Part-time Mayor Perry is only ‘listening’ four hours a day

EXCLUSIVE: Town Hall officials answer phone calls from the public for just half a working day. By WALTER CRONXITE, political editor

‘Listening’: Jason Perry’s office answers the phone only between 10am and noon and 2pm and 4pm

Croydon’s part-time Mayor, having refused to delegate responsibilities even to his closest political colleagues, has had no such problem off-loading his work to council officials – the very people that Jason Perry is supposed to be keeping a check on.

And the Conservative Mayor risks breaking one of his manifesto promises – with the phones in his Town Hall office only staffed for four hours each day.

One of Perry’s first acts, when he was handed the keys to the Town Hall after his narrow election victory in May, was to hand the keyboard of his mayoral email account to a middle-ranking council staffer, the £81,000 per year Mayor leaving them to deal with his daily correspondence.

According to one senior Katharine Street source, “This was a serious error by the Mayor. It means that he has handed an important part of his power straight back to the council staff, under Katherine Kerswell, the chief executive. These are the very people the Mayor is supposed to be keeping in check.

“Now they can get to draft and vet everything that Mayor Perry sends out by email – and they could even decide what email correspondence he gets to see. It means Perry’s not running the council – they’re still in charge. No one voted for that.”

Who’s in charge?: Mayor Perry yielded effective control of the council to Katherine Kerswell and her execs on Day 1

One of the biggest criticisms of Tony Newman and his discredited Labour administration that bankrupted the borough was that they were “officer-led”: too often doing the bidding of Jo “Negreedy” Negrini and her senior council executives.

“If anything,” suggested the source, who has seen the workings of Town Hall officials for many years, “the situation is worse now, because of Perry’s decision to not delegate any decisions to his own cabinet. Everything now must be funnelled through him.”

And despite Perry’s solemn election pledge to “listen to Croydon”, it turns out that the Mayor’s staff are only around to “listen” to residents for just half the working week.

When he was seeking the public’s votes, Tory Perry said, “The Council will… make it easier for residents to contact the council in a way which works for them, whether it is in person, by phone or email.”

But after two months in office, Mayor Perry has done nothing to extend the hours of the council phone lines.

Even his own office only bothers answering the phone from 10am to noon and from 2pm to 4pm on weekdays.

In the past, the council leader’s office has been staffed by two middle-ranking council staffers, under the supervision of the chief executive’s office.

The £81,000 per year Mayor’s out-of-office automated email response makes it clear that Perry’s office is only listening for 20 hours each week.

“Thank you for your email to the Executive Mayor of Croydon Jason Perry. Your email will be raised with the Mayor and a member of his support team will respond as soon as possible,” the auto-response to the public reads.

“If your email relates to a casework enquiry, the Mayor’s office team may need to take up the issue with the relevant council officers on the Mayor’s behalf…”.

Note that: “the Mayor’s office team”, and “relevant council officers on the Mayor’s behalf”. In other words, not the Mayor.

“If you would like to speak to a member of the Mayor’s Office team please contact us on 0208 667 8288. Our phone lines are open between 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm Monday to Friday. Outside of these times please leave a message and we will get back to you as soon as possible.”

As a member of the council’s Labour said, “It’s hardly the human dynamo stuff Jason led the public to believe they would be getting if he was elected as Mayor.

“Perhaps he’s just too busy with his plastic windows business?”

The Mayor’s personal declarations show that, despite his huge salary – 35per cent more than the allowances paid to previous leaders of the council – and the mountain of problems facing the borough, he continues as a director of the family firm, Carlton Building Plastics.

Yet despite his commitments outside the council, the part-time Mayor with a part-time Mayor’s office refuses to delegate any powers to his own Conservative councillor colleagues.

Croydon Council Tax-payers are handing £316,411 per year to Perry’s eight most trusted Conservative councillor colleagues in “special responsibility allowances”. Or in Croydon Tories’ case, non-responsibility allowances.

Mayor Perry – who has managed to make the pages of Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs column after less than two months in office – even missed his first scheduled meeting before the scrutiny committee, he said because he had covid.

Mayoral debut: it wasn’t long before Perry made it into Rotten Boroughs

When he did manage to show up, he came with carefully prepared answers to why he won’t allow his own cabinet to make any key decisions.

Claiming that he is “very much a team player”, one-man-band Mayor Perry said, “This is the first time this borough has had directly-elected Mayor and I think there is a point of view that this person has been elected and then the first thing they do is give all their powers away.

“There is kind of an element of, you’ve been entrusted to do a job and to give it all away from day one is unwise. If you were brought in to deal with a company that was in trouble, I don’t think the first thing you would do is to delegate powers.”

In case of any confusion, Perry is not some big business mogul who has been parachuted in from Wall Street to fix the council, but instead is someone who has been running the family business for 30 years, a business which was nearly struck off in 2020 for failing to file accounts and which according to the latest figures at Companies House has net assets of £161,000 – or less than two years’ mayoral salary.

Undaunted by the relative modesty of his business CV, Mayor Perry told the councillors on the scrutiny committee, “My way of working is to get that full understanding of how things are operating, we are all learning how this model works. Over time, as things settle down, I will be delegating powers where appropriate.

“I feel strongly that to just hand out powers without knowing exactly where we’re going would be unwise, so yes, in time there will be greater delegation.”

Although obviously, that does not apply when it comes to handing out responsibilities to council staff to handle the Mayor’s emails or answer the part-time Mayor’s phone (if only for part of the time).

Read more: MPs’ gofers and failed businesses: new cabinet’s back-stories
Read more: £100,000 Mayor Perry unveils his old team as the new team
Read more: Tory Perry wins historic Mayor election by less than 600 votes

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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
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1 Response to Part-time Mayor Perry is only ‘listening’ four hours a day

  1. Croydon Council is more corrupted than the Venezuelan government. Does anyone really believe it cost £69m to refurbish Fairfield Halls, and the list goes on and on. Now that Perry is treating like his Mayoral position as extra income to his full time job at Carlton Plastics, it kinda feels Croydon is running in circles and history is about to repeat itself again. Just IMHO.

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