#PennReport: Hall and Negrini ‘only wanted good news stories’

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Richard Penn’s report tells of how the borough’s political leaders had become ‘paranoid’ about Inside Croydon – which one senior councillor noted was filling ‘the communication vacuum’ created by the dysfunctional council. EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES

In the course of compiling his report, Local Government Association investigator Richard Penn interviewed 64 figures, many of whom had crawled from the wreckage of the borough they had just bankrupted.

Some offered some intriguing, insiders’ perspectives on the toxic cultures in Croydon Town Hall and the council offices in Fisher’s Folly – such as a fear that real news might ever seep out about what was really going on.

Take “Interviewee 56 (a former and/or current member of the council cabinet or a committee chair)”, according to Penn.

Penn reports that they said, “it is now possible to see how the council has been performing over a long period. Interviewee 56 believes that everything that has happened relates back to the culture of the organisation and now that Interviewee 56 is inside the organisation the view is even clearer.

Newman’s numpties: the ‘council cabinet was in place for too long and was dominated by a few strong colleagues’, according to one of Penn’s interviewees

“The former council cabinet was in place for too long and was dominated by a few strong colleagues. Those former cabinet members who were not part of the leader’s team kept their heads down and focused on their own portfolios. Interviewee 56 does not believe that people like Interviewee 56 would have had a voice in that cabinet and Interviewee 56 would never have survived in that culture because people like Interviewee 56 would not have kept their head down and would not have kept quiet.

“Some of the councillors outside of the cabinet had asked questions about what was happening and had raised concerns within the Labour group but did not get a useful response to those questions and their concerns were ignored.

“Interviewee 56 is surprised now how little was understood about what was going on and it is only because Interviewee 56 now has a mentor, a councillor from another local authority, that things can now be seen more clearly.

“It is clear to Interviewee 56 that there has not been an effective working relationship between the members [councillors] and officers [council staff] for some time and that there is now a demoralised workforce facing more redundancies and cuts to services.

Filling the vacuum: One of the references to this website in the Penn Report

“The council’s relationships with the wider Croydon community are very poor and the council’s communications and explanations to the community about what has happened are negligible so Inside Croydon has filled the communication vaccuum.”

Another interviewee, No46, also a senior councillor who has at some time been a Labour cabinet member, told Penn that “part of the problem in recent years has been the sense of paranoia resulting from … sites like Inside Croydon“.

Didn’t like bad news: Jo Negrini

This “paranoia”, Interviewee 46 said, had pushed councillors “into an over-defensive position”. The Westfield non-development saga was cited by the interviewee, which had “contributed significantly to the atmosphere of blame and distrust”.

There’s another mention of Inside Croydon in the Penn Report, in Section 8, on the council’s financial (mis)management.

Para 8.5.6 states that according to Interviewee 49, “It was also very well known that both the (former) cabinet member for finance and resources [meaning Simon Hall] and the (former chief executive [meaning Jo Negrini] wanted only good news stories.

“Both were very upset about Inside Croydon’s negativity and criticism of the council.” Poor lambs.

“In Interviewee 49’s opinion, issuing a S114 notice [the council’s admission that it was effectively bankrupt] was regarded by both of them as totally unacceptable and the ultimate bad news.”

In that respect at least, Negrini and Hall were right about something.

Read more: #PennReport wanted police probe into possible misconduct
Read more: #PennReport: Croydon has been let down by political leaders
Read more: #PennReport: Council’s 11th hour attempt to suppress findings

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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4 Responses to #PennReport: Hall and Negrini ‘only wanted good news stories’

  1. Peter Underwood says:

    A properly functioning press is part of a properly functioning democracy.
    We can see the problems at the national level when large sections of the press only print positive stories and refuse to talk about what the Government, and members of it, are doing wrong. Just focusing on ‘good news’ stories means you are not giving the whole story.
    Politicians may not like it, but a key role of the press is to expose all the bad stuff as well as publishing the good.

    • You’re missing the point Derek – in Croydon’s case, there was no media until Inside Croydon. And, here’s the point: the council pumped out delusional self-promoting material, abetted by the ill-fated Croydon Business organisation

  2. derekthrower says:

    Can anyone remember Tony Newman’s twitter account? If you raised the slightest concern or mildest of criticism of the Council. You would be blocked without hesitation or explanation. When the fan started to get covered he had been leader of the Labour group for over a decade. Those who had sustained him in that role without challenge have too got to accept responsibility for disaster that befell Croydon. It seems clear from this report that is was not only people outside the Labour Group that could see the bunker mentality of the Cabinet and how it was stuck in a delusional rut. So let us remember it takes good and brave people to challenge what is going wrong. The Labour Group despite some minor squeaks near the end of it all, demonstrated it had very few indeed.

  3. Billy James says:

    Is Interviewee 56 going to pay back all the public money they have pocketed because obviously she is not up to the task having a mentor, a councillor from another local authority.
    Is the councillor from the other local authority getting paid as well?

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