croydon Council, Guy van Dichele, Hazel Simmonds, Jacqueline Harris-Baker, Jo Negrini, Katherine Kerswell, Lisa Taylor, Section 114 notice, Shifa Mustafa and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Suspended director sues Kerswell for ‘race discrimination’

  1. Oh grief. We must avoid reading too much into this – it’s fairly standard procedure for dismissed council execs to assemble all sorts of ‘issues’ to win compo. Sadly, we’re already footing the bill…

  2. Lancaster says:

    Another director who never visited her teams to find out what they did, what their strengths and weaknesses were, or what help and support she might be able to offer. Beneath her to actually go and talk with those working, preferring to simply sit at the top table and be fed information by senior gofers; without knowing if those who fed her actually knew anything themselves. Usually the senior gofers are prejudice and opinionated, know little about their teams and are empire building themselves.

    Twelve months garden leave is four times what those who are made redundant get. If I were a director I would go quietly after being found out as being useless and given a year to rest up and find another authority to peddle my wares, as always seems to happen.

  3. Kevin Croucher says:

    What has happened to the Penn Report? Has it been kicked into the long grass never to be seen again?

Leave a Reply to Lancaster Cancel reply