#PennReport: Council’s 11th hour attempt to suppress findings

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Right to the very last, Croydon Council was trying to stop the publication of any part of the Penn Report.

Earlier today, Inside Croydon approached Katherine Kerswell, the council chief executive, with a number of questions surrounding her non-publication of the Penn Report.

Commissioned from the Local Government Association in November 2020, shortly after Croydon’s financial crash, the report from consultant Richard Penn was completed and delivered to Kerswell in February 2021.

We asked Kerswell why she has denied councillors the opportunity to make the decision on whether “the concerns in this initial investigation constitute a repudiatory breach” of Jo Negrini’s contract, and a breach of her settlement agreement.

We also sought an answer to the question of what entitles the CEO to ignore the recommendations of the LGA investigator and deny councillors the opportunity to call in a police investigation into possible misconduct in public office.

And further, we asked, “as a consequence of your suppressing the Penn Report, its findings and recommendations, will you now resign?”

In the response we received from the council propaganda department (after the deadline, of course), they claimed that “whatever has come into your possession has not come from the council”, and “it is not an official version”.

Undercover: CEO Katherine Kerswell hasn’t published the Penn Report. Yet she denies she has suppressed it

“We would caution you against publishing any details from that.”

A hour later, we received a further email, this time from Stephen Lawrence-Orumwense, the (relatively) new Monitoring Officer, the biggest of big cheeses in the council’s legal department.

He, too, seemed to think that publishing the Penn Report wasn’t a great idea.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, you do not have the Council’s permission to publish any such report or parts of it,” he warned.

“Those objecting to the publication of the Penn Report may issue legal proceedings against you if you decide to publish the report or parts of it.” Then again…

In the response from the propaganda bunker, they said, “The Penn Report was given to the council on 9 February 2021 and was formally received by elected members on the cross-party Appointments Committee on 17 March 2021.” By that, they mean the six committee members who were allowed strictly limited access to the report. Two of those councillors stood down at the local elections in May.

“That committee – now the Appointments and Disciplinary Committee – has been the decision-making body in relation to the Penn Report – so it is entirely inaccurate to say that the report has been kept from members.” Except that no other councillors – possibly as many as 64 out of the council’s 70 councillors, have not had sight of the report.

Big cheese: Stephen Lawrence-Orumwense

“To suggest that the chief executive has supressed [sic] the report is categorically untrue and there can be no founded opinion on which those claims can be made,” the council propaganda department said on behalf of Kerswell, clearly making the case that showing a report to less than 10per cent of all elected councillors means it hasn’t been “supressed”.

“As the report is not published, we cannot comment on recommendations or other content which you have set out in your enquiries. However, we can explain the council’s position in relation to the Penn Report and its publication.

“The council is fully committed to publishing the Penn Report when current investigations and other processes are completed.” They fail to state what these “current investigations and other processes” might be.

“Councillors on the Appointments Committee most recently considered the issue of publication of the Penn report in April 2022.” That is six months ago, and before the local elections in May, and the change in council administration.

“All members supported publication in principle – however in accordance with legal advice, they agreed that a ‘Maxwellisation’ process must be undertaken with the individuals who are commented upon in the report prior to any publication.” They’ve had the report for 19 months…

“The Appointments and Disciplinary Committee will properly consider any responses received prior to publication.

“The committee will also take into account other relevant considerations, including how much of the background, circumstances and issues have already been the subject of public reports (examples include the two Reports in the Public Interest) or are otherwise in the public domain, and the substantial public interest in the Penn report.”

And then they throw in another excuse for further delaying publication of the Penn Report indefinitely.

“We also await the outcome of the Kroll audit which the council commissioned as a forensic investigation into the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls to determine whether fraud may have taken place.”

In his after-thought email tonight, Monitoring Officer Stephen Lawrence-Orumwense also rushed to defend his new boss.

“The council’s appointments committee, now known as appointments and disciplinary committee, has had oversight of all decision-making in respect of the Penn Report and associated matters,” he said. “The assertion that the chief executive has suppressed the report is factually inaccurate and misleading.

“We do hope that commonsense will prevail.”

Read more: #PennReport wanted police probe into possible misconduct

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
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12 Responses to #PennReport: Council’s 11th hour attempt to suppress findings

  1. David Bryce says:

    I want Kerswell out. The Penn report should have been published 18months ago.

    And who does Lawrence-Orumwense think he is? Telling Croydon residents what to think. Fucking outrageous. His days arenumbered and his judgment going forward should always be questioned.

    • Deepincroydon says:

      I agree with David.

    • Perry has been in power since May. He could have published the Penn report on day one. Why didn’t he? Chucking Katherine Kerswell under the bus for the delay might suit the bloodlust of some and the political convenience of others, but ultimately the buck stops with the directly-elected Mayor of Croydon. Come on Jason, reveal all and take action, otherwise people might think you and the Tories are part of the problem

      • As we’ve reported before, Arf, Perry did seek to publish Penn on Day One. Kerswell offered a version that was so redacted as to be pointless. Perry declined.
        Kerswell is now claiming that by showing the report to the members of a small committee – six councillors – she has fulfilled the recommendations made by Penn and allowed “members” to decide what steps to take.
        Croydon has 70 councillors. Less than 10% of them have ever had sight of the Penn Report and its important recommendations, thanks to a decision made by the hired help.

        • So the part-time Mayor isn’t in charge of Croydon council? What are we paying him for?

          • Well he isn’t, and therein lies one of the problems with the operation of the council.

            As we hope to show as we roll out sections of the Penn Report over the next few days, the investigation demonstrates that there is a constant arm wrestle over who makes the decisions between paid staff and elected councillors.

            Having a directly elected Mayor, or certainly this Mayor, has not resolved that. It is just #ABitLessShit

  2. Christian Evans says:

    Publish it!

  3. Paul Falkner says:

    Publish and be damned. Bring light and see the cockroaches flee

  4. Sarah Bird says:

    I raised the question of the publication of the Penn report at the last Mayoral Hustings at St Francis Church months ago. Any good reason for Katherine Kerswill, the CEO, refusal to publish ? If so what are the reasons ?

    • Sarah, what did the Mayoral candidates – Perry in particular – say in reply?

      • sarah Bird says:

        It was streamed live by St Francis Church CR2 who ran it very well.I am sure that hustings is still online At the time, I also raised the question of the Nolan Principles and as requested cited them! In my view, several are applicable to say the least

  5. moyagordon says:

    If legal action is going to be brought against people then won’t the Penn Report be classed as evidence and if it is leaked could those being prosecuted claim that there will be bias in any court case because evidence has been in the public domain. I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know for certain but it could damage the ability to prosecute maybe? And we wouldn’t want that!

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